Russia has been developing the Hmeimim Air Base in Latakia in western Syria in preparation for it to receive strategic nuclear bombers as part of plans to strengthen the Russian presence in the country, Russian Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported.
The paper said Russia is modernising the Hmeimim Air Base by rebuilding the runway to receive long-range strategic aircrafts capable of carrying nuclear weapons, adding that the strategic bombers would be able, if necessary, to strike “Syrian terrorists” and support the Russian-Mediterranean squadron.
The paper quoted American analyst Joseph Trevithick as saying that Russia is making the runway longer which will allow it to swing the geopolitical balance in the Middle East in its favour.
“The Hmeimim base is an important tool for the Russian presence in Syria, and it is more correct to say here that Russia is trying to expand its geopolitical and military influence to include the entire Mediterranean,” Trevithick said, pointing out that, “Russian bombers equipped with winged missiles, launched from the Hmeimim air base, would be able to endanger targets in Europe and strike at the enemy’s navy in the event of a conflict.”
According to the American analyst, these aircrafts will also be able to respond more effectively to crises and unexpected situations in the Middle East and North Africa.
Last year, Syrian authorities agreed to give Russia additional land and coastal waters in order to expand its military air base at Hmeimim, Reuters reported at the time.
The agreement, signed by representatives of the two countries on 21 July and which became effective on 30 July, concerns an area of land and sea near the Latakia province where the air base is located.
Russia has supported the incumbent Bashar Al-Assad government of Syria since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011. In September 2015, it entered into direct military involvement in the civil war and shifted the balances, allowing the regime to recoup some of its losses.