RUSSIAN FLEET IN NORWEGIAN SEA.
Vladimir Putin is doing what the Americans have claimed they were doing, but weren’t: Killing ISIS.
American policy put Syria into this mess, but Putin will finish it. Hopefully soon. Assad may or may not be a choirboy, but he might be able to hold his country together with Russia’s help, thus delivering a blow to Israel, which would like to expand its influence and territories beyond its current borders.
This show of strength by Russia will be roundly condemned, but praised by Donald Trump, who has said repeatedly that if Russia can take out ISIS, he would welcome the help.
Russia has begun its biggest surface deployment since the Cold War ahead of its final assault on Aleppo, Nato has warned.
The fleet, which includes the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, is now travelling through the English Channel towards the UK, before it heads into the Mediterranean Sea towards Syria.
The Royal Navy and the RAF are starting to keep a close watch with surveillance planes and ships.
A senior Nato diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Russian warships are carrying fighter bombers to bolster their attack on the besieged Syrian city – and that it was ‘not a friendly port call’.
‘They are deploying all of the northern fleet and much of the Baltic fleet in the largest surface deployment since the end of the Cold War,’ the diplomat said.
‘This is not a friendly port call. In two weeks, we will see a crescendo of air attacks on Aleppo as part of Russia’s strategy to declare victory there.
‘With this assault, it should be enough to allow a Russian exit strategy if Moscow believes [President Bashar] Assad is now stable enough to survive.’
The UK is now working alongside Nato partners in order to monitor the Russian warships as they pass through.
Type 45 destroyer HMS Duncan set sail from Portsmouth on Tuesday, in order to monitor the Kuznetsov task group, which is heading south from the Norwegian Sea towards the North Sea.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: ‘When these ships near our waters we will man-mark them every step of the way. We will be watching as part of our steadfast commitment to keep Britain safe.’
Type 23 frigate HMS Richmond has also escorted the group in the Norwegian Sea, north of the UK between Iceland and Norway.
Another Type 45 destroyer, HMS Dragon, is also due to sail to meet the two Russian corvettes travelling north towards the UK from the direction of Portugal.