Monday, October 1, 2018

Plans for Giant Russian Icebreaker Unlikely to Do More than Enrich Oligarchs, Kovalenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 30 – Russian plans to build a giant icebreaker to ensure year-round transit over the Northern Sea Route, plans Moscow has announced with such pomp, are unlikely to be realized even a decade from now and will by every indication do more to enrich the Kremlin’s friends than to break the ice for other ships, Aleksand Kovalenko says.

            The ship, already called “The Leader” – and one can only imagine whom that refers to – is supposed to weigh more than 71,000 tons and generate enormous power, is supposed to be built over the next nine years, the independent Russian military commentator continues (

            And two Russian banks, VTB and Sberbank, have said they are prepared to finance the construction of the ship to the tune of 100 billion rubles (1.5 billion US dollars), he says, even though they and the coverage of the plans ignore the fact that Russian yards have not build any ship approaching that size in decades, let alone a high-tech atomic icebreaker.

            Their commitments are impressive given that the Russian government has cut back spending on its much-ballyhooed Arctic development program by more than 80 percent and given the failure of Russian yards in the Far East where the ship is supposed to be built to produce far smaller vessels on budget and on time.

            Instead, those yards have been mired in continuing scandals with money supposedly going for naval construction instead being spent on the facilities themselves or ending up in the pockets of wealthy Russian investors, Kovalenko continues.

            For those reasons, he concludes, it is unlikely that “The Leader” will ever be launched. It certainly will be begun, but the money that is supposed to go for its construction is almost certain to go elsewhere. And the ship itself is likely to be scrapped even before it can be put to sea a decade from now.

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