Friday, March 16, 2018

Russian Naval Construction ‘Weak Link’ in Putin’s Military Buildup, Vasin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 16 – At the end of February, Nezavisimaya gazeta carried a brief report on serious shortcomings in Russian naval construction and modernization (; but because it contained no specific numbers, most people were inclined to dismiss its findings, according to Aleksandr Vasin.

            But the independent Moscow military analyst says in an article published today that “the reality is even worse than was described” in that article. Indeed, he says, the Russian navy will not get the full complement of any of the categories of ships the Kremlin has promised or the modernization of existing ships it needs (

            The Russian military has never published precise figures on the number of ships by category it has or the number that it plans to have in the future. Such information, Vasin says, isn’t needed, “as people say.”  But political figures, including the prime minister and the president have given figures; and if one assembles them, it is not a pretty picture.

            Using these statements, Vasin has compiled a detailed chart which Novoye voyennoye obozreniye publishes with his article. It shows how many ships of various categories were planned, how many have been produced so far, and how many will be produced by the early 2020s.

            The striking fact is that in no case is Russian naval shipbuilding meeting what Putin and Medvedev promised; and in many cases, it is not producing anything close to the number promised and that the navy needs.  That is especially shocking, Vasin says, because of how it compares with Putin’s March 1 talk about a new generation of other kinds of super weapons. 

            The situation with regard to refitting and modernization is “just as bad,” he continues. Ships are in dry dock for far longer than they were scheduled to be, often because of a lack of money, or are not being released to the fleet because the equipment they were supposed to have installed wasn’t available – including defensive weaponry. 

            The question naturally arises, the defense analyst says. Who is responsible for these shortcomings? And who is reporting on them accurately to the Russian commander in chief, Vladimir Putin. 

With Putin’s Support Softening and Falsification Risks Rising, Kremlin Quietly Drops 70/70 Requirement

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 16 – For the last year, the Kremlin has sent a clear message to the heads of federal subjects that it expects them to get 70 percent of registered voters to the polls and have 70 percent of those who do take part cast their ballots for Vladimir Putin, the so-called “70/70” requirement.

            But this week, just a few days before Sunday’s vote, leaks from officials across the Russian Federation said that the center had dropped that requirement, fearful that the demand for 70 percent participation would lead to the kind of massive falsifications that could trigger demonstrations and protests (

            And while these reports did not suggest that the Kremlin had other concerns, it seems extremely likely that various recent reports showing that support for Putin has softened if not slipped especially in major cities may have been a factor as well because regional officials would have felt compelled to falsify those returns as well if their futures depended upon them.

            According to one regional official with whom the URA news agency spoke, the Kremlin is now far more concerned about the share of votes Putin receives than about the level of participation and “the results of the work conducted will depend not on percentages but on the number of votes for the main candidate.”

            Ilya Grashenkov, the director of the Center for the Development of Regional Politics, says that “in certain regions, even a 65 percent participation rate will be difficult to achieve.” If governors think they have to reach 70, they almost certainly will falsify the result and that will cast a shadow on the legitimacy of the voting.

            Another analyst, Gleb Kuznetsov of the Expert Institute for Social Research, a group known to be close to the Kremlin, says there is a recognition that “legitimacy is achieved only in honest elections. Falsified votes will not be useful for society, for citizens nor for those they choose.”

            And a third, political analyst Andrey Kolyadin, says that it will not be difficult for the governors to achieve the new percentages especially because “there is every chance that the first person will receive even more votes than he did in the last election.” 

            Meanwhile, an anonymous source close to the Kremlin told URA that the Kremlin had adopted the 70-70 formula earlier to divert opposition figure Aleksey Navalny into calling for a boycott.  Navalny “took the bait,” the source said; and instead of working together with other candidates like Grudinin, he pursued his quixotic quest.

            Had Navalny done otherwise, the source continued, Navalny “really could have influenced the course of the entire campaign.” It would have enlivened the opposition by suggesting the possibility of a second round, although it was clear to everyone that Putin was going to win and win more easily than that.

Trump May Negotiate with Putin for the Same Reasons He’s Talking with Kim Jong-Un, Novoye Voennoye Obozreniye Suggests

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 16 – The editors of Novoye voyennoye obozreniye, the military affairs supplement to Nezavisimaya gazeta, suggest that the trajectory of relations between North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un and US President Donald Trump may be a model for possible talks between Washington and Moscow at the highest level.

            For some months, North Korea’s Kim escalated the situation by developing nuclear weapons and ICBMs, to which Trump responded by threatening to destroy North Korea with an attack unprecedented in its ferocity, hardly the situation out of which one would expect talks to emerge (

            But then Kim launched his charm offensive in South Korea at the Olympics and, through Seoul’s diplomats, extended an invitation to Trump to meet with the North Korean leader in talks where almost all the issues the US has expressed concern about would be on the table. To the surprise of everyone, Trump accepted and a meeting is now planned for this spring.

            Whether that session will lead to a breakthrough very much remains to be seen, but clearly, the editors say, there is a desire on the part of both sides to move forward after being so close to war only a few weeks ago.  Trump is confident of his unique personal skills to make a deal by scrambling the pieces on the board, and Kim has taken advantage of that fact.

            Consequently, the editors of Novoye voyennoye obozreniye continue, there is no reason to assume that a decision by one side in a conflict to take steps that the other views as offensive precludes such conversations. Instead, it is precisely the case with the current constellation of leaders that threatening actions followed by openness for talks may have the opposite effect.

            The paper does not outline the ways in which Putin’s behavior has resembled Kim’s – to do so in Russia today would probably get the paper closed.  But it does ask the provocative question: “Is Washington ready to negotiate with Moscow?” Perhaps, although the paper doesn’t say so, for similar reasons reflecting both the situation and the nature of the players.