Breaking News -- Russia
|Russia Announces Plans For Carrier Killer Nuclear Submarines
Navy officials have announced plans for two new submarines, part of an ongoing plan for the modernization of Russia's armed forces.
The first submarine has been described as a "carrier killer," while the second is designed to defend ballistic submarines from attack, according to the Moscow Times. Significant resources are being spent on a military modernization program, which President Vladimir Putin claims could see $400 billion spent by 2020.
Heavy investment in armed forces under Putin
Following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia's armed forces suffered a sharp decline due to economic and leadership problems. Vladimir Putin has overseen a period of heavy investment in the military, and the submarines are part of a wider effort.
Soviet-era submarines were replaced by 4th-generation models in 2013. The Borei carries intercontinental ballistic missiles, while the Yasen is designed as an attack boat. Both models are far more advanced than their predecessors.
The head of Russia's United Shipbuilding Corporation, Anatoly Shlemov, stated that the 5th-generation submarines will be similar to existing models, but carry different weapons.
One new model will "protect the groups of ballistic missile submarines and do battle with enemy submarines,” he said. The other "will carry cruise missiles for defeating coastal and surface targets. One variant will be a carrier killer,” Shlemov continued.
Delivery of new submarines not a certainty given past record
Although Russia regularly announces fantastical new weapons systems to a great deal of fanfare, it is less consistent when it comes to delivery. Hardware often arrives later than originally planned, or not at all.
Even if the submarines are never produced, the plans provide a window into Russia's military strategy. One aim is to ensure the protection of ballistic submarines which are based primarily in the Pacific and around the northwest coast of the country, while another is to reduce U.S. confidence in using its carrier battle groups.
By building submarines designed to sink aircraft carriers, Russia threatens the U.S.'s most powerful force-projection weapon. It appears that by pursuing such a strategy, Russia may have taken some cues from China.
Russia informed by Chinese strategy?
Beijing is pursuing a strategy of area denial in the South China Sea, where it sees U.S. aircraft carriers as a constant threat to its attempts to control the region. China's armed forces are primarily designed for short-range operations, and are not currently adapted for force-projection far away from the Chinese coastline.
That may soon change, with China announcing plans to develop its aircraft capabilities. Russia on the other hand, does not appear to have any such plans.
Western observers have been skeptical as to how Russia plans to pay for the ambitious military modernization program given the effects of lower world oil prices and economic sanctions. However foreign investment continues to flood into Russia, and the country is not as isolated as the U.S. may have hoped in the international arena.
Putin hosted two days of summits in the city of Ufa this week, attended by members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the BRICS grouping. The expansion of the SCO to include India and Pakistan provides evidence that Russia's international influence may be growing instead of being reduced.
If Russia can continue to leverage its membership of the two groupings, Putin's desire for a multi-polar world free from the overbearing influence of the U.S. may become a reality.
Military provocations prove Putin is playing with fire
by Frida Ghitis
(CNN) Russian President Vladimir Putin is playing a very dangerous game. On July 4, while Americans celebrated Independence Day, a cinematic, tension-filled drama unfolded along America's western skies. In two separate incidents, U.S. fighter jets were scrambled to intercept Russian bombers approaching the country's airspace; first near the California coast, then just outside U.S. airspace over Alaska.
The aircraft's presence was clearly both a warning for the United States, its allies and Russia's neighbors, and also a bit of bravado to please Putin's Russian fans. It is also part of a worrying trend.
True, the Kremlin sent a congratulatory letter on America's birthday, with Putin apparently telling President Barack Obama that "Russian-American relations remain the most important factor of international stability and security." But it also noted that the two countries should "find solutions to international issues...on principles of equality and respect for each other's interests."
Is Russia the #1 threat to the U.S.?
Is Russia the #1 threat to the U.S.? 02:14
That last point likely sounds ominous to many in Europe -- particularly eastern and central Europe and the former Soviet states -- because it is unclear following the invasion of Crimea quite how broadly Russia now sees its interests, and in light of repeated near incursions by Russian bombers how far it is willing to push the defense of them.
After all, the past year has brought a sharp escalation in Moscow's military provocations aimed at the West. Setting aside the events in Ukraine, which include not only the annexation into Russia of Crimea, but also continued military activity in the eastern part of the country, Russia has also conducted unnerving military drills and taunted America's NATO allies by repeatedly violating their airspace.
In May, British fighter jets intercepted Russian long-range bombers north of Scotland, while in February, Russian bombers entered airspace over the English Channel for what the then-British defense secretary said was the first time "since the height of the Cold War."
These go beyond photo opportunities
That's not all.
Last November, Dutch F-16 fighter jets on a NATO patrol intercepted Russian military cargo planes flying close to Estonian and Lithuanian airspace, according to Dutch authorities. And a fascinating Washington Post graphic outlines a two-day time line of multiple intercepts last year of Russian aircraft by fighter jets from Portugal, Norway, Turkey, the UK and Germany, among others.
Perhaps the most brazen maneuver was the alleged sighting of a Russian submarine within the Stockholm archipelago, which prompted the Swedish prime minister to warn of the "enormous risks this entails for those who are involved in such violations." In neighboring Denmark, meanwhile, the Defense Intelligence Service revealed that Russia had conducted what it called an "offensive" military exercise involving a mock attack on a Danish island.
What does this barrage of Russian military maneuvers actually mean? In one respect, it is simply the armed equivalent of Putin taking off his shirt and going tiger hunting in Siberia -- it is, in effect, just another excuse for the Russian leader to flex some muscle.
But, unlike those publicity-motivated photo ops, these recent incursions are also highly dangerous.
The taunting by Moscow grates especially hard on the nerves of Baltic states -- Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia -- which were occupied by the Soviet Union from 1944 until the fall of the USSR. The countries are now members of NATO, but like other independent states once under Moscow's rule, Russia's shows of force continue to be a source of great anxiety. Indeed, Lithuania has decided to reintroduce the draft in order to bolster its military, and new NATO members no doubt wonder whether the alliance would come to their rescue if Russia moved against them.
Painting the U.S. as the bad guy
To allay such fears, the U.S. recently announced plans to preposition tanks, artillery and other military equipment in the Baltic states, Romania, Bulgaria and Poland, and it is possible that this announcement might have been what prompted Russia's decision to dispatch bombers so close to U.S. shores -- a kind of "how do you like it?" from one president to another.
Regardless, the latest show of force plays well at home, where the government's propaganda machine, which controls the media that makes up the main source of news for more than 80% of Russians, has crafted a narrative that claims all the trouble, and all the friction between Russia and the West, is the result of American aggressiveness.
That has triggered some of the highest level of anti-American sentiment recorded.
And if the military maneuvers produce a minor confrontation? Well, Putin will have just the kind of headlines he wants -- nothing helps him preserve his vast popularity more than the claim that he is standing up against an American threat. Meanwhile, the head of his security council just reiterated the false story that the current war in Ukraine was caused by the United States.
But even without a direct confrontation, the tweaking of the U.S. and its allies works for Putin, and while Obama knows that staging American weapons near Russia plays into Putin's narrative, failing to do so would leave allies vulnerable in the face of a regime that has proven it is quite prepared to take military action to advance its territorial, strategic and political ambitions.
All this creates an exceedingly dangerous dance. Every time Putin pushes, every time Russia prods and provokes, there is a chance that a clash will occur, with unpredictable results. The incentive for continuing to do so is the popularity boost the regime gets at home. But maneuvers like taunting the United States near the homeland on the day of its independence is a risky game. And Putin is playing with fire.
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Putin Calls U.S. Debt ‘Serious Problem’ as He Defends Greece
by Andrey BiryukovAnna Andrianova
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned of dangers to the global economy from U.S. borrowing while saying Greece isn’t solely to blame for its debt crisis.
“It’s a serious problem not just for the United States but for the whole world economy,” Putin told reporters Friday in the Russian city of Ufa in response to a question on the prospects of the biggest developing nations. “Debt exceeds gross domestic product there.”
Putin said he’s concerned about Greece and hopes its crisis will be resolved soon, reiterating that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras hasn’t asked him for financial aid. Even so, he said Russia has the resources to help its partners.
Putin is battling his own economic woes after sanctions over Ukraine and a drop in oil prices triggered Russia’s first recession in six years. This isn’t the first time the Russian leader has attacked U.S. economic policy: he’s previously derided the “dollar monopoly” that allows the U.S. to act like a “parasite” on the global economy.
The ruble is the second-worst performer against the dollar in the past year among more than 150 global currencies tracked by Bloomberg, with a 40 percent dive. Russia’s central bank resumed purchases of foreign-currency assets in May, planning purchases of $100 million to $200 million a day to replenish reserves.
The U.S. ratio of government debt to GDP will fall to 104 percent in 2018 from 105 percent in 2014, the International Monetary Fund predicts.
Russia drained its foreign-currency stockpiles as fighting raged in Ukraine and global energy prices plunged. That hasn’t left the government in a position where it can’t assist its allies, according to Putin. Russian reserves were $359.6 billion as of July 3.
“Russia, of course, is able to offer help to its partners regardless of today’s difficulties with the economy,” he said after a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. “We’re helping some countries.”
Putin said Russia and Greece, both of which are majority Orthodox Christian, have a special relationship. Being a euro member, the government in Athens is unable to take measures such as devaluation to help revive its economy, according to Putin.
“Greece is a European Union country and within its obligations is conducting rather difficult negotiations with its partners,” he said. “Mr. Tsipras hasn’t approached us regarding aid. And that’s generally understandable because the numbers are big and we know what’s at stake.”
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