According to Rossiyskaya Gazeta, work is actively under way in Dagestan aimed at creating a housing barracks fund, a military hospital and other infrastructure facilities necessary for the accommodation of crews of ships of the Caspian Flotilla. Also, work began on the construction of hydraulic structures and moorings. The new fleet base will be located in the satellite city of the Dagestan capital - Kaspiysk. All work on the redeployment of the forces of the Caspian Flotilla to the new base will go synchronously. In addition, the union will continue to receive new types of weapons and military equipment.
According to Shoigu, a very large construction project takes place in Kaspiysk: moorings, piers, service points, and housing. At the same time, he noted that the number of servicemen and officers of the Caspian Flotilla will increase multiply. Sergei Shoigu did not say anything about the reasons for the decision and the timing of the implementation of the move. At the same time, the Department of Information and Mass Communications of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation also refrained from commenting on this matter.
Local authorities are happy with this decision of the Russian Ministry of Defense. The Deputy Chairman of the Government of the Republic of Dagestan, Ramazan Jafarov, noted that the relocation of the flotilla to Kaspiysk would be of strategic importance for the social and economic development of the republic: the emergence of a new infrastructure, a solution to the issue of employment. In addition to the construction of military facilities, issues of social development will be resolved: the construction of schools and kindergartens, housing construction - all this is planned to be included in the comprehensive program for the development of Dagestan and the program for the integrated development of Russian single-industry towns.
The Caspian Flotilla is the oldest operational association of the Russian Navy. It was created back in 1722 by Emperor Peter I. Today, the flotilla has various surface ships, search and rescue vessels, parts of coastal forces, Aviation, as well as parts of special, rear and technical support. The main tasks of the flotilla are: ensuring the state and national interests of Russia in the Caspian region and countering terrorism. The flotilla includes more than 70 warships and auxiliary vessels for various purposes, including two patrol (missile) ships of Project 11661K Gepard (Tatarstan and Dagestan), three small missile ships of Project 21631 Buyan-M ( Grad Sviyazhsk, Veliky Ustyug and Uglich), as well as three small artillery ships of project 21630 Buyan (Astrakhan, Volgodonsk, Makhachkala) and other vessels (including artillery, missile, chartered boats, landing ships, tugboats). According to Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu, the share of new ships and boats in the Caspian flotilla has been raised to 85 percent, he said this at the end of 2015.
Reasons for moving
Representatives of the Ministry of Defense of Russia announced the beginning of the construction of a military port in Kaspiysk in the fall of 2017. It is planned that the first stage of construction of base sites for ships of the Caspian Flotilla will be completed in 2019. Ruslan Tsalikov, First Deputy Minister of Defense of Russia, announced this in September last year. Advisor to the Chief of the General Staff, Admiral Igor Kasatonov, who in 1991-1992 led the Black Sea Fleet, in an interview with RBC journalists noted that the translation of the flotilla would not be a quick process. According to him, the decision to move from Astrakhan to Kaspiysk is dictated by the problem of the location of the current fleet base. “Astrakhan is located in 100 kilometers from the Caspian Sea, well, what kind of a naval base is this, if you have to go 6 hours more along the river? In addition, in winter, the river just freezes, and in the summer months it becomes shallow - you can’t even get out at all, ”explained the decision to move the base Igor Kasatonov.
Among the probable reasons for the move, there was also a drop in the level of the Caspian Sea in its northern part predicted by some specialists. This would complicate the operation here of relatively large rocket ships of the Caspian Flotilla, the 11661 and 21631 projects. If you do not take into account the failed transfer of the main forces of the Black Sea Fleet of Russia from Sevastopol to Novorossiysk, then from the 1990-ies this is the first case of changing the main basing point of the flotilla. At the same time, the need to move the Black Sea Fleet disappeared by itself after the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula to Russia in 2014.
Astrakhan became the main base of the Caspian flotilla relatively recently and was forced only after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the flotilla was divided between the Caspian countries of the CIS (Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan), at the same time the Russian part had to be relocated from Baku to Dagestan and Astrakhan. According to Sergei Shoigu, the transfer of the flotilla to the Dagestan Caspian "is a serious component of security in the region." A retired admiral and former commander of the Black Sea Fleet Viktor Kravchenko noted that the transfer of the flotilla will make it possible to form a "powerful fist" in the Caspian Sea. “All the forces of the flotilla will be concentrated in one place, and it will no longer depend on weather conditions,” said Kravchenko.
With the fact that the transfer of the base of the flotilla is connected with taking climate considerations into account, the military expert Colonel Mikhail Khodaryon agrees. According to him, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Caspian flotilla was redeployed to a completely unprepared place for this. It did not take into account the fact that the Volga delta, as well as the northern part of the Caspian Sea, are freezing. At the same time, ships and vessels of the Caspian flotilla are small and not reinforced class. In principle, in extreme cold they simply risk not leaving their base, Mikhail Khodarenok noted in an interview with RBC. According to the military expert, some point of basing in Astrakhan will still be saved.
With the fact that Astrakhan is inconvenient for basing the fleet, I agree with Viktor Murakhovsky, the chief editor of the journal Arsenal of the Fatherland. According to him, the Volga delta not only freezes during the winter months, it also has to maintain fairways, as the depths in this place are small, as well as very complex hydrological conditions. In addition, Astrakhan is going to develop a commercial port of the Caspian region, and this, in theory, may also affect the operational readiness of the military, said Viktor Murakhovsky.
According to the military expert, in Dagestan there was already a basing station for the flotilla. Yes, and in terms of its location, this republic is better. In Kaspiysk, the conditions for the operational use of the fleet are significantly improved. In particular, the exit of ships to patrol territorial waters becomes easier, said Murakhovsky. According to the editor-in-chief of the magazine Arsenal of the Fatherland, funds for the construction of new facilities and infrastructure have been incorporated into the state armaments program.
The Caspian flotilla is very important for the Russian Federation both from a military strategic and geopolitical point of view, Admiral Igor Kasatonov said in an interview with RBC. “There is no doubt about it. Despite the fact that the Caspian Sea is closed, it also allows solving strategic tasks in conflicts such as, for example, what is happening in Syria, ”the admiral noted. During the Syrian campaign, Russian naval seamen made several launches of Caliber cruise missiles at targets of the Islamic State grouping banned in Russia precisely from the Caspian Sea. A number of experts even believe that today the Caspian Flotilla is one of the most combat-ready alliances of the fleet.
Colonel Andrei Payusov, an independent military expert, believes that internal political events, for example, the recent change of leadership in Dagestan, the flotilla redeployment is in no way connected. According to Payusov, the redeployment of the Caspian flotilla was discussed under the former Russian defense minister, Anatoly Serdyukov, and corresponds to the accepted plans for the construction of the Navy before the 2020 year. “Climate, navigation, logistics and economics play a major role in the transfer of the main base of the flotilla. In addition, territorially, the ships will now be located closer to the areas of operational deployment, ”the military expert said. Andrei Payusov reminded that among the main tasks of the Caspian flotilla is to ensure the safety of navigation, fishing, and oil production.
It is assumed that some acute reaction from the heads of the Caspian countries in connection with the transfer of the base of the Caspian Flotilla from Astrakhan to Kaspiysk will not follow, as the relocation of the main base of the union does not violate the existing agreements. At the same time, in the autumn of 2018, at the summit of the heads of the Caspian states, which will be held in Astana, it is planned to sign the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea (this document is being prepared for about 20 years). At the end of 2017, Grigory Krasnov, Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia, in an interview with Kommersant, said that the principle of dividing the Caspian was already agreed, refusing to go into the details of the agreement.
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