Russian ship carrying helicopters sails again for Syria

The voyage of the Alaed shows the irresponsibility of the Russian government and that the Obama Administration’s “reset” policy with Russia has been a complete failure

The Alaed has set sail for Syria once again
Luke Coffey
On 12 July 2012 13:27

The MV Alaed has once again left its Russian port and is presumably heading back to Syria. The cargo ship was last in the news when it recently had its insurance revoked after U.K. intervention for carrying Russian helicopters to Syria despite the EU arms embargo on the country.

So what has changed? On her last voyage, before she was forced to turn around in the North Sea, the Alaed was flying a Curacao flag. Now, she has conveniently replaced her Curacao flag with a Russian flag. It is thought that this will get the Alaed around the insurance problems and the EU arms embargo that cut short her last journey a few weeks ago.

The Alaed seems to be making good progress and will soon be back in the North Sea, where she was when she was forced to return to Russia. According to the BarentsObserver website:

“Alaed” has all Wednesday been following a straight course through the Barents Sea in the pre-fixed westbound ship separation lane and passed outside North Cape around 16.00 Norwegian time. She will likely sail into the Norwegian Sea later Wednesday evening and presumably sail south along Norway’s northern coast during the next 48 hours towards the North Sea.

The progress of the ship can be tracked on the website.

The timing of the departure of the Alaed should also come as no surprise. It was announced on Tuesday that the Russian navy is deploying a flotilla of up to six ships, led by the advanced anti-submarine destroyer Admiral Chabanenko, to its Russian naval base in Tartus, Syria.

It is unclear if the Alaed is being escorted by the Russian navy, but it seems hard to believe that the Alaed‘s departure date, roughly coinciding with that of the Russian naval flotilla, is merely a coincidence. After all, the Alaed was anchored off the coast near the Russia’s northern fleet headquarters in Severomorsk.

As Heritage pointed out when the Alaed was forced back to her Russian port late last month, there are a number of ways that the helicopters can find their way to Syria. Now that the ship is flying the Russian flag, and presumably not receiving its shipping insurance from London, the U.K. and other countries will be very limited in what they can do.

In addition to the attack helicopters, it is thought that the ship is also carrying air defense weapons. This comes as Russian officials at the U.K.’s Farnborough air show announced yesterday that Russia will continue to supply Syria with arms and military hardware because of contractual obligations. The overwhelming majority of Syria’s arms have been provided by Moscow, which still has up to $4 billion in outstanding arms contracts with Syria, including fighter jets and air defense systems that are slated to be delivered this year.

Contracts or not, the voyage of the Alaed shows the irresponsibility of the Russian government to allow a transfer of attack helicopters and other weapons to a regime that is responsible for the brutal slaughter of more than 15,000 of its own citizens. Once again, this shows that the Obama Administration’s “reset” policy with Russia has been a complete failure.

Luke Coffey is the Margaret Thatcher Fellow at the Heritage Foundation and previously served as a Special Adviser in the Ministry of Defence. This article was originally published by Heritage and is used here with permission

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