Russian Navy: Underestimating the consequences of corruption and incompetence are the reasons for its underperformance

The cost of safely retrieving decrepit submarines from the seabed easily runs well into the hundreds of millions of dollars. So Russia is carrying these nuclear submarines on barge.

The Russian Navy is currently engaged in a series of strategic activities, with a recent training duel in the Baltic Sea between the diesel-electric submarines Novorossiysk and Dmitrov standing out. The crew of the Novorossiysk successfully executed a torpedo attack using live munition, a feat that underscores their tactical prowess and readiness, as reported by the TASS news agency.

Despite past incidents, the Russian Navy has demonstrated remarkable resilience and determination. The sinking of the nuclear-powered Project 949A Antey (Oscar II class) submarine K-141 Kursk in a torpedo firing accident in 2000 serves as a stark reminder of the risks and challenges the navy confronts. Yet, the navy persists, continually adapting and enhancing its strategies and technologies.

Back in 2017, the Russian nuclear-powered attack submarine Obninsk fired a torpedo against one of Moscow’s newest nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, Yuri Dolgoruky.

It is reported that the submarine crews practised combat manoeuvring, evading enemy attacks, and the daily combat organization of the ship’s internal service while performing combat training missions. After the torpedo launches, the crews continued scheduled combat exercises in the Baltic Sea.

Experts at Global Defense Corp believe that the exercises in the Baltic Sea are taking place amid increasing tensions between Russia and NATO countries. Russia recently attempted to change its maritime border in the eastern Baltic Sea, sparking a new wave of tension with NATO.

Dated Technology: Project 671RTM/RTMK Shchuka/Victor III class SSNs. What’s most interesting is the detail showing loading/unloading of towed sonar array into the pod.

While the Russian fleet has suffered significant damage in the Black Sea, the aggressor country’s navy continues to build up its strength through its submarine forces. The Russian Black Sea fleet has been almost non-existent since the war began. Ukraine has destroyed 32 boats of the Russian Black Sea fleet, yet Ukraine does not have a meaningful navy.

This became evident when the nuclear submarine Kazan visited Cuba to participate in scheduled military exercises in the Caribbean. During the voyage to Cuba, the Kazan submarine was seen to have broken tiles and been damaged.

On the way to its destination, Kazan approached the US coast, prompting the Americans to scramble a NATO P-8 Poseidon anti-submarine aircraft to track the submarine.

Incompetent officers and sailors

The navy. It’s not close. The Russian navy has been incompetent since the Soviet Union folded—it was incompetent before there was a Soviet Union. The Russian navy has centuries of practice at being incompetent and is very good at it. The Russian army performed poorly in the Ukraine war, but they’re not as bad as the Russian navy.

Russian incompetence certainly played a role in the Baltic Fleet and Black Sea Fleet in the Ukraine war.

Dated technology

The Russian Navy is starved for resources, which translates into inadequate ships and equipment and inadequate pay and support for personnel. Russia never had good ships and modern weapons systems, nor did it have the resources to recruit and train good sailors to use this equipment. Russia never had a naval commander to support this training and retain personnel to a high, professional performance standard. Russia lacks both of these areas.

Kazan nuclear submarine is showing cracks on tile.

Putin has been playing a shell game with his Army and Air Force, but it’s not working with his Navy. Russia quietly backs away from quality because it can’t afford to build them (Armata tank, kilo-class submarine, nuclear submarine, frigates, MiG-35 and Su-57 fighter). Still, with the Navy, it is harder to fake new advances.

Russia has an excellent-looking new frigate, submarine and corvette design, but inside these warships and submarine technology installed from the 1970s. It will worsen unless the Russians can pour significant money into its Navy.

The present-day Russian Navy, a shadow of the Soviet fleet, has focused most of its limited resources on its still technologically old submarine fleet. Senior U.S. Navy commanders have said that in recent months, the Russian undersea force has been as active as it has been since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, but with dated technology.

Corruption in the Russian military

Corruption is endemic within the Russian military. The invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 was supposed to be lightning-quick. Still, poor planning, logistical support and heavy resistance made Russia short during the early stages of the conflict. Seen in the context of decades of corruption within the Ministry of Defence, it is clear that a pervasive culture of kickbacks, theft and bribery has hollowed out Russia’s fighting capabilities and left it ill-prepared for a full-scale war in Ukraine.

Russian troops have often had to operate without the proper equipment or supplies during this conflict – despite having an impressive military budget. Corruption within the supply lines has left these troops ill-equipped and overly reliant on public generosity for basics such as body armour and medicine.

Without the appropriate equipment, Russia’s military has been plagued by inefficiencies that have prevented it from achieving key objectives. This was most critically shown at the start of the war, when Russia’s invasion plan was hampered by fuel shortages and poor logistical support, which meant it was never able to capture Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.

Since the invasion, corruption has remained a problem at all levels of the military. Senior Russian commanders have been arrested on corruption charges, and videos are available across social media and Telegram channels showing private and mid-level officers looting occupied Ukrainian settlements. This led to what the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence describes as “moral decay”, a state where endemic corruption has undermined Russia’s fighting capabilities.

At the start of the war, most analysts thought that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would be a swift success. The Intercept reported that U.S. intelligence officials told the White House that Russia would win in a matter of days and that there were plans to provide covert support for a Ukrainian insurgency as a next step. Since then, some US officials have admitted their mistake, pointing to an underappreciation of Russian corruption within the military as being responsible for their miscalculation.

The reality is that corruption has hollowed out Russia’s Armed Forces’ fighting capability. From procurement to the conscripts fighting on the ground, a pervasive culture of corruption exists, meaning that resources have been diverted away from the war effort and into the pockets of corrupt individuals.

Despite a significant overhaul of the Russian navy, it remains a paper tiger and one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s biggest embarrassments — with corruption to blame, analysts say.

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