Caribbean Vacation

Galrahn isn’t too impressed by the Russians’ plan to send a small naval task force led by a Kirov-class cruiser to maneuver with the Venezuelans this November:

If the ship blows up then we’ll be interested. The other three ships include a destroyer, an oiler, and a … you guessed it, fleet tug.

And no, that’s not the cruiser in question in the photo up top. That’s an earlier Pyotr Veliky

On a more serious note, Galrahn offers his guess as to the Russians’ motives:

This development should be seen for what it is, a response to the Russia’s objections to humanitarian response and naval activity in the Black Sea. While Russia will be sure to hype it, and Hugo Chavez will be part of the over hype, it is very much a good thing because it is one of those small steps towards Russia saving face. Sometimes this type of non-escalation – media escalation stuff is necessary to bring about the normalization of relations.

Sounds about right to me.

And in the Crimea …

Differing takes on what’s been going on in Sevastopol. Russian Navy Blog has an account (translated from Russian) of street protests and harassment when the Coasties from the USCGS Dallas went ashore during their recent port visit. 

Meanwhile, the Kiev Post takes a look at the ethnic politics in the city, finds calm amongst the citizenry but lots of potential for discord. The article really highlights how dependent Sevastopol is, economically, on the presence of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. I can’t help but think that that implies a lot of sympathy for the Russians even amongst local Ukrainian speakers.

Elsewhere in the Post, US-based analyst Roman Kupchinsky notes that the Ukrainians have a difficult balancing act to perform, both short- and long-term. He sees the Crimea as a potential flash point:

The prevalent speculation in Ukraine and in the West is that “liberating” the Crimean Peninsula’s Russian population will be the next pretext for Russia to expand its grip on the post Soviet space and gobble up Ukraine.

It is a scenario which needs to be carefully examined since it is feasible, but not probable, in the short run. 

He recommends not antagonizing the Russians as NATO support is by no means certain.

I wonder again, what genius thought it was a good idea for the Dallas and the Pathfinder to visit Sevastopol at this moment, and why.

New Arrival in Sevastopol

The USNS Pathfinder has followed in the wake of the USCGS Dallas and docked in Sevastopol. Has someone in the Bush administration given some thought to whether it’s such a good idea to stir up the Russian-speakers in that city? Oh, wait …

Survey This

What’s a US Navy-owned oceanographic survey ship doing in the Black Sea? Spying, the Russians guess. They’re not the only ones.

USCG Invades the Ukraine

Who knew the US Coast Guard was so unpopular?

This is actually part of a protest by Russian speakers in Sevastopol against a port visit by the USCGS Dallas. Russian Navy Blog has more photos and a video newscast from “RU Tube.” Enjoy.

Naval Activity in the Black Sea

This is ominous:

Apparently after returning to port on August 23rd, the Moskva went back to sea today sailing from Sevastopol to Novorossiisk. Why? The article details some new events off the coast of Georgia.

What events?

Navy Times is reporting that the USS McFaul (DDG 74) has dropped anchor in the Georgian port of Batumi.

Hat to Galrahn at Information Dissemination. Keep checking with him for the latest.

Keep Out

Russia quietly ups the ante:

In recent days, several Bear-H bombers have carried out training missions over the Black Sea, according to American officials familiar with intelligence reports. The training flights represent the first time that a Bear bomber has flown over the Black Sea in at least two years, according to American military experts. The Russian bombers are capable of carrying non-nuclear cruise missiles, and government intelligence analysts have told the Pentagon that a recent Bear training flight appeared to simulate a cruise-missile attack against Georgia.

It’s also a not-subtle message to the US Navy that as far as the Russians are concerned, the Black Sea is their lake.