Policy Memos

The Russian Navy after the Kursk: Still Proud but with Poor Navigation

Policy Memo:

215

Publication Date:

12-2001

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Description:

Raising the giant Russian nuclear submarine Kursk after it sank on August 12, 2000, in the Barents Sea and then delivering it safely to dry dock at Roslyakovo, near Murmansk, was no small feat. The operation was unique in its scale and complexity, and further complicated by late decisions on the choice of foreign contractors, rushed technical preparations and the one thing that can never be taken for granted in the Barents Sea—rough weather. Against significant odds, the President Vladimir Putin’s order was fulfilled and the Navy, putting maximum positive spin on this success, expected to repair its damaged prestige. Russian society appeared ready for closure on the tragedy of the Kursk and the investigation was moving toward one, when suddenly Putin dismissed both the commander and the chief of staff of the Northern Fleet (Admiral Vyacheslav Popov and Admiral Mikhail Motsak), as well as 12 other high-ranking officers under Popov’s and Motsak’s command. This unexpected cadre “massacre” has brought back many hard questions about the causes of the catastrophe that had been so carefully swept under ceremonial carpets. Putin’s decision may be based on serious thinking about the lessons of the Kursk, and, more likely, his determined political turn toward the West in the global antiterrorist campaign may also drive it. [...]

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Research Professor
Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)