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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 7/16/16

The Roots of The Russian Purge of the Baltic Fleet Admirals

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Message Gary Busch
The reality of the comparison between NATO and the Russian military shows the disparity in size. In 2015, NATO spent around US $861 billion on its arms build-up - just about thirteen times Russia's military budget (US $66 billion). NATO nations - without the USA - are spending nearly the same amount per capita on their armed forces (US $440) vs. Russia's US $470, while the USA, alone, spends US $1,870 per capita on its military. 800,000 Russian soldiers are up against 3.41 Million NATO soldiers, 750 Russian fighter jets and 1,400 ground combat aircraft are up against NATO's 4,000 fighter jets and 4,600 ground combat aircraft. In a warfare situation, a single Russian aircraft carrier would have to take on 27 NATO aircraft carrier, 100 Russian frigates, destroyers or corvettes would confront 260 of the corresponding NATO warships, 60 Russian submarines would be confronting 154 NATO subs. Only in the domain of multiple rocket launchers (MRLs) and self-propelled guns (SPGs) would Russia hold a slight advantage over the western alliance. However, in modern warfare, the military advantage these weapons represent can be regarded as of subordinate significance.[vi]

The firing of the Baltic Sea admirals derives from a number of precipitating events. On the one hand there has been documented evidence of corruption at the highest level in the region where housing facilities and food supplies for the crew have been diverted. The local pakan ("Boss") Viktor Bogdan, the king of the amber trade had a long-established relationship with Admiral Kravchuk and was marketing some of the diesel fuel assigned to the Fleet. There were stories about a collision between a Russian sub and a Polish spy boat near Kaliningrad. However, the main reason was that the Baltic Fleet resisted the demands of Putin to take an active role in following NATO vessels in the Baltic and interfering with the ongoing NATO naval exercises in the region. This interfered with Putin' "projection of power" in the region.

What is most interesting is the information provided by the St. Petersburg news journal "Fotanka" that these admirals who were summarily fired have been replaced by group of naval officers from the Crimea. [vii] When the Ukraine split from Russia there were several efforts to divide the military forces, especially the Black Sea Fleet. After several false starts on 28 May 1997 Moscow and Kiev finally settled their dispute over the Black Sea Fleet, when Prime Ministers Chernomyrdin and Lazarenko signed three intergovernmental agreements. The two sides agreed to divide the fleet's assets and to lease port facilities in Sevastopol to the Russian Navy. Under the agreement the two nations split the fleet's ships evenly, though Russia agreed to buy back some of the more modern ships with cash. This went relatively smoothly and both nations based their Black Sea fleets in the Crimea.

However, when the Russians invaded and occupied Crimea in the Spring of 2014, the Ukrainian Navy did very little to impede the invasion. Several high-ranking officers of the Ukrainian Nany defected to Russia along with their ships. The Ukrainian authorities charged them with desertion, high treason, terrorism, the conversion of state property and violating their oaths of office. The Russians took them in and pronounced them to be Russians (holding their ranks). One of their ranks, Sergey Yelisey became the deputy of the commander of the Baltic fleet in July 2014. He was the only Baltic admiral who was not sacked by Putin. Former Ukrainian Vice Admiral Alexander Nosatov has now joined him. They may soon be joined by another Ukrainian now serving in the Pacific Fleet, Vice Admiral Vladimir Kasatonova. Putin and the Navy know that this new staffing of the Baltic Fleet will be obedient. They have no place else to go.

One positive result of all this turmoil is that the Russian military are recovering their confidence and sense of mission in their military adventures in Syria. For decades the Russian military had no real experience in fighting against a real enemy. It made do with shooting its own people in Chechnya and the Caucasus but had little chance to test its equipment and command structure in the heat of battle. Perhaps this gain in their self-confidence will allow them to drop their need for provocation and testing of the Western reaction and lead them to a less conflicted international situation.

[i] Dmitry Gorenburg , " Baltic Fleet commanders fired" Russian Military Reform June 29, 2016
[ii] ibid
[iii] Gall, Carlotta; Thomas de Waal, Chechnya: Calamity in the Caucasus. New York University Press 1998
[iv] Global Security, "The Baltics" 2008
[v] Pavel K. Baev, "Military Force: A Driver Aggravating Russia's Decline" Jamestown 27/6/16
[vi] "28 Nato-Staaten im Vergleich mit Russland.", Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 09/07/2016.
[vii] Юлия Никитинdegrees,Иринdegrees умdegreesковdegrees, "'degreesлтфлот доверен крымским degreesдмирdegreesлdegreesм", Фонтdegreesнкdegrees 30/6/16

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Dr. Gary K. Busch has had a varied career-as an international trades unionist, an academic, a businessman and a political intelligence consultant. He was a professor and Head of Department at the University of Hawaii and has been a visiting (more...)
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