Western experts are reported to be increasingly concerned by what they describe as significant investments by Russia in the development and deployment of advanced new submarines. One U.S. naval official described the submarine investment program as "worrisome" for a country that is seeking aid from the world community. He also questioned the need for a high-technology submarine development program when there is no apparent threat to Russia from the U.S., Britain, or Norway, and when Russia’s naval requirements would seem to be better directed toward dealing with instability near Russia’s own coasts. According to an expert from Jane’s International Defense Review, Russia’s submarine technology has "advanced at a faster rate than was predicted." The newer, quieter submarines are also being deployed much farther from home, he said.
Western intelligence officials describe Russia’s evolving submarine fleet — down to 99 subs from 186 a decade ago — as "leaner and fitter," and say that more than half of the current fleet can slip unnoticed into the West’s main sea lanes. Improved versions of the Akula class submarines are already operating in Western waters, they say, while new Severodvinsk class subs will begin entering service in the year 2000. The navy is also said to be developing unique, high-speed underwater missiles, including one which can be fitted with a nuclear warhead. (Reuter, July 8)
As if to corroborate such assessments, participants in a Russian Defense Ministry meeting yesterday on naval issues placed priority on development of Russia’s nuclear submarine fleet. They also emphasized Moscow’s determination to be able to show the Russian flag across the world’s oceans as a means of resolving political and security problems. (Interfax, July 8)
Moscow and St. Petersburg Join Forces.