BLACK SEA FLEET AS A MIRROR OF "VIRTUAL" FRIENDSHIP OF RUSSIA AND UKRAINE

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After dismissal of Admiral Komoedov from the post of Black Sea Commander, Navy Commander Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov visited Sevastopol in early December. The visit was timed for the beginning of the new training year in the Armed Forces. However, the contacts made by Kuroedov in the Crimea were not confined to military tasks but also pursued political goals. Kuroedov met with the administration of Sevastopol and Command of the Ukrainian Navy.

Kuroedov solved a number of problems in military relations between Kiev and Moscow which needed to be solved by politicians and diplomats and not the military. The Russian Navy Commander gave his agreement to the Ukrainian military that the Ukrainian Zaporozhye submarine based in the Balaklava Bay be redeployed and be based together with submarines of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Kuroedov agreed to train Ukrainian crews at the Russian training bases and also promised that several ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet stations near the sea passenger terminal in Sevastopol would be redeployed, which would enable the terminal to broaden its moorage facilities in the future and become more attractive for the ocean-going tourist ships.

Thus, Kuroedov took steps that showed that Russia once again demonstrated goodwill in bilateral relations. These actions evidently have their logic, but they are not stipulated by relevant agreements and hence, one way or the other, they change the status and location of facilities of the Russian Black Sea Fleet and Ukrainian Navy without due justification. It would be possible to neglect this circumstance for the sake of good neighborly relations. However, it is noticeable that the steps of the Russian Navy Command in the Crimea aimed at strengthening of military relations are usually unilateral. Moreover, the Ukrainian party remains in confrontation and is unfriendly to the Black Sea Fleet. We remember how much effort it took military diplomats and officials of the Russian Defense Ministry to redeploy several Su-24 bombers to the Crimea. Kiev has had and still has claims on some objects of infrastructure leased to the Black Sea Fleet until 2017. After the tragedy with the Russian Tu-154 airplane downed by a Ukrainian S-200 missile in 2001, Ukraine changed the rules for use of the sea training grounds in the Black Sea in a unilateral manner. These rules were stipulated by a relevant agreement in 1997. The agreement stated that the Ukrainian Navy and Russian Black Sea Fleet had to organize naval exercises, firing practice, and other military exercises in cooperation. Henceforth, the naval exercises in the Black Sea are to be organized separately, and the Russian party is deprived of the right to organize firing practices. The command of the Ukrainian Navy assigned such sectors to the Russian party where it was simply impossible to fire.

Neither in spring nor in summer were there any big firing exercises at the Black Sea Fleet. It is interesting that this fact was found out quite recently, in early December. Kuroedov was very surprised and expressed his indignation about the fact that the Command of the Black Sea Fleet did not inform Moscow about the “discriminatory” actions of the Ukrainian Navy Command. At any rate, such surprise looks strange. It is the Navy headquarters that plans firing exercises of the fleets, and the Navy Command should control their fulfillment. However, this did not happen, and Kuroedov learned about this only when results of combat training in 2002 were summed up. No comment.

Against the background of discriminatory actions of the Ukrainian Navy Command, Kuroedov makes concessions to Kiev, substituting for work by diplomats. Why? According to observers, the Command of the Russian Navy has been stuck in intrigues, conspiracies and so on and is too busy for objective and routine work. Thus, the Command of the Northern Fleet was made responsible for the tragedy of the “Kursk” submarine. Where was the Navy Command?

At present, one of the versions of dismissal of Komoedov from the post of Black Sea Fleet Commander has it that Kuroedov saw a competitor for the post of Navy Commander in the person of Komoedov. Komoedov is one of the young admirals. He enjoyed respect and authority in the Black Sea Fleet. According to observers, he was one of the best Commanders of the Black Sea Fleet over the last few years. Kuroedov dismissed him. Now, after general inspections of the Black Sea Fleet by the Navy Command, this is the worst fleet in all of the Russian Armed Forces.

According to observers, mistakes of the Navy Command are obvious, although it is hardly likely that any conclusions will be drawn. Personnel reshuffles in the Navy Command and appointment of a new Commander are not realistic. President Putin favors Kuroedov. Kuroedov visits Putin at least once a month and reports about the condition of the Navy, bypassing the Defense Minister. It is rumored that Kuroedov lobbies the idea of exclusion of the Navy from the Armed Forces and its re-subordination to the President personally. The President is evidently thinking. What about the Navy? How are the problems of the Black Sea Fleet solved? Is it possible that the Black Sea Fleet will be unable to have a single firing exercise in the Year of Russia in Ukraine on training grounds, borders of which have not been changed after breakup of the USSR and are legalized by the agreements signed in 1997? We cannot expect a positive answer to this question.

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