(Moscow Times) On July 26, 2015, on the annual Navy Day holiday, President Vladimir Putin traveled to Russia's western outpost of Kaliningrad to pay tribute to the country's resurgent armada.
"The courage of our sailors, the talent of our shipbuilders, and the spirit of our famous pioneers, explorers and naval commanders have confirmed Russia's status as a great sea power," the president declared. Putin reserved special praise for the Baltic Fleet, which was "carrying the flag with honor in the Baltic … and in other parts of the world too."
The confident rhetoric rang loudly in Western capitals, where scores of experts and officials agreed with his assessment of Russia's modernized military. U.S. admirals now point to Russian submarines and defense arrangements as the leading threat to U.S. ships in European waters, and the Baltic Fleet is a focal point of those concerns.
But behind Putin's triumphant words, all was not as it seems with the Baltic Fleet. […]
This is a very different mission for the Baltic Fleet than its traditional post-Soviet role as a training fleet. "Kravchuk may have failed to adapt to the new reality quickly enough," says Dmitry Gorenburg, a Russian navy expert at the Virginia-based CNA think tank. "But I am beginning to think corruption was really the key."
"The Russian leadership is clearly fine with corruption, but I think this was meant to signal others in the military and the security services that you can go ahead and steal and do what you want to do, but if you do that to an extent that combat readiness suffers, there will be consequences," Gorenburg says. […]