Under Olympic cover, Russian cargo ship approaches Syria

The voyage of the Alaed shows the irresponsibility of the Russian government to allow a transfer of weapons to a regime that is responsible for the brutal slaughter of its own citizens

Putin is acting irresponsibly - but can the West do anything about it?
Luke Coffey
On 9 August 2012 13:28

Under the cover of the 2012 London Summer Olympics, the Russian cargo ship MV Alaed, allegedly carrying attack helicopters for the Bashar al-Assad regime, is once again en route to Syria. In addition to the attack helicopters, it is thought that the ship is also carrying air defense weapons.

Nobody seems to notice.

Only nine weeks ago, in June, when the ship made its first attempted voyage to Syria, the world’s attention immediately turned to the ship and to Russia’s irresponsible behavior. At the time, the ship was forced back to her Russian port after a U.K. intervention saw that its shipping insurance—provided by a London-based company—was revoked in accordance with EU sanctions.

In July, The Foundry pointed out that the Alaed had once again left its Russian port—but this time under a Russian flag. It is thought that this will get the Alaed around the insurance problems and EU arms embargo it faced during its last journey in June.

Since its second departure, the ship seems to be making good progress.

After circling around the Scandinavian Peninsula, the ship briefly stopped at the Russian city of St. Petersburg. Curiously, according to the ships records, it also had another short stop in the Swedish port of Helsingborg.

After departing St. Petersburg, the ship passed through the English Channel in early August. During this time it must have passed within 75 miles of the Olympic Stadium in East London—but with Olympic fever hitting the British capital, nobody noticed or cared in the same way they did in June.

Presently, the ship is well into the Mediterranean Sea and is located about 70 miles off the southern coast of Spain. Assuming it keeps its current speed of 11 knots, it should reach the Russian naval base in Tartus, Syria, in approximately seven days—if that is where it is heading.

The lack of interest and attention that the ship’s voyage is receiving the second time around shows how powerless the West is to stop this ship from continuing.

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. It also shows once again that the Obama Administration’s “reset” policy with Russia has been a complete failure.

(The progress of the ship can be tracked on the MarineTraffic.com by searching for “Alaed” as long as the ship is not out of range or turns off its Automatic Identification System Transponder.)

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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