Russia is to dispatch naval vessels to tackle the Somali piracy problem, in a surprise development that may create as many headaches as it solves for merchant shipping."Not only an aggressor?" Russia could prove that in oh so many ways...
The main concern in shipping circles seems to be that Russia has expressly stated that it will act independently, rather than co-ordinate anti-piracy efforts with the coalition.
Roger Holt - secretary general of statement signatory Intercargo - commented: “Obviously the additional resources are welcome at face value, but co-operation has to be co-ordinated throught the UN. That is the only way an effective response can take place.”
A representative of the International Maritime Bureau, the anti-piracy watchdog, added: “If it’s going to help in the effort to curb piracy, then it’s most certainly welcome. At the same time, it should not jeopardise the efforts of others. The navies should know that each other is going to help out.”
News of the new line from the Kremlin was carried by RIA Novosti yesterday. According to the state-owned news agency, Russian admiral Vladimir Vysotsky said: “We are planning to participate in international efforts to fight piracy off the Somalia coast, but Russian warships will conduct operations on their own.”
Officially, the reason for the decision is that Russian nationals are frequently among the crews of civilian ships hijacked by Somali pirates. But the real motives appear rather more political than that.
Experts point out that, the USSR had extensive involvement in the Horn of Africa, once sponsoring Somalia as a client state before switching to support the nominally Marxist Ethiopia in the Ethiopia-Somalia war of 1977-78.
But even before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moscow was too weak to maintain that kind of reach, according to Yuri Fedorov, a specialist on Russian military matters with the Chatham House think tank.
With a transition to more assertive nationalism over the last period, culminating in the recent conflict in Georgia, Moscow may now be sending warships to the region to make a point, he believes.
Professor Fedorov noted: “Explanation number one is that Russia would like to demonstrate that it has enough political, financial and military resources to allow it to persue an active policy all over the world, and in areas close to the Middle East in particular.
“The second explanation is that Russia would like to demonstrate that it is not only an aggressor but also participates in fighting against piracy and other international problems.”
India seems to be taking an independent approach, too, as set out here:
India said it would soon find a "solution" and take all steps to rescue the Indian crew on board a merchant vessel that was abducted in the African waters recently.I'm sure the Indians will be just as welcome as the Russians.
"The government is concerned of the recent hijack of a merchant vessel with Indian crew on board and is consulting with its ministries on finding a solution and to rescue the abducted crew members from the pirates," Defence Minister A K Antony told reporters on the sidelines of Coast Guard commanders conference in New Delhi.
With Gulf of Aden turning into a sea pirates' den, India also virtually gave up the option of "joint patrolling" in African waters along side other Navies as "incidents keep happening there" despite major powers such as US' and France's continuous presence.
"At the moment there is no such proposal (for joint patrolling). Major naval powers such as US, France, UK and Canada are already carrying out joint patrolling there (African coast). Despite their presence, these incidents (of hijacking) are happening," Antony said.
There's a lot of water to cover.
Maybe the Russians will send the new Steregushchiy corvette. And the Indians a frigate or a corvette...