The Russian armed forces show of might during their annual Navy Day celebrations with parades and processions was a calculated move to counter US power across the globe, show the increasingly close ties with China and an affirmation of their support for Syria. The parade in the Syrian city of Tartous was a first for the Russian military. Interestingly enough it was not attended by President Assad.
Navy Day is a national holiday for Russians on which huge parades are held in St Petersburg – Moscow’s second largest city and the home of the Navy – on the last Sunday of July.
There are usually smaller processions at Russian naval bases across the vast country as well as around the world, including Crimea, annexed in 2014, and for the first time this year, the regime-held Syrian city of Tartous.
The Russian and Russian navy flags were raised in the city on Sunday as six warships and a Black Sea Fleet submarine took part in the celebrations, Russia state news agency Interfax reported, accompanied by jets from the nearby Hmeymim air base.
A deal with the Syrian government struck in January of this year will in effect solidify Moscow’s presence at the Hmeymim air base with a lease over the next 49 years and options to renew the presence of troops there for 25-year-long periods.
It is now Moscow’s only permanent Mediterranean base after President Vladimir Putin signed it into law last week.
Russia has proven to be Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s most powerful ally in his now more than six-year-old war against various rebel factions; Russian bombing against Isis and moderate Sunni rebel groups has been widely credited with turning the tide of the war in Mr Assad’s favour.
The scale of this year’s parades was unprecedented. Observers believe Sunday’s huge celebrations were designed to show both Russia’s military prowess and Moscow’s ambition to reposition itself as a global power in the face of a more isolationist US.
In St Petersburg, more than 5,000 sailors took part in a parade featuring more 50 ships and submarines and flyovers by 40 jets. Two Chinese warships also took part in the St Petersburg celebrations – a sign of the increasingly close ties between Moscow and Beijing.
President Putin spoke at parades in St. Petersburg and said “Russia’s history is inseparable from the victories of its courageous and fearless Navy,” adding that the Russian Navy will add 30 ships to their fleet.
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