Staunton, March 20 – Not only is corruption blocking progress on the refitting of Russia’s only existing aircraft carrier (tass.ru/proisshestviya/10952429), but the five competing proposals Russian planners have come up with exist only on paper and “will never be realized” because they would cost more money than Moscow has, Aleksandr Ivanin says.
Writing in Novoye voennoye obozreniye, the Moscow military expert argues that all five Russian models have one thing in common” – “they will never be realized.” Moscow doesn’t have the financial resources to build them, because under Russian conditions, any would cost more than the US spends on such ships (nvo.ng.ru/armament/2021-03-18/1_1133_chimera.html).
The plans may frighten some in the West and the projects may offer the chance to funnel money to allies of the Kremlin, but they aren’t ever likely to be completed and join the fleet, however many bombastic threats Russian leaders make and however many promises the navy and its yards make.
Russia doesn’t have adequate shipyards to build such ships even if it had the money because the largest aren’t ice free throughout the year and proposed alternatives on the Black Sea run into problems with the Montreux convention. But aircraft carriers still have their advocates in Russia for two reasons.
On the one hand, Ivanin says, they serve as “chimerical beasts” that frighten those who don’t consider that they are a thing of myth. And on the other, they are so expensive and involve so many contractors that they are a useful way of sending money from the state treasury into the pockets of the government’s allies.
Russia may be put out of its misery regarding aircraft carriers, he suggests, because no weapons increasingly making such floating airbases easier targets for destruction. But as long as Russian businessmen are profiting from them, they will continue to have supporters, as shown by the money being spent on the Kuznetsov and the five new projects.
(For a broader discussion of the problems Ivanin raises to conclude that any Russian carrier is “stillborn,” see this author’s article in Jamestown’s Eurasian Daily Monitor at jamestown.org/program/russia-will-not-have-a-new-aircraft-carrier-for-at-least-15-years-and-maybe-never/).