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WASHINGTON – Russia is expected to create a permanent “naval operational division” in the eastern Mediterranean Sea in an effort to “defend Russian national interests,” Russian defense ministry officials said, according to report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

In making its presence permanent, Moscow has decided to deploy a naval grouping of from six to 10 warships and support vessels.

Russian naval squadrons have been deployed at that location more and more to protect a key Russian base in Syria, Tartous, during the civil war that continues there.

Moscow has insisted on staying in an effort to maintain the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and to counter U.S. and other allied navies in the area.

The move suggests Moscow is holding firm in not only protecting a regime that has given it its only base outside its region of influence, to counter the navies of NATO allies, but also from a geo-strategic standpoint to maintain its access to the West through the Mediterranean.

The Russian Mediterranean naval operational division will be similar to the 5th Mediterranean Soviet naval squadron, which then had up to 50 ships deployed until 1992 to counter the U.S. 6th Fleet and provide support to Russia’s Arab allies.

The new naval grouping will be comprised of ships on a rotational basis from Russia’s North, Baltic and Black Sea fleets, with the main base for the new “operational division” being the Black Sea Fleet, which is headquartered in Sevastopol, Ukraine.

The Syrian port of Tartous will be the main Russian supply base for the Mediterranean naval operational division. In addition, ports in Cyprus, Greece and Montenegro also will be used. The Russian Med naval operational squadron will be equipped with newer ships that currently are being built.

At the same time, Moscow needs to modernize the Black Sea fleet headquartered in the Ukraine, but the leadership there wants Moscow to pay more for the use of its naval facilities in Sevastopol and to come to other agreements having to do with the price of natural gas from Russia to the Ukraine.

Russia already has an agreement to extend its lease in Sevastopol until 2042 in exchange for lower natural gas prices, but Kiev wants the prices to be even lower.

According to analysts, the prospect is good that Moscow will accommodate Kiev on natural gas pricing in exchange for its permission to proceed with building more modern ships for the Black Sea Fleet.

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