Aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, the jewel of the Russian fleet, reset sail on Tuesday, 10 January 2012, after a three-day stopover at the Syrian port of Tartous, ostensibly to refuel.

The ship was flanked by five other boats and several submarines. Normally, this type of ship requires escort vessels, but, in this case, it was the other way around. Two of the boats were transporting large equipment, likely to include batteries of S-300 surface-to-air missile systems, the most sophisticated in the world. In addition, a hefty shipment of Russian munitions for the Syrian army was briefly held up in Cyprus before being allowed to return to sea.

Experts agree that Moscow could have manifested its support for Syria without setting the bar so high. Russia’s aim was mainly to warn against any attempt by the U.S. of exclusive domination of the region and against any temptation on Turkey’s part to play a prominent role in Central Asia.

The fleet was greeted by General Daoud Rajha (center of photo). Many Syrian voices spoke out their gratitude to the Navy and the entire Russian people for such a powerful show of solidarity at a time when the country is in the throes of a destabilization offensive by Western, regional and world powers.

The port of Tartous is being renovated to accommodate in future all types of Russian Navy vessels. It hosts the Russian Navy at no charge.