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MOSCOW May 18 (Itar-Tass) - Russia’s Mediterranean task force was created de facto in late 2012, Deputy Chairman of the Russian Army General Staff, Colonel-General Alexander Postnikov said.
“We informed out NATO colleagues that the military and political leadership [of Russia] had made the decision to create a task force in the Mediterranean that will be tasked with fulfilling all of our international obligations, including those concerning military cooperation,” Postnikov told Ekho Moskvy radio on Saturday, May 15.
“We consider it a lever in the hands of our leadership for ensuring stability in that region. The task force was created de facto at the end of last year. A tactical exercise was held in the Mediterranean early this year with a joint group of several fleets to address issues concerning security and stability in the region,” the general said.
The ships practiced anti-piracy and rescue skills. “If need be, we are prepared to join forces with combined army or navy forces of NATO countries to carry out other missions in times of crisis. We put forth our proposals at a meeting of the Russia-NATO Council,” Postnikov said.
When asked about the West’s reaction to the creation of the naval task force in the Mediterranean, the general said, “I do not think there will be a negative reaction. The presence of our task force will have a positive effect on stability in the region and it fits quite naturally into the system of European security. There is no reason for our NATO colleagues to be upset about this.”
The Navy Commander in Chief, Admiral Viktor Chirkov also told ITAR-TASS that he expects no negative reaction, let alone protests from the international community.
“What protests? The Russian Navy is a full party to the process of strengthening stability in the world ocean, including in the Mediterranean. And everyone should know this,” Chirkov said.
He noted that all leading maritime countries, including the United States, France and Great Britain keep their warships in the Mediterranean, and “our Navy should not be an exception.”
According to the admiral, the Mediterranean task force will become fully operational in late 2014 or early 2015. “By that time, its staff will have been created,” he added.
The task force will be made up of 5-6 ships but “their number is not a constant and may increase depending on the tasks set,” Chirkov stressed.
“We are open to cooperation with the navies of other countries in the Mediterranean if their interests coincide with the national interests of Russia. We have long been cooperating with the navies of Mediterranean countries in many ways, including in the form of joint exercises held when Russian ships visit the ports of France, Italy, Spain, Greece, and Cyprus,” he said.