Naval Air: A Carrier Fleet Grows In Ukraine


October 1, 2008:  Russia has an offer that neighboring Ukraine can't refuse, and that won't make Russia look like a bully. Russia wants to built aircraft carriers, but the shipyards best suited for that kind of work are in Ukraine. At the moment, Ukraine and Russia are at odds over several major issues. One is possession of the Crimean peninsula (in southern Ukraine), and the Russian naval bases there. Currently, Russia has leased Crimea, but the lease expires in nine years, and Ukraine does not want to renew, no matter how much the Russians huff, puff and threaten. Ukraine does not trust the Russians, especially after what Russia has done to neighboring Georgia (invaded, then annexed part of Georgia). So some Russian legislators have come up with a clever solution.

It goes like this. Russia would provide contracts to build aircraft carriers in Ukrainian shipyards, as well as cash to get those yards back in business (they are closed for lack thereof). In return, Ukraine would extend the Crimean lease. Currently Russia stations 50 warships (most of them small, and many just patrol boats) and 80 aircraft in Crimea. But there is a large Russian population in Crimea, and Russia would like to stay. It's also becoming clear that the EU (European Union) was shaken up by what happened to Georgia, and especially by the way Russian just shrugged off EU protests. The EU and the U.S. are making aggressive noises that Ukraine will receive more substantial (more than diplomatic) support in any future confrontation with Russia. So now Russia is looking to use the carrot, rather than the stick, to get its way. The carrier contract solution works out for everyone, except Western nations unhappy with Russia having a carrier fleet. But that's a decade or more in the future, and the Russians have never shown any great capacity for effectively running aircraft carriers.





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