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Ukraine Retards Black Sea Fleet Modernization

Ukraine Retards Black Sea Fleet Modernization 11.09.2012
Text by Nezavisimaya Gazeta
Photo by Southern Military District Press Service
The only Black Sea Fleet (BSF) diesel electric submarine Alrosa would unlikely attend the Caucasus-2012 strategic exercise. Currently, the submarine is in the Mediterranean Sea and will arrive in Sevastopol only late in Sept 2012, a spokesman for BSF told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

Therefore, the large-scale strategic interbranch maneuvers to be held in Russia's south and the Black Sea for the first time will be conducted without such important practical component as submarine fleet. The source specified that the BSF command and the Navy in general will practice submarine operations only "on the charts".

Such situation at the Black Sea Fleet causes concern in Russian government. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, one of the Moscow's key targets at talks with Kiev on BSF modernization is the fleet's reinforcement with submarines. Although details of the negotiations are not revealed, it is known that a separate agreement on this matter will be definitely signed. Such intergovernmental agreement implies deployment of six Russian submarines in Sevastopol, recently said Ukrainian MP Spiridon Kilinkarov. However, that may not happen very soon.

As it turned out, Kiev talks with Moscow on new terms. Along with demands to revise oil-and-gas agreements, Ukraine actively links modernization of Russian fleet to workloading of its defense shipyards by Russian defense orders.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov explained such policy as follows: "Russians clearly understand that the most of their naval ships were built by our shipyards. Obviously, it is optimal to repair them here. Indeed, we're holding such talks. I think, they will end up with an agreement". So far, it is unclear how Russian leaders perceive "optimality" of investing in Ukrainian companies. Moscow has not made any formal comments in this regard. However, Kiev is sure to pick considerable part of military contracts out of Russian defense industry. Azarov promised that his government would use best endeavors to reanimate Ukrainian shipbuilding plants providing them with firm Russian contracts.

Note that Russian defense minister Anatoly Serdiukov visiting Kiev on Aug 20 also promised that Ukrainian companies would be involved in repair of Russian armaments and disposal of munitions. But the question is to what extent? As is known, after breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukrainian shipbuilding industry virtually ceased to exist. Russia did not place large orders in Ukrainian companies, since its own firms were downgraded too, and some of them still are. Nonetheless, their condition is better that Ukrainian ones. For instance, even the Ukraine's only submarine Zaporizhzhia was repaired by 13-th Shipyard belonging to Russian Black Sea Fleet. Effectiveness of BSF modernization also seems to depend on how Russia would come to terms with Ukraine. But it is clearly seen that the bargaining has gone far enough. According to director of Ukrainian analytic center Nomos Sergei Kulik, now Russia is not ready to offer large-scale concessions to Kiev. Ukraine's deputy defense minister Vladimir Mozharovsky adheres to the same opinion and even recently said it was Russia who was dragging out talks on the BSF reorganization.

Russia and Ukraine have been discussing renovation of Black Sea Fleet for over 10 years. Sure, the result will depend on a certain compromise between Moscow and Kiev. But anyway, in this issue Russia has good grounds to take reasonable fidelity to its principles, says Konstantin Zatulin, political analyst and ex-member of Russian parliament. "Russia's influence on Ukrainian economy is that weighty reason which will finally make Ukraine consent to renewal of the obsolete Black Sea Fleet", said the expert. However, while Moscow and Kiev are carrying on long negotiations, Turkey actively builds up its defense power. According to official figures, Turkish Navy operates 14 submarines including four commissioned in the recent decade. Almost half of them are stationed in the Black Sea.

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