Russia struggles to keep up its navy

President Vladimir Putin calls improving the Russian navy’s combat capabilities a priority.

The unfinished husks of three guided-missile frigates that have languished for three years at a Baltic shipyard show that is easier said than done.

Earmarked for Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, the frigates fell victim to sanctions imposed by Ukraine in 2014 after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula, prompting Kiev to ban the sale of the Ukrainian-made engines needed to propel them.

With Moscow unable to quickly build replacement engines for the Admiral Grigorovich-class frigates, construction stopped. Russia is now cutting its losses and selling the three ships to India without engines.

The navy’s problems stem largely, but not exclusively, from the Ukrainian sanctions. There are also problems, for different reasons, with new equipment for the army and air force.

The picture that emerges is that Russia’s armed forces are not as capable or modern as its annual Red Square military parades suggest and that its ability to project conventional force is more limited too.

“You need to always distinguish between reality and the shop window,” said Andrei Frolov, editor-in-chief of Russian magazine Arms Exports.
Russia can't afford to build the weapons it designs and shows off.  It is not just ships.  Its stealth aircraft barely made a showing in Syria before being sent home and there is no real production line to build them.  I suspect the same is true for its missiles.

Russia is trying to project itself as a superpower on the cheap.  Its economy is less than that of the State of Texas.  Ironically the state of Texas and the shale revolution has hurt Russia probably more than the sanctions because it has driven down the price of oil that Russia relies on to fund these programs.  Combine that with the sanctions imposed for its aggression in Ukraine and elsewhere and it looks like Putin is posturing while the facade crumbles around him.


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