FORGET ABOUT THE KURSK: THE SUNKEN SUBMARINE BECOMES AN OBJECT OF BARGAINING

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Dmitry Safronov Izvestia, March 22, 2001, p. 4

Russia and the EU may come to an agreement regarding financing of the project to raise the Kursk in the near future, if Russia is willing to accept Europe’s conditions

Another decision on the deadlines for raising the sunken submarine Kursk may be made at a March 23-24 EU summit in Stockholm. Rio Praaning, secretary of the Kursk International Foundation, believes that at this summit Russia and its European partners will discuss the problem of financing the operation.

The final decision largely depends on Russia’s readiness to participate in a joint environmental program to liquidate nuclear waste in northwestern Russia proposed by the EU. Under the said program, Russia may receive financial aid for dismantling 320 old submarine reactors from the Northern Fleet. However, Russia is unwilling to allow foreign inspections of the national navy’s military objects. In addition, the Russian government still has not allocated the promised $25 million for the Kursk operation. Now the EU has decided to get even with Russia for its intractability and condition its participation in raising the sub on the dismantling of submarine reactors.

However, experts claim that the uncertainty of deadlines for the operation is explained by a different reason. The Russian government itself is not at all certain whether or not the submarine should be recovered. Last year, many Russian specialists voiced humble apprehensions that the raising of the sub scheduled for the spring of 2001 might fail. Bolder representatives of the defense industry asserted that the submarine should be left alone, saying that the operation would cost a lot of money, and the sunken sub does not pose any threat to the environment anyway.

Others claim that the submarine should be left on the seabed because it contains 22 supersonic cruise missiles. The explosion in the Kursk’s bow compartment tore the hull right down to the missile silos. The missiles are reported to be undamaged, but accidental launches could take place if any attempt were made to move the sub. Specialists cannot guarantee that this would not happen.

Representatives of the defense industry reached by our correspondent for comment are certain that the government is intent on lifting the submarine exclusively because President Putin promised not to leave the craft on the seabed. There are absolutely no other reasons that are worth the effort of the operation. Another version is that, even without the costly reacquisition operation, the government investigation commission has already made its conclusions about the causes of the Kursk disaster. One proof of this is a recent fairly emotional statement by Academic Igor Spassky, general director of the Rubin Design Bureau, in which he indirectly accused Navy Command of using the submarine improperly. Neither Navy Command, nor Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, the chair of the investigation commission, responded to this statement in any way.

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