BEIRUT, February 16. /TASS/. A working visit by Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu to Damascus was linked with the tensions in the relations between the West and Russia around Ukraine and it came as a surprise for the United States and NATO, Lebanese expert on military strategy, General Charles Abi Nader told TASS on Wednesday.
"In the conditions when the United States and Western countries are deliberately escalating the international situation, exploiting the developments around Ukraine, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu visits Damascus to send a warning message from there," the Lebanese general pointed out.
"It implies that Russia will use its strategic facilities in Syria in the event of military confrontation with NATO," the expert said.
The defense minister’s visit to Damascus coincided with massive Russian naval maneuvers in the eastern Mediterranean involving over 15 combat ships of the Pacific, Northern and Black Sea Fleets, including missile cruisers and large anti-submarine warfare ships, and also more than 30 aircraft of Russia’s Aerospace Force, Abi Nader said.
As the Lebanese general pointed out, Shoigu’s visit to Russia’s Hmeymim air base and Tartus naval logistics facility in Syria points to the "significance that Russia attaches to these facilities in global stand-off."
"The deployment of Russian long-range aircraft involving Tu-22M3 bombers and MiG-31K fighters with Kinzhal airborne systems to the Hmeymim airfield (SAR) for participation in naval maneuvers suggests that Russia thus perceives most seriously the military and political tension that has emerged," he said.
The Russian defense minister’s trip to Damascus and his meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "will raise military-technical cooperation with Syria to a new strategic level, which will go beyond the scope of the tasks announced earlier for jointly fighting terrorism," the Lebanese expert pointed out.
Russian Defense Minister Shoigu made a working trip to Damascus on an instruction from Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. As the Russian Defense Ministry reported, Shoigu discussed various issues of military-technical cooperation with the Syrian leader along with the joint fight against the remnants of the gangs of international terrorists, and also some aspects of Russia’s humanitarian assistance to the Syrian population suffering from the US and Western prohibitive sanctions. The Russian defense chief informed the Syrian president about Russia’s naval drills in the eastern Mediterranean.