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Pre-election Tsushima

Text: Independent Military Review
Russian Navy is promised to rise up from knees again.
Addressing the trans-regional congress of United Russia party in Cherepovets, premier Vladimir Putin announced RUR 4.7 trillions would be appropriated for the Navy rearmament till 2020. "As a matter of fact, we're kicking off a large-scale shipbuilding program after a long break. The objective is clear creation of advanced fleet capable to accomplish all tasks, from nuclear deterrence all across the globe to protection of our economic interests and Russia's bioresources", emphasized Putin.

If it is not only pre-election statement (as is known, the military is a great portion of electorate), one may be jubilant over the national navy. But another point of interest is what kind of shipbuilding program is in question. And, by the way, does it include those EUR 1.2 bln France will get for two Mistral-class helicopter carriers? The ships are to be delivered for Russian Navy, and this sale is still criticized by military experts.

Sure, we all like various programs and strategies. But unfortunately, only thousandth part of them is realized, both in civilian industry and in the Navy.

Thus, main question is what the Navy will be equipped with? At first, admirals said the country was in need of aircraft carriers. Russian Navy Commander-in-Chief Vladimir Vysotsky announced in June 2009 that instead of classic carriers the fleet would receive naval air systems including "space, air, sea components and high technologies in other areas". Sounds eloquent, but nobody understood what exactly the commander meant. But later it came to light according to defense minister Anatoly Serdiukov and vice premier Sergei Ivanov that no aircraft carriers would appear in prospect at all, since their construction was not provided by state arms program.

Of course, Russia does build advanced ships including large ones. However, most of them are exported to India or China. National navy receives only single assets and they are normally green-water ships. Obviously, such fleet by no means can accomplish tasks like "nuclear deterrence all across the globe".

Much water will have been flown under bridges till 2020. Or it can flow-in through rusty hulls of obsolete ships. For example, Black Sea Fleet ex-commander Admiral Vladimir Komoyedov recently used vehement language commenting decommission of large antisubmarine ship Ochakov. The ship had been repaired not long before writing-off, stressed the admiral. But Ochakov could have been modernized and serve for a long time. At least until the new shipbuilding program announced by Putin in Cherepovets would work. "The who-cares attitude Nothing new is built at all... We'll rot and sink", said Komoyedov commenting Ochakov's decommission.

Known marine novelist Alexander Pokrovsky posted on his personal website that "beauty and pride of present Russian Navy, corvettes Stereguschiy and Soobrazitelny which had arrived at Baltiysk Naval Base to hold exercise would unlikely attend it. The reason is plain as a pikestaff. Both corvettes are only 50% combat-worthy, and this issue was discussed today in Baltic Fleet HQ. I mean, in what remained from Baltic Fleet HQ". If that's the case, what up-to-date Navy we are talking about? After the Tsushima tragedy, Russia kicked off the fleet revival program. So did it in 30's and after the World War II. Those programs were crystal clear and specified number and types of ships to be built. But today politicians prefer to talk not on this but about large-scale financial investments into prospective Navy. And, by the way, in a quite long view. That might be correct from the viewpoint of election campaigns coming in 2011 and 2012, but in the context of national security no way. Voting slip is bad shield from an enemy. And besides, fireworks at cruiser Kutuzov are by no means Tomahawk missiles.