Russia seems poised to defend its ally as Russian warships are being dispatched to the Syrian coast as Moscow boosts its presence in the region ahead of expectations the US will not wait for world support and go it alone with air strikes on the Assad regime.
The St Petersburg central naval command has announced the large landing warship Nikolai Filchenkov will set sail for the Syrian coast to join two Russian destroyers which had already left.
They will join a Russian anti-submarine ship, a frigate and three other landing ships in the eastern Mediterranean coast.
In the game of brinkmanship, the Russians announced the latest warship deployed would be collecting “special cargo” but would not elaborate.
“The ship will make call in Novorossiisk, where it will take on board special cargo and set off for the designated area of its combat duty in the eastern Mediterranean,” the Russian official said.
The US also has warships in the area and as US president Barack Obama has previously revealed, any military engagement would likely come from air strikes – most likely fired from warships – on suspected chemical weapons plants and the mechanisms of delivery including the Syrian airforce.
The US is unlikely to wait for any support from world leaders or the United Nations but use the expected approval of its Congress to launch a two-month “limited” campaign as early as the end of the month.
The deployment comes amid high tensions at the G20 summit of world leaders in the Russian city St Petersburg which was to debate the economy and poverty in developing nations but instead the agenda has been hijacked by the Syrian crisis.
There is a clear split in opinion at the conference as to the evidence that the Bashar al-Assad regime used chemical weapons on its citizens which killed more than 1400 people including 400 children last month.
US navy warships have been ordered to move closer to Syria and prepare for a ‘possible’ missile attack.
There now appears to be little debate chemicals were used but a split on who actually used them.
Both Russia and China, which held private talks at the summit, do not believe the evidence is in while the US, UK, France and Australia believes it has and retaliation is required.
UN chief Ban ki-moon has been attending the summit urging support for a peace conference.
Overnight summit host Russian President Vladimir Putin held a dinner for the leaders during which they made their case for entry into the Syria crisis.
President Obama said he had “very high confidence” in the evidence chemical weapons were used and urged strong condemnation.
He was supported by Prime Minister David Cameron, and Foreign Minister Bob Carr, representing Australia, who also said they respectively had evidence of an atrocity by the regime.
France’s Francois Hollande also said he was prepared to enter the conflict.
The G20 world leaders have just one more day of the summit to bridge bitter divisions on action although that is unlikely to happen with officials already saying the animosity between nations, notably Russian and the US and UK, and tension generally in the forum made that an impossibility.
Such has been the tone there is wide reporting Mr Putin’s official spokesman Dmitry Peskov yesterday dismissed Britain as “just a small island no-one pays any attention to” and boasted how rich Russians were buying up most of Chelsea, an upmarket suburb in London.
The stunning diplomatic sledge was later being ever being made. Similarly the US administration has made no secret of its fury and anger with Mr Putin.
Talks are continuing.