Russia Plans Ambitious Year For Caspian Flotilla
Russia plans to add an additional five warships to its Caspian Flotilla in 2014, as well as a number of support ships, setting the stage for this year to be the largest yet for Russian naval expansion in the sea.
The flotilla will gain two Buyan-class ships (classified either as corvettes or small missile boats), the Grad Sviazhsk and Uglich, and one anti-terror ship, the Grachonok, which successfully completed naval trials in December. In addition, a third Buyan-clas ship, the Velikiy Ustyug, as well as another anti-terror ship will be completed in 2014. In addition, the Caspian Flotilla is expected to gain seven auxiliary ships, like fire and rescue ships. "Currently, the command of the flotilla has begun work on formation of the crew for the [new] ships. Sailors are being sent to Zelenodolsk for training on the new weaponry and technology," according to a release from the Russian Ministry of Defense.
This may actually be a step back in the pace of expansion: according to one recent schedule, the flotilla should be gaining a fourth Buyan-class ship in 2014, but the MoD release doesn't mention that. In any case, the three Buyan-class ships would double the presence of those ships on the sea, part of a steady naval buildup by all five Caspian littoral states.
The Caspian Sea expansion is just a small part of Russia's overall surge in naval construction, writes American analyst Tom Fedyszyn:
Even with all its warts, Russia’s navy is a force in ascendance, growing in size, sophistication, and ubiquity. It is experiencing reasonable growing pains, some of which could be considered scandalous in proportion. Given the centralized state control of its shipbuilding industry, it is not likely that Russian naval industrial capacity will ever be marked by either flexibility or creativity. However, the Russian navy ensign, the St. Andrew’s Cross, will increasingly be seen in the world’s harbors and maritime choke points, a sight vaguely reminiscent of the good old days of the Cold War.
Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.
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