Russian Naval Base Tartus

The Syrian port of Tartus is the only naval base outside of the former Soviet Union still held by the Russian military, and the Russian government has asserted its strategic significance. The port of Tartus holds particular significance to Russia as a defensible position through which to accomplish a political goal.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has articulated this goal as a principled determination to prevent a Syrian civil war by upholding the country’s sovereignty. More directly, one may understand this position to support Russian interests to maintain a strategic partnership with a former Soviet client state in the Arab world. Russia’s ongoing use of the port of Tartus provides some insight into her real interests and capabilities to affect the current crisis.

This backgrounder will describe the technical capabilities of the Russian base at Tartus and its literal significance to the Russian Navy. It will also consider the political opportunities it affords to Russia in the context of the Syrian civil war.