Streetwise Professor

January 7, 2009

Another Russian Naval Incident

Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 9:08 pm

While docked in Turkey, Russia’s lone operational aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, suffered a fire that killed one sailor. This is the second fatal fire in two months on a major Russian combatant. (The fire on the submarine Nerpa was almost exactly 2 months ago–8 November.) Not a stellar record.

In its attempt to show that it is back, that it is a playa internationally, Russia has dramatically ramped up its navy’s operational tempo.  (For instance, it has just announced its intention to base ships at ports around the world.)  But after nearly 2 decades of profound neglect, ships have decayed, skills have atrophied, knowledge has been lost, and morale has eroded.  These are the ingredients of accidents.  

Attempting to do too much too soon, Russia is gambling with the lives of its servicemen.  Twenty years of neglect and abuse take many years–perhaps another 20–to reverse.  But Putin is a man in a hurry, and such niceties interfere with the overriding objective of showing the world that Russia is off its knees.  This is short-sighted in the extreme, because hurrying things will not improve operational readiness, morale, or the reputation of the force.  Sending an unprepared Navy around the world may impress credulous reporters and Venezuelan dictators, but will earn only scorn from anybody who knows anything about what a professional naval force looks like.

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