Up in smoke

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November 8, 2016 by AK

Pavel Felgenhauer, the veteran Russian military observer (I recall reading him in 1992 or 93), sees the Admiral Kuznetsov‘s journey to the Levant as an argument for more funding, advanced by the Russian admirals to erode opposition from the finance ministry and the “tank generals.” A request for money for a major upgrade.

(Felgenhauer also seems to believe the top Russian brass insisted on breaking the “very favorable” ceasefire deal Sergei Lavrov had wrested from John Kerry. The generals thought Aleppo would fall in a week. I don’t know what to think about it. Yeltsin’s defense minister told him he’d take Grozny with a single tank regiment in 1994. How can anyone believe this stuff anymore?)

This earlier piece by the same author explains the reasons why the Russian naval expedition is rather unlikely to change the balance of power in Syria. The Novaya Gazeta piece (in Russian) linked above adds more detail about the internal, eternal wrangle over financing. It also has this amusing observation:

The journey took almost a month and the average speed was below nine knots. More than a thousand years ago, Vikings would make the same route on their drakkars in less time, provided there was a tailwind.

Among other things, Felgenhauer writes about the Russian armada’s invigorating effect on the Royal Navy:

If terrorists on pickup trucks are the number one enemy, what’s the need for an insanely expensive, mighty navy? But here’s the Kuznetsov puffing down the Channel, just at the right time. The Admiralty sent out an escort of battleships and expressed “concern,” and a good deal of other Western navies sent their ships to sea – everyone has their own funding problems. London had made the final decision to build two new large aircraft carriers in 2014, after Crimea, at the NATO summit: a stroke of luck for the Admiralty… Glory and respect to the “little green men.”

As Tim Newman has remarked:

Oh please. As if the Russian carrier is suddenly going to hang a right and splurge little green men all over Kent. This is just an opportunity for the Defence Minister to sound tough and the Royal Navy to show that it’s still relevant.

The UK has much more money to throw to the wind than Russia. Felgenhauer’s point is we should all breath out and relax because it’s not about war, it’s about military spending. But… I’m thinking of this cruel Soviet joke. A father complains to his son that vodka has just become more expensive. “Oh, Daddy, does it mean you’re going to drink less?”

“No, son, it means you’re going to eat less.”


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