Russian motormouth and snazzy Cossack-costume wearing Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin has been somewhat silent lately. But he is in the news again, this time throwing cold water (in more ways than one) on the Russian acquisition of French-built Mistral assault ships. RtR says that these ships “won’t work” in temperatures below 7 C:
Two amphibious assault ships bought for the Russian Navy from France in a 1.2 billion euro deal will not be able to operate in temperatures below seven degrees centigrade, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin admitted on Saturday, in critical comments about the contract.
“It’s very odd that ships for offloading a landing force, floating in our latitudes won’t work in temperatures below seven degrees,” said Rogozin, who has special responsibilities for the defense industry, in a meeting of the Academy of Military Science on Saturday.
“Maybe they thought we’re going to undertake special operations in Africa but I doubt that’s going to happen,” he added. He did not elaborate on why the ships would not work in cool temperatures. It was also unclear whether he meant plus seven degrees or minus seven, as Russian-speakers often leave out the word for minus when they assume it is clear which side of freezing they are talking about
I am at a total loss even t0 conjecture how a ship “could not operate” at temperatures less than +20F (or 45F if RtR meant +7 C rather than -7). Seriously. I cannot think of anything on a modern warship that couldn’t withstand such temperatures. But facts have never been RtR’s strong suit.
As the article notes, another official, Military-Industrial Commission Deputy Head Ivan Kharchenko, also attacked the purchase of the Mistrals. And the name of Kharchenko’s organization tells you what is really going on here: the attacks on the Mistral purchase are all about the Russian military-industrial complex trying to undo Serdyukov’s attempts at reform of weapons acquisition. Serdyukov had been engaged in a battle with Russian arms manufacturers over quality and especially cost. Buying abroad was a way of getting access to more advanced technology, and putting competitive pressure on Russian suppliers. The idea of competition is an anathema to the arms industry, and they want to ensure that Russia is dependent on it exclusively for weapons. That saves them face and makes them money.
This is a case of the empire strikes back. The arms makers want to restore the status quo, and this also appeals to nationalists like Rogozin. And it is not just the arms makers. Another target of Serdyukov-the officer corps-is also striking back.
Putin has pledged to spend trillions rearming the Russian military. He will, but won’t get much rumble for the ruble if an inefficient, corrupt and uncompetitive arms industry continues to dominate the procurement process. The outcome of the cold war on the Mistrals may be quite revealing in that regard.