There have been rumors floating around that Russia’s only operational Typhoon Class ballistic missile carrying nuclear submarine, the largest submarine in the world, Dmitri Donskoy, was deployed to the Mediterranean, or more specifically, to sit off the coast of Syria. Here’s why that’s highly unlikely.
It seems that the rumor originates from a article posted on September 7th over at the hawkish Israeli foreign policy-focused site Debkafile, which some would say has had a spotty past of reporting accurate information. From there it has spread to multiple website and email chains.
We can find no corroborating evidence that puts the Dmitri Donskoy anywhere near Syria, albeit this does not mean that it is not there, or on its way there. You might as well say it is trolling the North Sea.
To add to the questionability of the report, Debkafile posted another article two days later saying the Dmitri Donskoy was passing through the Dardanelles towards Syria. Only one problem, the massive Typhoon Class would have to be coming from the Black Sea in order to pass through the Dardanelles, where it is definitely not stationed, nor likely to patrol. Additionally, the sub moving in or out of the Black Sea should make some decent sized news as it would have to pass through the Bosporus Strait, which is surrounded by bustling Istanbul.
The first report said the the sub had left its North Sea base with two anti-submarine ships in tow on September 4th, so what the heck would it be doing transiting out of the Black Sea and into the Mediterranean? Probably nothing, because that is impossible.
It is possible that the source confused the Dardanelles with the Strait of Gibraltar, but that is doubtful. The story is no longer available at the Debkafile but it is available cached here.
Then there is the question of what exactly would be accomplished by sending the world’s largest nuclear ballistic submarine to the coast of Syria, where both a Civil War and counter-terror operation are underway. Russia looks to be setting up shop in Syria to ensure that the Assad regime stays in power, but militarily, the Dmitri Donskoy has no mission in that effort aside from, possibly, a symbol of deterrence.
That symbol would be directed toward the U.S. of course, which is very concerned with Russia’s rapidly increasing involvement in Syria. So much so in fact that Secretary of State Kerry wants military-to-military talks with Russia on Syria due to just how volatile the situation could become.
Since the Syrian Civil War began, regime change has been the U.S. policy in regards to the Al Assad government. With Russia basically building an outpost in Syria and potentially fighting anti-Assad forces alongside Assad’s military, regime change will be impossible to accomplish. It will also give Russia a greater footing in the area, and with Putin’s tightening relationship with Iran, and Iran’s increasing involvement in Iraq, you can see Putin’s regional strategy emerge.
As for now, we have no corroborating information that Russia’s only Typhoon Class SSBN or its apocalyptic payload are anywhere near Syria, yet alone providing a “bookend” deterrent to support Russia’s actions in that troubled country.
The last tidbit we could find on the sub’s location was it was in the White Sea on September 4th, 2015, where it was taking part in anti-submarine exercises. Finally, the Dmitri Donskoy has been used as much as a test ship as anything else in recent years, and is much more at home in the expanses of the Atlantic or near its home in Severodvinsk, rather than awkwardly boxed-in under the Mediterranean.
Still, anything is possible, but the Dmitri Donskoy’s supposed deployment to the waters off of Syria is far from probable.
Contact the author at Tyler@jalopnik.com.