Over on Strategy Page, Steven Cole files this report on the Russian Navy. Oh boy, the Russians laid down the keel of the first of ten tiny little ships?
This isn’t the yawner you think it is. In fact, it’s as vital to your future almost as much as it is to Russia’s.
For much of the last sixty years, Russia has been trying to play the superpower game. But they were sadly underequipped. You know the reason: An economy just too damn small to support power projection. Hell, even during the heady days of the ’70s, when Soviet power was apparently at its apex, they couldn’t properly project real power any further than Magdeburg, East Germany.
Sure, their diplomats were scoring points all over Africa. They even rented out the Cuban Army to fight in Angola (in an odd historical twist, one of our big oil companies, Unocal, I think, was helping to finance the Marxists in that war. And the South Africans were good guys. Go figure. Anyway…).
Real power projection requires a blue water navy. That means big ships, especially aircraft carriers. Carriers allow you to bomb anyone, anywhere, and on fairly short notice. While our Air Force was still struggling to set up one base in Kraplekistan, hte Navy was already pounding targets in Kabul. The Soviets tried to build a carrier, but the best they could do was a ski-jump looking thing that launched obsolete-at-the-time YAK-38s. Sad, really. It made the Charles de Gaulle look fearsome. The only things that kept the Soviets in the superpower game were a shitload of SS-18s and -25s, and Eighth Guards Tank Army sitting opposite the Fulda Gap. 8th GTA is now disbanded and the nuclear-tipped missiles are either rusting away or were negotiated away.
So what’s the big deal about the Russian Navy ordering ten little corvettes for coastal patrol duty? Easy — ten tiny ships aren’t one big one. The Russians have finally recognized that, at least for the middle term, they’re out of the game. That implies that they also see that they can either play the game our way, or remain backwards, broke, and broken.
And it looks like for the first time in a long time, the Russians are doing something right. I hope so — they’ve suffered enough.