Last week, NATO's supreme allied commander for Europe, General Philip Breedlove, suggested that Russia has effectively declared a no-fly zone in Syria.
That contention was supported by Moscow’s rather bold move to effectively instruct the US-led coalition to keep its planes out of the sky starting last Wednesday. Ultimately, The Kremlin has declared a monopoly on Syrian air space for the duration of Russia’s military campaign, marking an epic embarrassment for Washington, and serving notice to the anti-regime forces operating in Syria that there’s a new sheriff in town.
Well, don't look now, but in addition to the de facto no-fly zone, some experts are out suggesting that Russia is set to use its Black Sea fleet to enforce a blockade on the Syrian coast. Here's Sputnik:
Russia's Black Sea Fleet may be used in Syria to blockade the Syrian coastline and deliver armaments, as well as possibly deliver artillery strikes, the head of Russian State Duma's defense committee and former Black Sea Fleet commander Vladimir Komoyedov said.
"Regarding the large-scale use of the Black Sea Fleet in this operation, I don't think it will happen, but in terms of a coastal blockade, I think that it's quite [possible]. The delivery of artillery strikes hasn't been excluded; the ships are ready for this, but there is no point in it for now. The terrorists are in deep, where the artillery cannot reach," Komoyedov said.
Komoyedov added that the size of the naval grouping used in the operation will depend on the intensity of the fighting. He noted that currently, the navy's Mediterranean flotilla is currently sufficient for actions in the given area.
Komoyedov also said that auxiliary vessels will certainly be used in the operation against ISIL to deliver armaments as well as military and technical equipment.
Meanwhile, the aerial bombardment continues unabated as Russian warplanes have reportedly destroyed "a terrorist base in the woods" where tanks - which are ironically Soviet made- were stationed. Here's RT:
The Russian Air Force in Syria has conducted 25 sorties on 9 Islamic State installations in the last 24 hours, eliminating a disguised terrorist base equipped with tanks, a command center and a communication hub, the Defense Ministry reported.
Russian bombers taking off from Khmeimim airbase knocked out a terrorist base hidden in the woods near the city of Idlib, eliminating 30 vehicles, among which were several Soviet-made T-55 tanks.
“Six airstrikes hit the base, and the terrorists’ equipment was fully destroyed,” Konashenkov said.
And here's the video which purportedly shows the attack on the hidden ISIS base:
While according to Russian weatherwomen, mother nature is smiling on The Kremlin's efforts (via The Guardian):
It’s warm and sunny in Syria – and conditions are perfect for flying fighter jets and launching airstrikes, according to a weather report broadcast on Russian state television.
“Russian aerospace forces are continuing their operation in Syria. Experts say the timing for it was chosen very well in terms of weather,” said the forecaster in a segment aired on Rossiya 24 on Sunday, standing in front of a screen showing a Sukhoi Su-27 fighter jet with the words “flying weather”.
For those wondering how long it would be before an "accident" took place, "inadvertently" pitting Russian fighter planes against NATO, we got the answer on Monday as Turkey scrambled F-16s to the border after Russia allegedly violated Ankara's air space. Here's a bit of color from BBC:
Russia said the incident was a "navigational error" and that it has "clarified" the matter to Ankara.
Turkish jets patrolling the border were also "harassed" by an unidentified plane on Sunday, Turkey said.
Turkey, a Nato member, has called the Russian strikes a "grave mistake".
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told Turkish TV that the rules of engagement were clear, whoever violates its airspace.
"The Turkish Armed Forces are clearly instructed. Even if it is a flying bird, it will be intercepted," he said.
Only, that's not true, because the first time Ankara shoots down a Russian "flying bird", Erdogan will have a real war on his hands and will swiftly discover that while bombing air force-less Kurdish separatists with impunity is easy, dog fights with Russian fighter pilots are not, and just about the last thing Turkey needs with inflation soaring and the lira tumbling and elections looming is to go to war with Russia.
In any event, the situation is clearly escalating, and as the Russians get more bold with each passing NATO bluff and subsequent fold, the stakes get still higher. As hyperbolic as it may sound, the West is now one Erodgan miscalculation away from open warfare with Russia and Moscow looks to be just days away from enforcing a full naval blockade of what is rapidly becoming a Mid-East Kremlin colony.