Despite being the official media organ of the American federal government, the VOA (Voice of America) does have a global reputation of fair and objective reporting. Case in point would be VOA’s national security correspondent Jeff Seldin’s report of Sept. 18, 2015 in which he noted the continual beefing up of Russia’s offensive combat forces in war torn Syria.
As reported by CBS News on Sept. 10, 2015, only “about” 100 Russian Marines were spotted at the new forward operating airbase at the small coastal village of Jableh, Latakia province. Yet as VOA’s Seldin notes just a handful of days later, that number of some of Russia’s best trained troops has quickly jumped by a whopping 400 percent.
As a U.S. intelligence official told VOA strictly on the grounds of anonymity due to not being authorized to speak about the matter publicly, “We would expect Russia to send force protective means, including a small presence of ground forces, to support these operations,” the official added.
However, that “small force” was verified by other U.S. officials to state Russia now has 500 Naval Infantry on the ground in Syria, with more on the way. As CBS News also cited in their Sept. 10, 2015 article, the Russian airstrip had at the time “Housing units already built at the airfield can hold more than 1,000 people.”
That was then, this is now. VOA is upping that number, reporting that the Russians have “with more [Marines] on the way, and has airlifted enough modular housing units to the air base to support about 2,000 troops.”
In Russia’s New Army penned in 2011by Dmitry Boltenkov, Aleksey Gayday, Anton Karnaukhov, Anton Lavrov, Vyacheslav Tseluiko, all of the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST), the leading Russian defense industry and arms trade think tank, noted the many changes made by the former Soviet Union’s armed forces as the country shifted in the 1990s to the present Russian Federation (RF). While much smaller in size than their American counterparts (12,000 Russian Naval Infantry vs. FY 2017 US Marine Corps end strength forecast at 175,000), the RF Naval Infantry is considered by many military professionals as one of the elite of Russia’s armed forces.
While the corps itself is officially referred to as “Naval Infantry” by the Moscow government, the various units and individual troops themselves are referred to as Marines. As CAST noted, the dispersal of Mother Russia’s Marines is as follows;
- Northern Fleet – 61st Marines Regiment
- Pacific Fleet – 3d Independent Marines Regiment, 155th Marines Brigade
- Baltic Fleet – 336th Independent Guard Marines Brigade
- Black Sea Fleet – 810th Marines Brigade