Will the Navy HQ move to St. Petersburg?

In the last few days, a number of reports in the Russian press stated that the Navy HQ’s move to St. Petersburg was off. The reports were based on an official statement by Vice-Admiral Burtsev, the First Deputy Chief of the Navy Main Staff, that the HQ would stay in Moscow. He further said that the decision to stay in Moscow was made a year ago.

The last part of the statement makes no sense — last February, General Makarov said that the move would take place and preparations for it were continuing as late as this spring. But now, sources were saying that the Main Staff would move, but somewhere else in Moscow rather than to St. Petersburg. The two most likely locations mentioned were either the General Staff building on Znamenka or the Frunze Military academy. The Admiralty in St. Petersburg would just house a representative office of the navy.

But just a couple of days later, the Ministry of Defense stated that the move would still occur. Kommersant, in fact, quoted the same Vice-Admiral Burtsev as saying that the decision to move the naval headquarters had never been rescinded, though it would not be possible to complete the process by the end of 2010, as originally envisioned.

It seems to me, that these dueling statements and press reports are a sign that the battle over the move is still continuing. It is common knowledge that top naval officials are strongly opposed to the move and have been fighting it since it was first proposed several years ago. Clearly, they have not given up and are continuing to create delays while feeding information to the press designed to discredit the move. Since the move would greatly damage the navy’s position in the corridors of power (it’s much harder to influence decision-making when top officials have to travel hundreds of kilometers for meetings), I imagine this process will continue until the last minute (or until the move is actually called off, which is certainly still a possibility).

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