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Kuznetsov Deploying to Syria?

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Via ID, it appears that the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov is deploying from Murmansk to the Mediterranean. The expectation seems to be that she will operate (at least for a short period) out of the Syrian port of Tartus, which has been the focal point of negotiations between Russia and Syria for quite some time. Ironically enough, Admiral Kuznetsov was originally named Tblisi….

A couple thoughts… Kuznetsov deployed to the Med for exercises last year, so this isn’t a radically unusual move. Still, I think it has to be interpreted as yet another “No, we really are serious” message from the Russians to the West. Kuznetsov is the largest, most powerful unit in the Russian Navy (excepting SSBNs), and moving her invariably carries political as well as military significance. And although Russia has been engaged in negotiations with Syria over the base at Tartus for a while, I still have to wonder if the Russians don’t relish this deployment as an opportunity to send a message to Israel. Noah Shachtman has a fine post at Danger Room discussing the extent of Israeli military cooperation with Georgia, a relationship that the Russians are now complaining loudly about. Noah also notes that the Israelis saw the danger of war, and decided to substantially cut back on arms shipments to Georgia at the end of the last year. This included canceling a deal for Merkava tanks. The Israeli justification for slowing down cooperation was the need to maintain good relations with Russia in order to place additional pressure on Iran.

…I am sent this groovy graphic from Komosomolskaya Pravda:

… a correspondent asks whether the Israelis could sink Admiral Kuznetsov. As I’ve built my blogging career around answering such irrelevant and absurd questions, let me take a crack. The short answer is yes; while the Israeli Sea Corps surface fleet would be well advised to steer clear, either the submarine force or the Air Force could finish Kuznetsov without much trouble. I’m sure that the Israeli Air Force doesn’t spend too much of its time practicing attacks against CVs, and hitting a moving naval target is more complicated than hitting a land target, but I suspect the Israelis would be able to figure it out. Moreover, against the Israeli Air Force the lifespan of Kuznetsov’s air wing could probably be measured in minutes. The surface to air capabilities of Kuznetsov and her escorts would be unlikely to give the Israelis much trouble, either. I think it would be easier, however, to sink Kuznetsov with one or more of Israel’s three Dolphin class submarines. These are quite advanced, and I wouldn’t bet on the ability of 80s era Russian anti-submarine technology to detect them.

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