Staunton, Dec. 9 – Russia’s Caspian Flotilla has long been the dominate power on that inland sea and has served Moscow well there, in the Sea of Azov to which it is connected by rivers and canals, and more generally, according to Aleksandr Ivanin, a military journalist for Novoye voyennoye obozreniye.
But in recent times, the Flotilla’s predominance has been challenged, the result of the failure of Moscow to keep up its development at anything like the pace some of the other states, and especially Turkmenistan, have been pursuing (nvo.ng.ru/armament/2021-12-09/8_1169_neighbors.html).
Over the last decade, Ashgabat has committed itself to becoming a power on the Caspian, purchasing ships originally from Russia but more recently from Turkey, and its ships now have 92 to 104 anti-ship missiles, which can also be used against shore targets. That represents a threat to the Russian fleet there, which has only 44, one that Moscow so far has been ignoring.
Turkmenistan has engaged in this build up not only to defend its own exploitation of the undersea resources of the Caspian and to protect trans-Caspian pipelines but also to challenge others for control of both these economically important assets, the Novoye voyennoye obozreniye commentator continues.
One of the reasons Russia has been coasting, Ivanin suggests, is that Moscow devoted more to the modernization of the Caspian Flotilla than to any other surface fleet of the Russian navy in the first two decades after 1991. Many in the Russian capital apparently assume that no more needs to be done.
But that stance is no longer justified, he continues, given what Turkmenistan and some of the other littoral states are doing. (On the actions of the other littoral states, see jamestown.org/program/russias-caspian-flotilla-no-longer-only-force-that-matters-there/.) “Under current conditions, the strengthening of Russia’s Caspian Flotilla is required.”