Tag Archives: Baltic

Tender for Helicopter Carriers May Just Be Formality

Mistral Schematic

Kommersant reports today that United Shipbuilding Corporation (OSK) has gotten the Defense Ministry’s permission to hold an open tender for procurement of helicopter carriers.  The paper concludes the Defense Ministry is refraining from a sole-source purchase of the French Mistral, and will consider similar proposals from OSK’s shipyards.  But the military [at least some military officials] haven’t hidden the fact that they prefer Mistral [but Defense Minister Serdyukov has always maintained they’ve been talking to other suppliers], so the tender could just be a formality. 

OSK President Roman Trotsenko says a special commission from the Ministry of Industry and Trade will conduct the tender, but details are sketchy.  A Defense Ministry source told Kommersant that, without a tender, a deal to buy a helicopter carrier [presumably Mistral] would be considered illegal.  So there won’t be a sole-source buy despite a year of government-to-government talks.

The paper reminds readers of OSK’s recent unsuccessful antimonopoly complaint in regard to the government’s consideration of Mistral.  Although the complaint was not reviewed, it must have had some impact on the decision to compete the helicopter carrier purchase.  Kommersant sources say OSK Board Chairman Igor Sechin also had something to do with it.

Trotsenko says far east shipbuilding plant ‘Zvezda,’ Petersburg’s ‘Admiralty Wharves,’ and Kaliningrad’s ‘Yantar’ will bid for the ships.  ‘Zvezda’ already has a joint venture in place with South Korea’s Daewoo – builder of the Dokdo helicopter carrier.  The OSK President says ‘Admiralty’ and ‘Yantar’ might work with ‘Northern’ shipyard or a foreign builder. 

Kommersant has a letter sent from Sechin to Prime Minister Putin this spring saying not only is Dokdo an alternative to Mistral, but Dutch and Spanish helicopter carriers are as well.

Trotsenko says OSK yards can build a helicopter carrier in 30 months for $500-700 million against a Mistral pricetag of €420-680 million.

Kommersant concludes the tender won’t end the conflict between OSK and the Defense Ministry.  Mistral will remain the latter’s priority.  The paper’s sources don’t know if the military wants to buy Mistral itself or place an order for a new unit in a French shipyard (STX).  OSK hasn’t been able to arrange a cooperative agreement with STX.

Mezhprombank-controlled ‘Northern’ and ‘Baltic’ shipyards will participate in the tender according to a representative of the bank. Kommersant’s sources think Mezhprombank, its owner Sergey Pugachev, and shipyards are the favorites among Russian contenders.  Pugachev was an early supporter of buying French, then building other units in his shipyards.  And, according to Kommersant, the Defense Ministry supports Pugachev.

Alongside Pugachev and Mezhprombank, OSK feels its chances to win the tender aren’t great.  Moscow Defense Brief analyst Mikhail Barabanov also says Mezhprombank yards are the favorites to build Mistral in Russia.  Such a deal’s been reached at a political level between Paris and Moscow, so the tender might just be a formality.  CAST’s Konstantin Makiyenko agrees.  But he thinks Mistral orders will go to ‘Baltic,’ since ‘Northern’ is loaded with frigate and corvette orders.  Meanwhile, OSK would like to buy both yards from Mezhprombank, but the sides haven’t reached agreement on a price.

NATO Exercise in Baltic Region

People apparently love this issue, almost as much as information and netcentric warfare . . . .  So, give the people want they want.

Today’s Kommersant says, “They’ve Decided to Have Maneuvers on Russia’s Doorstep.”

The NATO leadership has decided to exercise in the airspace over Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, with forces from those countries plus the U.S., France, and Poland.  Kommersant calls it a symbolic start to a large-scale program with the Baltic member-states that will continue through this year.

The staff of NATO’s joint air forces command is quoted as calling the exercises ‘routine’ and having a strictly ‘organizational character.’  But they will also be “a demonstration of alliance solidarity with the countries of the Baltic region that have joined it.”

Participants intend to give special attention to increased coordination between NATO air forces and to patrolling air space.  It will give NATO a great opportunity to use regional air forces and evaluate their readiness.

The Baltic Region Training Event scheduled for 17-20 March was developed at the end of 2008.  France will use its Mirage 2000C, Lithuania its L-39 Albatros, Poland F-16, and the U.S. tanker aircraft.  Latvia and Estonia will provide ground control.  Fighters will land at Tallinn airport for refueling and simulated maintenance.

Kommersant says the issue of serious exercises with the Baltic members came up after Russia’s short war with Georgia in August 2008.  Baltic concerns were reinforced after Moscow’s Zapad-2009 exercise with Belorussia.  According to the paper, Baltic leaders saw in this exercise work on various scenarios for seizing the Baltic countries.  It notes that Russia’s possible purchase of France’s Mistral has also caused a stir in the Baltics and Poland.  Leaders of the former Soviet republics have asked the U.S. to press Paris not to sell it, according to Kommersant.

Washington and Brussels have heard Baltic concerns and planned a series of political and military steps to calm them.  Kommersant names the agreement to place Patriot air defense missiles in Morong, Poland, 75 km from Kaliningrad’s border in April as one of the steps.  NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly will meet in Riga in May.  Also noted is the June amphibious exercise in Estonia in which 500 U.S. Marines will participate.  Kommersant says Estonian officers will command the exercise.

The steps will culminate this fall in a joint ground exercise involving 2,000 U.S., Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian troops as well as transport ships.

Newsru.com added a comment from Fedor Lukyanov, chief editor of the foreign affairs journal ‘Russia in Global Politics.’  He noted that the Baltics don’t trust NATO completely, and European members of the alliance most of all, and suspect that they won’t risk relations with Russia in a crisis.  The fact that these will be the first on-the-ground exercises in the Baltics since the countries joined the alliance 6 years ago just serves as extra confirmation of this.

Moscow Makes Note of U.S. Exercise with Estonia

In Gazeta, Denis Telmanov covers plans for a U.S. amphibious landing exercise in Estonia on 11 July.  According to Tallinn, 500 U.S. Marines will land from the USS Whidbey Island (LSD-41) and conduct a 10-day exercise with an Estonian recce battalion.  Estonia’s Defense Minister says this exercise will show that NATO’s serious about defending the Baltic states.  He said it won’t have any aggressive character, and therefore won’t harm relations with Moscow.  Telmanov raises the issue of whether this exercise prepares a defense against Russia in a Georgian-style scenario.

Then Telmanov turns to Leonid Ivashov to comment and he’s at his vitriolic best.  Ivashov calls the exercise hidden aggression against Russia, “When exercises are conducted, a situation is played out, no one just simply conducts exercises.  In every instance, the U.S. wants to work out scenarios of military action in these countries, since they see a threat from Russia.” 

Ivashov thinks the U.S. has the strategic aim of gaining “maneuver room” in the Baltic.  He concludes, “Controlling this territory, it’s possible to organize everything there as it suits–color revolutions, crises.  But the Baltic–this is a sore point for Russia, right next to the second capital–St. Petersburg.  These exercises need to demonstrate how far these three countries have moved away from Russia.”