Friday, 14 November 2014

Russia's assertive stance in the Pacific

The recent appearance of a group of Russian warships in the Coral Sea near Australia not only came as a surprise to most people but it also signifies that the Russian Pacific Fleet still is a player to be recognized in this area.

The Russian task force comprised  the missile cruiser Varyag, the destroyer Marshal Shaposhnikov, the tanker Boris Butoma and the fleet tug Foty Krylov.
In itself, this task force seems small but the Varyag missile cruiser packs enough firepower to engage and win a battle against an carrier task group. By sending a large and powerful ship, the Russians are making a keen political statement aimed at Australia.

Russia's Missile cruiser Varyag

Given the fact that Australian prime minister Tony Abbott threatened to confront his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin over the MH17 plane attack a couple of weeks before the summit, the appearance of this Russian task force, just days before a G20 summit in Australia sends a powerful message. It tells Australia that, given Russia’s military might, annoying the Kremlin too much could result in a Russian naval presence that has an impact on Australia’s security.

At the same time Russia is sending also a message to the rest of the world, namely that it still is a military power in the Pacific to be recognized with. Although the Russian Pacific Fleet cannot match the strength of the Chinese fleet or the US Pacific Fleet it is still a capable force. As the Russian navy is expanding it is also trying to expand its Pacific Fleet. New ballistic missile submarines of the Borei class will be stationed in the Pacific, being able to deter both China and the United States whilst operating from their naval base at the Kamchatka Peninsula. Also the first of Russia’s Mistral class amphibious warships are planned to serve in the Pacific Ocean.

Taking on a secondary place in the Pacific, Russia finds itself in the same position as Japan, South Korea and Australia. All these countries have a decent navy but none of them are powerful enough to confront the Chinese or the Americans on their own.
Russia’s assertive use of military means to bolster its political position will mean that these incidents will only occur more frequent. We can expect that within the coming years we will see more Russian military maneuvers with warships operating deeper in the Pacific.

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