On Tuesday night, NATO officials announced they have information Putin has just ordered the largest surface deployment since the Cold War era in a bid to end the Syrian war before the end of U.S. elections.
According to NATO, Russia deployed parts of the Baltic Fleet and the entire Northern Fleet to Syria. Apparently, Kremlin wants to carry out one final, all-out attack on Aleppo in two weeks’ time. Aleppo is currently the last major Syrian city in the hands of the rebels.
The assault is designed to return the city to President Bashar Hafez al-Assad’s forces by wiping out opposition inside its walls. UN estimates about 275,000 will be caught in the crossfire.
Western intelligence said Russia plans to end the conflict before Nov. 8, the U.S. Election Day. But one may think why America’s Big Day? Analysts believe Putin wants to send Washington a message for its repeated inaction to solve the crisis.
Some officials even think the move may benefit the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Trump critics have often claimed he got help from state-sponsored Russian hackers during this campaign.
Russian Fleet Crosses English Channel
On Friday, the U.K.’s Royal Navy escorted eight Russian warships through the English channel on their way to Aleppo. The Russian Navy’s flagship, aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, spearheaded the fleet. British marine kept an eye on the ships from a 10-mile distance until it left British waters in the late hours of Oct. 21.
A ministry of defense spokesperson explained 10 miles is not about safety, but about courtesy.
“It’s just about manners, really. They know you’re there if you’re at 10 miles, same as they do if you’re at one mile,”
the spokesperson said.
But the distance also prevents things from becoming too annoying or plain dangerous. The Royal Navy had expected the crossing to happen early on Thursday. Several military experts dismissed the Russians’ show of strength as “posturing.” But NATO experts believe a major attack looms over Aleppo.
One NATO expert underlined the country plans to send to Syria all of its Northern Fleet’s along with most ships from its Baltic fleet. This hasn’t happened once since the end of the Cold War, the expert said
“This is not a friendly port call,”
the NATO diplomat added.
The organization expects a renewed attack on the besieged Syrian city in two weeks as Russians want to be victorious there. Plus, the recently-deployed task force would ensure 8,000 rebels either flee or die in Aleppo.
Nevertheless, a renewed attack would just heighten tensions between Kremlin and Washington. Early this month, Putin threatened the U.S. that Russia would take down any of its warplanes if they planned to strike. On Thursday, Syria threatened Turkey in a similar way after the U.S. ally had performed an airstrike near Aleppo that day, killing 200 soldiers.
Furthermore, the E.U. and other Western leaders plan to hold Russia accountable for the “war crimes” on Syrian territory. But Russia denies allegations.
In the meantime, however, Trump has touted Putin as a stronger leader than President Barack Obama and promised to mend relationships with Russia if he lands in the Oval Office.
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