Vadim Saranov Versiya, No. 16, April 22-28, 2002, p. 8
PATRONAGE OF WARSHIPS OF THE RUSSIAN NAVY HAS BECOME VERY POPULAR.
HOWEVER, SUCH PATRONAGE IS VERY EXPENSIVE FOR SEAMEN: THE NAVY HAS TO PAY FOR VISITS BY SPONSORS’ DELEGATIONS AND BANQUETS. IN ADDITION, SPONSORS HAVE NEVER TRANSFERRED MONEY TO THE NAVY.
Cities, regions, and enterprises take the Navy under their patronage. Their friendship with warships and Navy units is very strong. Both the Navy and its sponsors are interested in such patronage. However, this is not profitable for the state. Such patronage yields serious political, economic, and ideological losses. But no one wants to speak of this.
History does not say who was the first sponsor of the Russian Navy. Unofficial honor of reviving patronage of the Navy is ascribed to the Northern Fleet. (…) Patronage reached its peak in 1997. There were so many sponsors that the Navy did not have enough warships and submarines for them. The Navy had to put that movement in good order. Murmansk Governor Yury Yevdokimov initiated the creation of an association of regions, republics, and cities, which took warships of the Russian Navy under their patronage, on October 30, 1997. The document was signed by 65 leaders of Federation subjects. Over 150 organizations, cities, regions, and republics were sponsors of 100 warships and units of the Northern Fleet in 2001: 25 warships were renamed in honor of the cities, which sponsored them.
Patronage acquired new forms. Sponsorship turned into humanitarian aid in the circumstances when the state could support the Navy. Warships received food from their sponsors. Humanitarian aid to the Northern Fleet rendered in 1997-2001 amounts to 20 million rubles. Sponsors passed over 22 units of automotive hardware and 800 tons of diverse goods to military units. At first sight, the figures are impressive. The actual scale of the support is much more moderate. The matter is that the Navy has to pay for “gratuitous support”. The state had to pay for delegations sent by sponsors. (…)
Over 100 delegations visited the Northern Fleet in 2000. However, the military prosecutor’s office turns a blind eye to this situation. It is natural because patronage is a sacred thing for the Navy. However, one admiral had to pay for close friendship with sponsors. In April 2001 Versia published an article about thefts of shipment documents from The Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier. The damage amounted to 600,000 rubles. Oleg Vishnevskii, a representative of the military prosecutor’s office, said that Rear Admiral Alexander Chelpanov, commander of the aircraft carrier, used part of that money for inviting sponsors’ delegations from the Moscow region. He paid their transport costs at the Defense Ministry’s expense. Objectively, the sums which the Navy had to pay for friendship with sponsors cannot be compared with sums of sponsors’ support. According to official reports, sponsors spent 20 million rubles on humanitarian aid to the Navy in 1997-2000. Who counted this money?
As a rule, sums of sponsors’ aid are mentioned in special documents regarding material support to the Navy. For instance, one region sends a truck with pants and candies for seamen to a submarine. The commander of the submarine signs a document where the cost of the cargo is indicated. For instance, the sum is 200,000 rubles. It is natural that the commander will not count the pants and candies. After that this document is added to the expenses of the regional budget. Money disappears. We do not reproach anyone. We want to say that no one has ever checked the actual price of this aid.
As a rule, the Navy does not receive money from sponsors. When the Navy asks for money for repairing warships sponsors do not hear anything. The Navy receives only humanitarian aid, the commercial value of which is very doubtful. For instance, the Navy hints to sponsors that they need 500,000 rubles for repairing a submarine. Sponsors promise to help and send goods, which “cost” 500,000 rubles. Why not transfer money? The matter is that governors do not have such money. All they send to the Navy is the surplus of local output. They send this to seamen, have a good time with admirals under patriotic slogans, and win over new voters.
The moral aspect of this problem must not be forgotten either. Activists of the patronage movement say that seamen feel people’s love and support thanks to their activities. In principle, this is true. In principle, this is good. However, it is very likely that patronage has hurt the Navy’s combat readiness. Patronage has undermined the principle of secrecy in the Navy. The Navy has become open for society. Anyone can get to a nuclear submarine under the guise of a sponsor. Representatives of the regional media who like to interview seamen about their life can obtain secret information, such as the location of bases, tactical numbers of warships and units, and more. For instance, thanks to a press release by the Murmansk administration issued on July 5, 2001 the author of this article learnt that The Daniil Moskovskii nuclear submarine is based in the Vidyayevo settlement and belongs to the 7th division of nuclear submarines. This is secret information. This is not the only example. You can try to get such information yourself. Type “nuclear submarines – sponsors” in an Internet search system. You will find many interesting facts about nuclear submarines: names, figures, geographic location, and more.
There were several scandals. Such a scandal burst out in the Northern Fleet in 1999. The media did not cover that incident. The Kursk submarine was visited by a delegation headed by former Kursk Governor Rutskoi. Officially, they arrived to meet the crew. Unofficially, they arrived to see off the crew on a combat mission to the Mediterranean Sea. That event was covered by the regional and local media. Everyone learnt that the Kursk intended to move to the Mediterranean Sea. That was a secret mission. The crew and the command were punished…
In the meantime, patronage flourishes in the Navy. (…) It is hard to believe, but one submarine has been renamed in honor of a commercial enterprise. This is The Severstal submarine. It has been renamed in honor of the Severstal enterprise in the Volgograd region. (…)
What do foreign countries think about humanitarian aid to the Russian Navy? According to the Armed Forces’ logistics service, the food program for the Army and the Navy is fulfilled without problems. To date seamen receive high-quality food like in the USSR. However, sponsors’ support makes people think that seamen live in misery. This hurts the country’s prestige.
Does the Navy need such patronage? Just think: the maintenance of one scrapped submarine costs 15 million rubles a year. According to the Association of regions, republics, and cities the Northern Fleet received 20 million rubles in 1997-2001. In other words, sponsors helped the Navy to keep only one scrapped submarine during one year. To date the Navy has 150 such submarines, and their numbers are increasing from year to year despite “sponsors who have rescued the Navy from collapse”.