Russian nuclear subs to head for the Gulf
The Russian Defense Ministry is preparing to send warships to the Arabian Sea, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper reports.
According to it, Russian ships will arrive to the Arabian Sea in late April. The official aim of the campaign is to carry out military and naval military exercises there, "according to an agreement with India". However, it seems that this explanation does not reveal the true goals of the campaign. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov has said recently that the timeframe of the campaign would depend on the situation in Iraq.
According to the newspaper, two scenarios are possible. The first one envisages the occupation of an important onshore facility by marines. Quoting an army general, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports that it might be the oil terminals of Umm Qasr. This action, resembling a quick seizure of Pristina at the end of the Yugoslavian war, might affect the alignment of forces in the post-war Iraq. However, the battle group is not enough strong for this purpose. It will have only one landing ship capable of carrying 150 marines and 10 tanks.
The second scenario envisages a "battle" with an enemy air force. Speaking in Munich in February 2003, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said that the battle group would comprise "about ten warships, including submarines and large landing ships".
In the light of new information, it becomes clear that there will be at least three nuclear submarines in the battle group. It will be like an iceberg, with the main firepower hidden underwater.
According to the newspaper, the ships of the Black Sea battle group, comprised of the Moscow cruiser, the large landing ship Caesar Kunikov and two frigates, will leave the Black Sea post of Sebastopol in five or seven days. Ten to twelve days later, the ships will arrive to the war zone. In early May, another three warships of the Pacific Fleet will join them.
Thus, the Russian Defense Ministry expects that the situation in the Middle East will change dramatically by late April, which might require interference from Russia, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta concludes.