Russian Politics and Law, September 2011 Table of Contents

Volume 49 Number 5 / September-October 2011 of Russian Politics and Law is now available on the M.E. Sharpe web site at

This issue contains:

Ukraine After Yushchenko: Editor’s Introduction p.3
Dmitry Gorenburg
Change, Transition, or Cycle: The Dynamics of Ukraine’s Political Regime in 2004-2010
Yuri Matsievski
Post-Soviet Gravitation: On the Results of the Presidential Elections in Ukraine p.34
Andrei Ryabov
The Language of Dystopia: The Ideological Situation in Ukraine p.43
Mikhail Minakov
Ukraine’s European Choice: What It Means for Russia p.55
Sergei Tigipko
The Ukrainian Revolution and the Russian Counterrevolution p.68
Vladimir Pastukhov
Orange Pills for Russian Diseases p.81
Igor’ Pantin

Ukraine After Yushchenko: Editor’s Introduction

Over the last decade, Ukrainian politics has been characterized by its volatility. The Orange Revolution brought hope of a rapid democratization, although these hopes were soon dashed because of divisions among the governing coalition. Finally, in 2010, a population that was tired of the political instability elected Viktor Yanukovych as president. Although there were concerns about the rollback of various rights and freedoms, Yanukovych’s promise of stability was convincing for the majority of the electorate.

This issue of Russian Politics and Law provides a range of viewpoints on Ukrainian political dynamics over the last few years. Some authors see the 2004 events as a true revolution, while others argue that it was not one because the country’s political system did not undergo any kind of fundamental transformation. The extent to which the authors see the Yanukovych presidency as potentially threatening to Ukrainian democracy also varies.

In “Change, Transition, or Cycle: The Dynamics of Ukraine’s Political Regime in 2004–10,” Yuri Matsievski sets the agenda for the issue. He argues that democratization inUkrainehas followed a zigzag course. He situates his analysis of Ukrainian politics in the international political science literature on regimes and revolutions. He describes the Ukrainian political system under Kuchma as a pyramid of informal, institutionalized rules for exercising power. Though the president was at the top of the pyramid, he had not succeeded in fully subordinating other members of the political and economic elite, allowing for a degree of political pluralism that resulted in the establishment of several competing political camps financed by various financial–industrial groups.

Matsievski then turns to the question of whether the Orange Revolution was truly a revolution or even a real change of political regime. Here, he is firmly in the camp of those scholars who argue that the events of November–December 2004 were by no means a revolution. He argues that they were not even a coup. Instead, he describes these events as a regular rotation of elites. Because the opposition elites used public protest as part of their campaign strategy, the outcome appeared to be the fall of the old regime. In reality, the positive results of the change of leadership brought about by the Orange Revolution were modest and in some respects temporary and did not amount to a change of political regime.

Under Yushchenko, the regime shifted from Kuchma’s oligarchic authoritarianism to a defective democracy that was lacking in political participation, political competition, and adherence to constitutional norms. The new leaders were unable or unwilling to rein in corruption in the political system and spent more time battling each other than conducting sorely needed political reforms. Like Kuchma’s team, Yushchenko and his colleagues focused on using their power to extract profits rather than improve governance. Matsievski argues that despite a few superficial reforms, the political system continued to be dominated by informal rules, rather than formal institutions.

At the same time, Matsievski believes that the limits on political centralization that prevented the consolidation of authoritarianism under Kuchma and hindered Yushchenko’s efforts to reform the political system will also prevent the establishment of a power vertical under the Yanukovych presidency. The same structural and procedural limitations that hindered movement toward democracy in 2005–10 will also prevent a slide toward authoritarianism from going too far.

Matsievski spells out five factors that will hinder the consolidation of authoritarianism under Yanukovych. First, the powers of the president are much reduced compared to the Kuchma period. Second, freedom of the press has been institutionalized to a much greater extent over the last five years. Third, the state has neither an effective apparatus of compulsion nor a professional bureaucracy. Fourth, societal cleavages prevent any sense of national unity from emerging. And fifth, neither the West nor Russia would benefit from having an authoritarian regime in Ukraine. As a result, while Ukraine will continue to suffer from administrative arbitrariness and corruption, it is not threatened by authoritarian consolidation.

In “Post-Soviet Gravitation: On the Results of the Presidential Elections in Ukraine,” Andrei Ryabov largely concurs with Matsievski’s assessment. He argues that despite the tone of the discussion in the press at the time, the 2010 presidential election was not actually a choice between a European and democratic path of development and the preservation of the post-Soviet model. Both leading candidates were actually representatives of the post-Soviet model who were focused on the division of resources rather than on national development. Yushchenko, in contrast, had tried to implement the political de-Sovietization and Europeanization of Ukraine, at least in the realm of foreign policy. He failed because most Ukrainians did not want to see themselves as a postcolonial nation. Furthermore, most Ukrainians had lost faith in their country’s ability to become truly European in the near term.

In this context, most voters understood that both Tymoshenko and Yanukovych had authoritarian leanings. The difference is described by one of Ryabov’s friends: “If Tymoshenko wins, things will be bad, and for a very long time. If Yanukovych wins, things will be very bad, but for a short time.” In this context, a majority of the electorate preferred a relatively weak president who will lead a government beholden to various lobbying interests to a strong populist president who might succeed in establishing an authoritarian state. In other words, Ryabov is essentially arguing that Ukrainian domestic politics under Yanukovych is likely to resemble the political situation under Kuchma.

Mikhail Minakov’s article, “The Language of Dystopia: The Ideological Situation in Ukraine,” examines Ukrainian political discourse. Minakov shows how this discourse has come to be dominated by a language that facilitates state control over a static confrontation between regionally based conservatisms, each rooted in its own historically conditioned sense of what Minakov calls ressentiment. “Ressentiment is a component of collective memory, a sort of pain of remembrance whose cause is articulated in terms of some actual, inescapably but unjustly co-present Other.” The author argues that as long as society is focused on past trauma, the state can continue to exercise control over the country. The best way out of this situation is to strengthen nonconservative political forces and social institutions that promote rationality.

The thesis that there are certain basic continuities toUkraine’s political trajectory over the last decade is reinforced in Sergei Tigipko’s article “Ukraine’s European Choice: What It Means for Russia.” Tigipko was an also-ran in the 2010 presidential election before becoming vice-premier for economic issues in the Azarov government. He argues that for Ukraine, political and economic integration with the European Union is an immutable strategic choice. At the same time, Ukraine will continue to pursue a multi­directional foreign policy that should allow Russia to see Ukraine’s leaning toward Europe as an opportunity rather than a threat. Tigipko sees Yushchenko’s foreign policy efforts as focused less on bringing Ukraine into Europe as on tearing it away from Russia. Instead, he argues for Ukraine’s potential as a bridge between Russia and Europe. To this end, he calls for a balanced foreign policy that pursues close relations with both.

Writing in a Russian publication, Tigipko argues for a close partnership between Ukraine and Russia, but one that is based on relative equality. He points out that integration that is based on a Russian takeover of key Ukrainian industries is unacceptable to Kiev. He goes on to claim that Russia needs to change its mentality, to stop treating Ukraine as a lesser country that can be ordered around by Russian leaders. He concludes by noting that Ukraine has already made its European choice and that in the end, Russia will also inevitably make the same choice.

Vladimir Pastukhov continues the theme of Ukraine’s relations with Russia but shifts the focus to domestic developments. In “The Ukrainian Revolution and the Russian Counterrevolution,” he argues that the Orange Revolution fundamentally transformed Ukrainian society. This argument is directly opposed to the first two articles in this issue. He notes that in 2010 Yanukovych is a fundamentally different politician from the one elected in 2004. Although his initial policies focused on restoring relations with Russia, the course he is now pursuing is actually focused on promoting Ukrainian national interests. To this end, Pastukhov argues that Yanukovych has gained much more than his counterparts from his initial agreements with Moscow.

In the second half of his article, Pastukhov makes the argument that Russian leaders who were haunted by the threat of a Ukrainian-style revolution implemented a series of measures that made the Russian political system dysfunctional in much the same way as the Ukrainian system was dysfunctional prior to the Orange Revolution. Just as the Ukrainian political system became rational, with conflicts being resolved openly, the Russian political system ceased to be able to react to challenges by seeking to prevent any possibility of conflict. The likely result is an increasing threat of revolution, the very thing Russian leaders were trying to avoid. The lessons Pastukhov draws from Ukrainian politics are that an unstable political system increases competition, active measures to protect against revolution are likely to cause one, and that the best way to avoid a revolution from below is to carry out a revolution from above.

In “Orange Pills for Russian Diseases,” Igor’ Pantin takes issue with Pastukhov’s analysis. He opposes Pastukhov’s description of the Orange Revolution as a revolution, pointing out that Yushchenko’s excessive focus on Ukrainian nationalism led the majority of the population to turn to Yanukovych in the 2010 election. What’s more, he thinks Pastukhov exaggerates when he thinks the Orange Revolution led Russian leaders to initiate measures to strengthen their power. Pantin also takes issue with the lessons Pastukhov draws from the Ukrainian experience. He points out that Russia already had experience with an unstable political system in the 1990s—which was not a great time for Russia. He also does not think that a revolution from above is capable of solving Russia’s political problems. For Pantin, the only solution is a political movement from below that can renew Russian governance without revolution.

The first year of Yanukovych’s presidency has shown the wisdom of Matsievski’s assessment. While there have been some efforts on the part of the government to restrict freedoms and to limit political challenges to the regime, the Ukrainian political system remains far more open and contested than that of Russia or other post-Soviet states (other than the three Baltic states and Moldova). At the same time, the ease with which Yanukovych returned to power after seemingly being completely discredited during the Orange Revolution shows that that event was a revolution in name only and did not result in fundamental political or social changes in Ukraine.


An update on naval construction, part 2: medium combat ships

In this installment, I promised an update on frigates and corvettes, and I will get to that in the second half of the article. But first, Ilya Kramnik has recently published an article that provides some additional information on plans for a new destroyer, which I described briefly in the previous post.

More on the new destroyer

The information that he provides is basically in line with what I wrote before, but fills in some details. Specifically, the navy plans to build a ship that would fulfill the missions previously carried out by both the Udaloy and Sovremennyi class ships, and potentially those of the Slava-class guided missile cruiser as well. These would be large ships, with a displacement of anywhere from 9,000 to 14,000 tons. (The upper end of that range seems a bit much, as it would then be substantially bigger than a Slava-class cruiser.)

They would be equipped with universal ship-based firing systems that could be armed with various types of missiles or missile-torpedoes, depending on the specific mission of the ship. They would also be armed with a new generation air defense system and will carry a couple of helicopters. The ships could thus be used for both ASUW and AAW missions. If they are armed with cruise missiles, they could also have a land attack mission. They will also have the latest in combat systems whose capabilities the author compares to NATO’s AEGIS system.

Kramnik’s sources indicate that as many as 14-16 ships could be built over a 15-20 year period (previous articles indicated a total of 8-10 ships). They could be the lead ships in strike groups that would include 3-4 frigates or other lesser ships or could be used to support nuclear missile cruisers, aircraft carriers, or submarines. The head of the navy has indicated that construction could start as soon as 2012, though given that such major design decisions as the type of propulsion system to be used have not yet been made, I think I’ll stick with my previous estimate of 2016.

Frigates old and new

The Admiral Gorshkov class frigates (project 22350) were the first attempt by the Russian navy to build a ship using a modular design. When construction started in 2006, these ships were declared to be the future workhorses of the Russian fleet, eventually slated to replace the Udaloy destroyers. The design seems to be exactly what the navy needs to carry out its main missions for the short to medium term (i.e. coastal protection, counter-piracy). This was the first ship type to be equipped with the universal ship-based firing systems I described above. The only problem, really, is that the ship has taken much longer than expected to build. Initial plans called for the first ship to be launched in 2008. It was launched in 2010 and is currently nearing completion undergoing sea trials. It is expected to be commissioned next year, though additional delays would not surprise me. The second ship is now under construction and four more were recently ordered. Current plans call for 20 to be built eventually, though I would guess that will take 15-20 years unless construction really speeds up or is expanded to a second shipyard. I would guess that no more than 6 of these ships will be completed by 2020.

Because the navy desperately needs new mid-size ships, particularly in order to modernize the Black Sea Fleet, it has ordered six improved Krivak-class frigates (project 11356M). These will be identical to the Talwar-class frigates produced for the Indian Navy in recent years. Since these ships are based on an existing design, construction is expected to proceed relatively quickly. The first two ships have already been laid down and are expected to be commissioned in 2013. They will also be much cheaper, with an estimated per ship cost of 10 billion rubles, versus at least 16 billion rubles for the project 22350 ships.

Standardized corvettes

The Russian navy is rapidly modernizing its fleet of both large and small corvettes. The Steregushchii class corvettes (project 20380) are very large (around 2000 tons displacement) multipurpose ships designed to replace the Grisha class. The first ship of this class has been serving in the Baltic Fleet since 2007. The second, Soobrazitelnyi, was just commissioned in mid-October and is also assigned to the Baltic Fleet. Two more are expected to be completed in the next few months and one is theoretically under construction at the Amur shipyard in the Far East, though all indications are that there has been virtually no progress made on that ship because the shipyard is in very bad shape.
According to official sources, the project 20380 corvette is quite versatile and can be deployed to destroy enemy surface ships, submarines and aircraft, as well as to provide artillery support for beach landings. It uses stealth technology to reduce the ship’s secondary radar field, as well as its acoustic, infrared, magnetic and visual signatures.  At the same time, the first ship was criticized for relatively weak AAW capabilities, a short range (4000 nm), and an unreliable propulsion system. As a result of the critique, on all subsequent ships the Kashtan CIWS system was replaced with 12 Redut anti-aircraft systems mounted on the bow and the its Uran anti-ship missile system was upgraded to the Uran-U variant that doubled the weapon’s range added.
Future ships will be built using a modified design (project 20385)  that incorporates the universal ship-based firing systems used on the Admiral Gorshkov frigates, and will be armed with Oniks or Kalibr (Klub) cruise missiles in place of the Uran anti-ship missiles. Nine of these ships have been ordered, with the first already laid down in May 2011. At least the first two of this improved version will go to the Black Sea Fleet.
Finally, the navy has ordered two versions of the Buyan small corvette. The first (project 21630) is a 500 ton shallow water artillery ship designated for the Caspian Fleet. It’s armed with the naval version of the Grad multiple rocket system, as well as several guns. The first ship, the Astrakhan, has been in service since 2006 and two more are expected to be commissioned in the next few months.
The larger modernized version of this ship, designated Buyan-M or project 21631, has a displacement of 949 tons and incorporates the universal ship-based firing systems that will be armed with Oniks or Kalibr cruise missiles. The ships will also be armed with Igla SAMs mounted on a Gibka launch system. However, they use the same propulsion and control systems as the older Buyans. Three of these ships are currently under construction in Zelenodolsk for the Caspian Flotilla, with anticipated entry into the fleet in 2012-13. The cost of each ship is somewhere between 400 million and one billion rubles. According to Ilya Kramnik, the navy hopes to order as many as 30 of these ships over the next 10 years, though that seems like more than the Caspian Flotilla and the Black Sea Fleet will need. Perhaps they will go to the Baltic Fleet and maybe even the Pacific and Northern Fleets as well.

Russian Politics and Law, July 2011 Table of Contents

Volume 49 Number 4 / July-August 2011 of Russian Politics and Law is now available on the M.E. Sharpe web site at

This issue contains:

Local and Regional Politics in Russia: Editor’s Introduction p.3
Dmitry Gorenburg
Russian Federalism as a “Dormant” Institution
Andrei Zakharov
Unattainable Symmetry: On the Results of the “Amalgamation” of Regions of the Russian Federation? p.18
Aleksandr Kynev
Local Government in the Grip of the “Power Vertical” p.32
Vasilii Skalon and Maksim Rubchenko
Local Regimes in Large Russian Cities: Introduction to the Theme p.37
Vladimir Gelman and Sergei Ryzhenkov
State Power, Governance, and Local Regimes in Russia: A Framework for Analysis p.42
Vladimir Gelman
Local Regimes and the “Power Vertical” p.53
Sergei Ryzhenkov

Economic Actors and Local Regimes in Russia’s Large Cities  p.64
Olga Bychkova and Vladimir Gelman
Local Public Participation in Contemporary Russia  p.76
Elena Belokurova and Dmitrii Vorob’ev
Perm: A Local Regime in a Large Russian City  p.85
Nadezhda Borisova

Local and Regional Politics in Russia: Editor’s Introduction

Having examined the state and future of Russia’s political system on a national level in the last two issues of Russian Politics and Law, the current issue turns to subnational politics. There have been numerous studies in recent years of the decline of Russian federalism in the aftermath of the Putin regime’s centralization drive. Local politics has received less attention but has faced a similar dynamic. This issue examines subnational politics at both the regional and the local levels.

The first two articles discuss changes inRussia’s federal structure. In “Russian Federalism as a ‘Dormant’ Institution,” Andrei Zakharov addresses the question of what will happen toRussia’s federal structure. He argues that under Putin, federalist structures largely stopped functioning, leading to the establishment of a “federation without federalism”—that is, a de facto unitary state that maintains the outward appearance of a federation. At the same time, the government has not sought to abolish the federal structure de jure because it fears the reaction of the ethnic minorities that make up 20 percent of the country’s population. Zakharov argues that although federal institutions are currently dormant, they will inevitably awaken at some point in the future, leading to a new turn of the parade of sovereignty/freezing of federalism cycle that will continue until the Russian elite learns to play by the rules of real federalism.

Alexander Kynev’s article, “Unattainable Symmetry: On the Results of the ‘Amalgamation’ of Regions of the Russian Federation,” addresses some of the steps taken by the current regime to eliminate real federalism in Russia. Specifically, he focuses on efforts to simplify the federation by merging most autonomous districts (okrugi) with nearby provinces (oblasti) and territories (krai). Kynev argues that despite the effort, the result has been not simplification but rather the introduction of additional complexity. The five mergers have produced at least three scenarios for determining the status of the former autonomous districts. In addition, several districts were not merged, leaving the old order partially in place as well. He argues that Russian leaders should embrace the diversity of their country’s federal structures rather than trying to eliminate it, since efforts at simplification are utopian and hopeless.

The other articles in this issue focus on Moscow’s efforts to reform local government structures. “Local Government in the Grip of the ‘Power Vertical,’” by Maksim Rubchenko and Vasilii Skalon, looks at the impact of the introduction of appointed city managers as a replacement for elected mayors in many major Russian cities in recent years. They argue that the new system, which was introduced despite the opposition of these cities’ inhabitants, has deprived local government of its remaining independence. The official goal in enacting this change is to improve city management by disconnecting it from politics. However, it is likely to result in conflict among the manager, the regional governor, and the head of the city council. The authors argue that the only way to truly fix the system of local government is to increase the percentage of tax revenues that go directly to local authorities, so that they have the money to address problems with infrastructure and other local concerns.

The remaining six articles in this issue are the results of a research project on “Power and Administration in Russia’s Large Cities.” This project is introduced in Vladimir Gelman and Sergei Ryzhenkov’s article, “Local Regimes in the Large Cities of Russia: Introduction to the Theme.” The project seeks to answer two main questions: (1) what are the parameters and characteristics of local regimes in Russia’s large cities? and (2) how have the economic, political, and institutional changes of the 1990s and the 2000s affected the present and future functioning of these regimes?

In this article, they present the four key findings of their analysis: (1) local political regimes depend primarily on the city’s geography and economic structure and position in the country; (2) the characteristics of a local regime change primarily as a result of political and institutional changes at the national level; (3) formal rules of the game are a façade for informal mechanisms for harmonizing interests among key players; and (4) the future evolution of local political regimes will depend largely on political changes at the federal level. The next five articles elaborate on specific aspects of these findings.

Vladimir Gelman’s “State Power, Governance, and Local Regimes in Russia: A Framework for Analysis,” describes the project’s analytical framework. He develops a typology of Russian urban regimes and traces their emergence and evolution in the 1990s and the 2000s. The typology consists of status quo regimes that are focused on the distribution of resources, development regimes that are focused on economic growth, and progressive regimes that are focused on controlling growth and improving the environment. In Russia, all three types tend to coexist, with status quo regimes dominating in small and medium-sized cities, while large cities are often dominated by development regimes that have to deal with a progressive opposition.

In “Local Regimes and the ‘Power Vertical,’” Sergei Ryzhenkov analyzes the links between the functioning of local regimes and the power vertical established by the central government in Moscow. He describes the power vertical as a system of rent distribution that provides resources to local agents in exchange for their political support. In other words, Ryzhenkov is describing a classic clientelist system that serves as the main bulwark of the Russian authoritarian state. The establishment of the power vertical and its extension to the local level is designed to minimize the possibility of conflict at the local level. For the long term, Ryzhenkov argues thatMoscowis gradually replacing rent payments with opportunities for local elites to receive income from private business. Their ability to successfully manage this transition will have a significant effect on the state’s long-term stability.

In their article on “Economic Actors and Local Regimes inRussia’s Large Cities,” Olga Bychkova and Vladimir Gelman create a typology of four possible patterns of interaction between economic actors and local governments and then apply this typology to the cases of Perm and Cherepovets. The four types of interaction depend on whether the state and business are each strong or weak. The authors describe the four types of state–business interaction and show how differences in these factors affect economic and political relations in specific cases. They argue that structural characteristics of local political regimes affect political relations in cities much more than political opportunities or the specific actions of local elites.

Elena Belokurova and Dmitrii Vorob’ev shift the focus from elites and state structure to the role in governance of public participation, and specifically of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). In “Local Public Participation in Contemporary Russia,” they show that protests occur primarily in places that lack any effective mechanisms for public participation in policy formation, resulting in the adoption by local regimes of decisions that violate the rights and interests of particular social groups. They show that while NGOs play a role in local governance, they are fairly weak when compared to political elites and other state actors.

Finally, Nadezhda Borisova’s article (“Perm: A Local Regime in a Large Russian City”) analyzes the emergence and evolution of a pluralistic local regime in Perm in relation to developments at the regional and national levels, tracing its evolution from the 1990s to the present day. Borisova argues that the Perm example reinforces the project’s findings that the evolution of local regimes depends primarily on their structural characteristics, while changes in the regime occur primarily as a result of political and institutional changes on the national level. As a result, the future of local political regimes in Perm and throughout Russia is likely to depend on how political elites in Moscow choose to modify the current power vertical regime.

Given this prediction, and the high likelihood that change in the Russian political system will occur only gradually, it seems likely that the last decade’s trend toward the reduction of pluralism at the local and regional levels will continue for the next decade. The result will be an even greater divergence between local elites and the rest of the population residing inRussia’s cities and provinces.

Will the Kirov cruisers be restored?

I owe readers a final report on Center-2011, and also the rest of the update on Navy procurement, but I can’t pass up the argument that seems to now be brewing between the military correspondents of NVO and Izvestiia. In today’s NVO, Viktor Litovkin launches a broadside against what he terms the “sensationalist” coverage in Izvestiia (though he doesn’t refer to that paper by name, it’s clear enough from the description), arguing that its recent articles on the upcoming removal of Aleksandr Shliakhturov, the head of the GRU, the scrapping of Russia’s remaining Typhoon submarines, and some other topics were all denied by defense officials.

I take no particular stand on this argument. We all know that defense officials are paid to deny certain news right up until the minute that they are officially announced. We will see soon enough whether Shliakhturov retires, whether the Typhoons are scrapped, and whether Russian soldiers continue to wear berets. What made this particular article by Litovkin interesting and relevant is that most of it is devoted to arguing about whether the Kirov cruisers that I discussed in my last post will actually be modernized and returned to the fleet.

Litovkin is skeptical, because 1) he could not get confirmation from the Ministry of Defense and 2) there is no money for this task in the current state armaments program. These don’t seem to be definitive reasons, after all 1) the ministry spokespeople may not be authorized to make an official statement and 2) if a political decision is made to go ahead, money will be found quickly enough. The SAP-2020 is not a bible and changes along the way should be expected.

But Litovkin adds some interesting commentary on why this project is not very feasible and would be a bad idea even if it were. He notes (and here I think Kramnik would agree with him) that these cruisers would not have an obvious mission for the Russian navy. They were originally designed to fight American aircraft carriers, a task that is not very relevant to the 21st century Russian navy.

He then points out that Russian shipyards do not currently have the capacity to carry out this modernization. There are only a few shipyards that have sufficiently large drydocks, and most of these are already being used for other tasks. Sevmash in Severodvinsk is fully occupied building nuclear submarines (both Borei and Yasen class). Zvezdochka in Severdvinsk has the capacity, but doesn’t have a license to work on nuclear reactors, which would be one of the main tasks of the repair. Severnaia Verf in St. Petersburg is fully booked building smaller ships. The Baltic Shipyard in St. Petersburg, which originally built the ships in the 1970s and 80s, could do it but is near bankruptcy because of various political conflicts. It may well be closed and taken over by interests seeking to develop its territory for commercial ends.

Given this list of shipyards, I wonder whether the push for restoring the Kirov cruisers is, in fact, an effort by the Baltic Shipyard to counter the efforts to close it. If it is the only possible candidate to modernize the ships, and a decision is made to go ahead, then the shipyard will gain a new lease on life and powerful political protectors who could ensure its survival for at least the next decade.

Of course, it could be longer than a decade. Litovkin points out the danger of corruption through dolgostroi, as a number of Russian shipyards have used long-term construction and renovation projects such as the Vikramaditya project (10 years) and various nuclear and diesel submarines to get continuing financing from the Russian budget and from foreign governments. Specific instances of theft of state funds in connection to the overhaul of the Peter the Great and Admiral Kuznetsov in recent years do not inspire confidence either.

Litovkin concludes that the only benefit to overhauling the Kirov cruisers would accrue to specific individuals, while the Russian navy would derive little use from the ships. By and large, I would have to agree with this assessment.

By the way, here are some pictures of the three ships under discussion which give a sense of their current condition… (from worst to best). Pictures originally found here.

1. Admiral Lazarev

2. Admiral Ushakov

3. Admiral Nakhimov

An update on naval construction, part 1: large combat ships

It’s been awhile since I wrote about developments in Russian naval shipbuilding. Spurred on by a recent article in NVO, the following is the first installment of an update on recent developments and future plans in this area.

Return of the Nuclear Cruisers?

In recent weeks, the Project 1144 (Kiev Kirov class) nuclear cruisers have once again been in the news because of reports that all three ships of this class currently in reserve will be refurbished and restored to the active fleet by 2020. Modernization of the Admiral Nakhimov is slated to begin this year and it is scheduled to return to active service in 2015. As part of the modernization, these ships are to be equipped with “modern radio electronics, radar, control and communication systems, and means of electronic warfare. In addition, the body frames and nuclear power units will be repaired.” The ships’ armaments will also be modernized — the older Granit missiles will be replaced with universal ship-based firing systems that could be loaded with a variety of different armaments depending on the ship’s specific mission. The ships would also be armed with S-400 long-range and unspecified short-range air defense systems.

While it seems that the Admiral Nakhimov actually will be modernized and returned to the fleet in the next five years or so, to be followed by a refit for the currently active Peter the Great, I have grave doubts that modernization of the Admiral Lazarev and Admiral Ushakov will ever move beyond mere talk. The Ushakov in particular suffered a reactor accident back in 1990, which was never repaired. It may also have been cannibalized for spare parts to some extent. The Lazarev had its nuclear fuel unloaded back in 2005. Both would thus need essentially new reactors, as well as significant hull repairs.

While this type of modernization is certainly possible, it doesn’t seem to be cost-effective, especially given the uncertainty surrounding these ships potential missions. As noted by Konstantin Makienko of CAST, these ships do not fit into any existing scenarios for using battleships: “This type of ship cannot be involved in the possible conflicts that we may have in the Caucasus and Central Asia, and in the case of a hypothetical war with NATO or Japan, it will still be destroyed as the enemy has a much greater numerical superiority at sea.” While I can see the desire to have at least some large ships for showing the flag around the world, I can’t imagine that it would be worth the expense to rehabilitate a rusty, radioactive old hulk such as the Ushakov (former Kirov), just to get 10-15 years of life out of it. In the end, I imagine the Russian Navy will be satisfied with having the Nakhimov and the Peter the Great for showing the flag.

No new aircraft carriers, but a much improved old one

Back in June, the head of the United Shipbuilding Corporation stated that Russia will begin to design new aircraft carriers in 2016, with construction on the first ship to start in 2018, followed by commissioning in 2023. This statement was quickly rejected by the defense minister, who noted that while research on a future aircraft carrier is continuing, no decisions about design and construction have been made. Nor will they be made until the research is complete. In other words, don’t hold your breath.

At the same time, the Navy’s one existing aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, will be undergoing a complete modernization over the next several years. When it is relaunched (sometime between 2017 and 2020, depending on which report you believe), it will in many ways be a new ship. The following description of planned changes comes from Ilya Kramnik:

First of all, the defective propulsion unit comprising steam turbines and turbo-pressurized boilers will be replaced either with a gas-turbine or nuclear propulsion unit. The ship’s 3M45 P-700 Granit (SS-N-19 Shipwreck) anti-ship cruise-missile launchers will be dismantled, and her internal layout changed. Consequently, the hangar area will be expanded to 4,500-5,000 sq. m. for storing additional fixed-wing aircraft. The Admiral Kuznetsov’s air defenses will be strengthened by replacing 3K95 Kinzhal (SA-N-9 Gauntlet) missiles with a multi-role naval system featuring 80-120 new-generation and medium-range surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). Moreover, 4-6 Pantsir-S1 (SA-22 Greyhound) combined short to medium-range SAM and anti-aircraft artillery weapons systems will be installed.

The new weapons systems will feature state-of-the-art radio-electronic equipment, probably including the standard Sigma combat information and control system, due to be installed on all new generation Russian warships. The system facilitates unprecedentedly effective cooperation between task force elements. The carrier will also receive aircraft catapults, a logical option. Considering the fact that her ski-jump will remain intact, one or two catapults can be located on the angled flight deck.

The carrier’s air wing is to comprise 26 new Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29K Fulcrum-D multi-role fighter aircraft, helicopters and navalized Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA (Future Frontline Aircraft System) fifth-generation fighters, currently under development. It appears that 15-20 of these aircraft will be built pending the ship’s re-launching, which is likely to take place in 2020 rather than 2017.

In other words, when the Kuznetsov returns to active status, it will be a substantially different ship, with a new propulsion system, new aircraft, new armaments, and new electronics.

Moving towards a new destroyer

Finally, plans for building a new destroyer seem to be progressing, though for the moment it is still in the design stage. What is known so far is that design plans call for a 9000 ton ship with a nuclear power plant that would make extensive use of stealth technology. It would be armed with the usual assorted Klub missiles and would have space for two helicopters.

If all goes according to plan, construction on the first ship will start in 2016. There have not been any reports so far about how many ships would be ordered or how long they would take to build, though my guess is that it will take at least six years to build the first ship and that the total order may reach 8-10 ships.

I’ll cover frigates and corvettes in the next installment.