Sunday, January 4, 2009

Russian Navy wants bases around the world

Reuters is reporting that on Sunday Russia's military command approved a plan put forward by the Russian Navy to permanently station Russian warships in bases around the world.

In the past two years Russia has started sending its Navy on maneuvers far from the Russian coast for the first time since the end of the Soviet Union, the highest-profile trip came late last year when a task force of Russian ships visited Venezuela and Cuba. The Russian frigate Neustrashimy (“Fearless” in Russian) has also been busy escorting commercial vessels in the pirate-filled waters off of Somalia for the past few months - foiling several pirate attacks in the process.

The Reuters report didn't mention any specific bases besides one Russia is hoping to establish in the Georgian-region of Abkhazia (which Russia considers now to be an independent country), but Russia is also upgrading facilities at the Syrian port of Tartus for its navy to use and the Neustrashimy has docked at the port of Aden in Yemen (at the south end of the Arabian peninsula) to resupply while working off Somalia. Aden was another place where the Soviet Union once had a naval base. There has been informal talk at different times about Russia trying to base ships in Libya and Vietnam, and Russia has discussed with Somalia about building ties between their two nations, which could in theory include stationing ships there as well.

Colonel-General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, the Russian military's deputy chief of staff, said that decisions on where to base ships would have to be "considered very carefully." One factor that might temper Russia's grand naval plans is money - not only would Russia likely need to build or renovate port facilities at sites around the world, they also need to acquire more ships - the Russian Navy is still trying to rebuild from the collapse of the Soviet Union almost 20 years ago now. With oil prices off $100 from their highs last year, the Navy's plans are likely to get scaled back. At the same time, joining the piracy task force, along with the cruise to the Caribbean, show that the Russian Navy plans on making its presence felt in the world’s seas.
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