WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Washington Free Press is reporting that a Russian nuclear-powered attack submarine armed with long-range cruise missiles went undetected in the Gulf of Mexico for several weeks. The attack vessel was not detected until after it left strategic U.S. waters.
This incident reflects Russia’s growing military assertiveness. In June and July, Russian strategic bombers crossed into restricted U.S. airspace near Alaska and California.
An undetected nuclear submarine in the Gulf confirms warnings from U.S. officials that the U.S. anti-submarine warfare capability is deficient. This at a time when the Obama administration plans to cut defense spending by $487 billion over the next decade.
The nuclear-powered Akula-class attack submarine is one of Russia’s quietest submarines. “The Akula was built for one reason and one reason only: To kill U.S. Navy ballistic missile submarines and their crews,” said an U.S. official. He added, “It’s a very stealthy boat so it can sneak around and avoid detection and hope to get past any protective screen a boomer (Navy nickname for strategic missile submarines) might have in place.”
“Sending a nuclear-propelled submarine into the Gulf of Mexico-Caribbean region is another manifestation of President Putin demonstrating that Russia is still a player on the world’s political-military stage,” said naval analyst and submarine warfare specialist Norman Polmar.
“Like the recent deployment of a task force led by a nuclear cruiser into the Caribbean, the Russian Navy provides him with a means of ‘showing the flag’ that is not possible with Russian air and ground forces,” Polmar said in an email.
Senator John Cornyn (R., Texas), member of the Senate Armed Services Committee said, “It’s a confounding situation arising from a lack of leadership in our dealings with Moscow. While the president is touting our supposed ‘reset’ in relations with Russia, Vladimir Putin is actively working against American interests, whether it’s in Syria or here in our own backyard.”
The Obama administration’s defense budget proposal in February cut $1.3 billion from Navy shipbuilding projects, which will result in scrapping plans to build 16 new warships through 2017. The budget also called for cutting plans to buy 10 advanced P-8 anti-submarine warfare jets needed for submarine detection.
Reasons for the covert submarine operation are not known. Some U.S. analysts believe the incursion was carried out to further signal Russian displeasure at U.S. and NATO plans to deploy missile defenses in Europe. Russia’s chief of the general staff, Gen. Nikolai Makarov has said that Russian forces would consider preemptive attacks on U.S. and allied missile defenses in Europe, and claimed the defenses are destabilizing in a crisis.
Another likelihood is that Russia used the incident as part of a marketing effort to export the Akula. Brazil’s O Estado de Sao Paoli reported the first of this month that that Russia plans to sell Venezuela up to 11 new submarines, including one Akula.
Asked if Russia planned a naval base in Cuba, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said July 28: “We are not speaking of any bases. The Russian navy ships serve exercise cruises and training in the same regions. To harbor, resupply, and enable the crew to rest are absolutely natural needs. We have spoken of such opportunities with our Cuban friends.”
Russian Deputy Premier Dmitri Rogozin announced in February that Russia was working on a plan to build 10 new attack submarines and 10 new missile submarines through 2030, along with new aircraft carriers.
So in a time when the U.S. Navy is being radically downsized and experimenting with green energy, Russia is dramatically increasing its presence in our backyard.
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