Russian news services reported yesterday that both of the first two Mistral ships to be built for Russia in France will be stationed in the Pacific fleet. Previous reports had suggested that just one would go to the Pacific. This announcement was made in the context of rising tensions with Japan over the disputed Kuril Islands. President Medvedev also announced that Russia will invest heavily in the modernization of the defense infrastructure on the four disputed islands and will upgrade the weaponry used by units deployed on these islands.
This announcement reinforces my previous point that Russian leaders have decided to make the Pacific Fleet the most important fleet in the Russian Navy. But rather than focusing primarily on the potential Chinese threat, they also want to counter any efforts by Japan to reclaim the Kurils.
Hopefully this announcement will calm the panicked claims about how the sale of these ships to Russia will destabilize NATO and threaten former Soviet states such as Georgia and the Baltic republics. I still think that Russia will eventually place a Mistral in the Black Sea Fleet, but if it is the third or fourth ship of the class, rather than the second, this will not happen until close to the end of the decade in the best case. And if the inevitable delays in assimilating new shipbuilding technology strike, it may take as long as 15 years for the fourth Mistral to enter the Russian Navy.
Am I the delusional one, or is everyone else paranoid? I simply cannot envision a scenario where Japan engages in an offensive, voluntary war of anything, let alone a war of conquest and annexation. Am I sorely mistaken, or is this lingering suspicion from WW2? If so, I can understand how China feels, but why would Russia be that paranoid about Japan?
The Kuriles justification is a bit baffling. Its very hard to imagine that a country constitutionally forbidden from the use of military force to solve international disputes would suddenly decide to start a war with Russia by invading a few small, economically irrelevant islands.
I understand that militaries have to plan for all sorts of implausible eventualities, but allowing a one in a million chance to determine the positioning of important naval assets is stupid.
Still, one could see a silver lining in this. The fact that they’d use Japan as a justification might indicate that the Russian military is getting less paranoid about China, which pretty much everyone (except Zombie Nixon) would agree is a positive.
I too am incredulous that he Black Sea Fleet can threaten anyone except neighobring CIS states, everything written about the navy recently suggests that defense of the homeland, including in particular energy installations and movement towards the North and especially the East is hte real program
The Japanese justification makes a lot of sense. Russia has nothing to lose politically from putting up the Kurils issue as a reason. Japan will probably not react at all to such announcements and there wasnt any prospect of Russia returning these islands before in the first place. No damage done.
If Russia would say, they put LHDs there because of China, that would have repercussions, though. Russia still tries to contain and restrain China politically and keep ties for economic and political benefits. Putting up China as threat to its interests would be a desaster.
Furthermore, the real reason probably lies somewhere in-between anyway. China is just part of the problem. The other two parts are indeed South Korea and Japan and the general increase of military capabilities in the region plus the territorial disputes, which will increase to appear in the limelight as potential motivations for all sides to walk a thin line between restraint and escalation.
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