Staunton, May 7 – Russia’s Caspian Flotilla, the dominant naval force there, has attracted widespread attention because Moscow has dispatched its ships to the Sea of Azov to put pressure on Ukraine. But the Russian navy is not the only one that is growing on that contested body of water.
All the other littoral states – Azerbaijan and Iran in particular but Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan as well – have been expanding their naval capabilities beyond search-and-rescue and defense of offshore oil and gas facilities. (On these developments, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/03/birth-of-azerbaijani-navy-and-revival.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/02/azerbaijani-navy-prepares-to-defend.html.)
Of the five, Kazakhstan has lagged behind; but with its ongoing efforts to promote the port of Aktau as a major international shipping hub, it is now entering this competition in earnest. And while its steps so far have been relatively small, they could eventually pose a challenge to Moscow – and likely will require new talks to ensure that no conflict breaks out.
Two days ago, Kazakhstan launched a small patrol ship, the Turkestan which officials set is intended to provide defense of the territorial waters of that country, its state borders, and, most important, its continental shelf which remains undelimited (inform.kz/ru/korabl-turkistan-otpravilsya-v-pervoe-plavanie_a3784859 and casp-geo.ru/12172-2/).
This is the second ship of this class. The first was launched in May 2020. Both are 50 meters long and displace 400 tons. According to Kazakhstan officials, among the primary tasks of these vessels are combating poaching on the Caspian and defending the state borders (inaktau.kz/news/3092365/na-kaspii-zaderzany-narusiteli-gosgranicy).