Over the past few weeks, Russia has pulled warships from across the globe to mass in the Black Sea and Mediterranean as part of one of the largest displays of naval firepower since the Cold War.
Russian cruisers, submarines and other warships have moved into place as Europe remains on high alert for any Russian ground movements into Ukraine from Belarus or western Russia, where over 100,000 troops have massed.
Moscow is “putting together a sizable force, most likely maintaining contact with U.S. naval forces” in the Mediterranean, said Michael Kofman, a Russian military analyst at the Center for Naval Analysis.
In December, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the Truman group to remain in the Mediterranean instead of transiting to the Middle East.
The Russian cruisers and their support ships will be able to use the Syrian port of Tartus to resupply, under an agreement with Bashar Assad’s government that allowed Russia to expand and modernize the port. The amphibious ships drawn from the Northern and Baltic fleets — which can launch craft to put troops and vehicles ashore at multiple points along the coastline — stopped in the port to refuel and resupply before moving into the Black Sea.
The Russian ships staging in the Mediterranean are unlikely to enter the Black Sea, however. “Those ships are not meant for Ukraine,” Kofman said. “They’re probably going to stay in the eastern Mediterranean, [forming] a pretty sizable surface action group there” and tracking the NATO carriers and ships operating in the region.
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