Is the Russian Navy finally beginning to come out of its fifteen year hibernation? Admiral Kuznetsov, the Russian Navy’s sole aircraft carrier, will apparently rejoin the fleet by the end of the year. Admiral Nahkimov, a Kirov class nuclear battlecruiser, is scheduled to return to service next year after eight years laid up. By themselves, of course, these moves barely begin to staunch the bleeding that the Russian Navy has experienced since 1991, but they may nonetheless signal that the Kremlin has decided to make naval power a higher priority. The Russian Navy has begun to contribute in a small way to Operation Active Endeavour, NATO’s effort to stop piracy, drug trafficking, and refugee trafficking in the Mediterranean.
In tangentially related news, the Tories apparently miss the Cold War. Speaking at a Conservative Party conference, shadow defence minister Liam Fox reportedly inveighed against unwariness:
He said Russian President Vladimir Putin had spoken recently “of having armed forces capable of fighting a global, regional and, if necessary, a few local conflicts”. The shadow minister said he had been “amazed” by how little coverage Russia’s new military build-up has received in the Western media. He said the country was spending 25% more on defence this year than last year and is testing new inter-continental ballistic missiles, and ordering new frigates for its navy, equipped with cruise missiles.
The Russians have also reportedly invested in two Syrian ports, he added. If they switch their Black Sea fleet there it would be their first Mediterranean base since the 1950s, said Dr Fox, who repeated his warning in a speech in the main conference hall at the Bournemouth conference centre.
For my part I would rather think about how the United States and the United Kingdom might make use of Russian military power in a cooperative fashion than about how Russian revanchism threatens the West. The relationship between Russia and the Western Allies need not be zero-sum, as Active Endeavour and similar proposals, like 1000 ship Navy, demonstrate.
Cross-posted at Tapped.