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Where Does the Caspian Sea Figure in Russia’s Strategic Calculus?

Russia launches precision-guided weapons against targets in Syria. (Photo: Russian Defense Ministry)

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced in early October that Russian warships in the Caspian Sea launched 26 missiles against targets in Syria. The revelation caught Western analysts off guard, and demonstrated that the Kremlin has developed in recent years a significantly enhanced ability to project force.
 
According to Russian media reports, ships belonging to the Caspian Flotilla fired a version of 3M14 missiles on October 7 that travelled roughly 1,500 km, hitting targets in the Syrian cities of Raqqa, Idlib and Aleppo. The strategic implications of the Caspian Flotilla’s involvement in the operation are significant.
 
Russian planners clearly meant to send a signal that would reverberate well beyond Syria’s borders: the missile strike had the tactical goal of weakening rebel elements seeking to topple Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. The strategic aim would seem much broader: intimidating governments across the Caucasus and Central Asia.
 

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Huseyn Panahov is a freelance security expert based in Baku.

Where Does the Caspian Sea Figure in Russia’s Strategic Calculus?

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