Monday, December 16, 2019

Russia Needs Seven Icebreakers More than a Single Atomic-Powered Aircraft Carrier – But May Not Soon Get Either

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 14 – Given Beijing’s drive to dominate the Northern Sea Route and Washington’s promise to prevent the Russians or the Chinese from controlling that waterway, Valery Shiryayev says, Moscow very much needs to “build seven atomic-powered icebreakers” than “an aircraft carrier” (

            But there are three reasons, despite this commentator’s compelling argument, why Russia may end up with neither, at least in the short term:

·         First, the situation in Russia’s ship-building sector is a disaster with fires on the ill-fated Admiral Kuznetsov, drydocks sinking, and cost overruns the order of the day (, and

·         Second, Russia’s admirals are powerful advocates for an aircraft carrier because it and not any icebreakers would be their flagship of the future. They also feel that because the Americans have a fleet of aircraft carriers, Russia must have one as well (

·         And third, and likely to be the most important reason for skepticism, large projects like aircraft carriers are ones that it is far easier for the powers that be to divert tax money into the hands of Putin’s friends. Costs can keep rising, and the money to the allies of the Kremlin leader will keep flowing (

On, commentator Yury Kirpichev says he has no doubt that Moscow isn’t about to stop throwing good money after bad to refit the Admiral Kuznetsov and that Russia’s only aircraft carrier will eventually come out of refitting. Not as soon as planned and costing far more than expected too because it is functional. More than that, it is multi-functional.”

The ship provides a channel to give money to Putin’s friends, its travails provide employment to journalists in Russia and the West, and its all-too-obvious failings play a useful role in deceiving the outside world that Russia is no threat, he argues. It has even become a source of humor.

One anecdote making the rounds runs as follows: A sailor is asked why there are so many crows over the English Channel. He is told that these aren’t crows but seagulls. And when he is asked why they are black, he is informed that that is because the Admiral Kuznetsov has recently passed through.

“If this ship didn’t exist, it would have to be invented,” Kirpichev says. Because it is the ideal tool for giving out money to our friends and deceiving our enemies. “Therefore, it must be protected and maintained in a constant state of the need for repair.” In that condition, it is worth its weight in gold, certainly more than smaller ships including icebreakers.

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