Shoigu Details Black Sea Fleet Expansion Plans
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu on Tuesday said that the plan for the Black Sea Fleet renovation would be altered in light of the annexation of Crimea. He didn't give a tremendous number of details about what that might mean, but we are learning a bit more now about the Black Sea Fleet "development plan" that Shoigu's boss, Vladimir Putin, announced recently.
Most of the headlines about Shoigu's comments, both in the Russian- and English-language press focused on his mention of adding new ships and submarines to the fleet. But that was already planned long ago; the shifts as a result of the Crimea annexation are not (yet) too substantial.
Mikhail Barabanov, a naval analyst at the Moscow Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, told The Bug Pit that a development plan for the Black Sea Fleet announced in 2008 has not been changed too much. Under that program, the Black Sea Fleet was slated to get six new frigates and six new submarines. While it had appeared that the sixth frigate may be in danger because of budget reasons, that has now been reversed: Putin "personally" ordered the sixth frigate to be reinstated, Barabanov said. Barabanov also said that three light guided missile corvettes that had been slated for the Caspian Flotilla now appear to be headed to the Black Sea (to augment seven such ships already designated for the Black Sea Fleet). "But all this is hardly a significant increase in strength," Barabanov said,
In addition, Russia will add a new air defense brigade and marines to Crimea, the Russian newspaper Vedomosti reported, citing state defense industry officials.
And some work that had been underway in Russia's Black Sea Coast, centered around Novorossiysk, would be abandoned and moved to Sevastopol, Barabanov added. In Novorossiysk, Barabanov said, Russia was doing "large-scale costly work" to build a new naval base. "Now all this is unnecessary, the development of Novorossiysk may be canceled and the money can be redirected to Sevastopol," he said.
Meanwhile, a "military-diplomatic source" tells ITAR-TASS that U.S. guided missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf is scheduled to enter the Black Sea later this week. “NATO forces continue to groundlessly build up tension in the Black Sea,” the source added. “Security in the Black Sea is a prerogative of naval forces of Black Sea littoral states which have established close cooperation a long time ago,” he noted.
Joshua Kucera, a senior correspondent, is Eurasianet's former Turkey/Caucasus editor and has written for the site since 2007.