Staunton, March 31 – Moscow’s denunciation of the accords it had with Ukraine on the naval base in Sevastopol following Russia’s seizure of Crimea has attracted a great deal of attention, but a Ukrainian response, one that creates serious problems for the Russian military so far has not.
In response, Vladimir Mukhin writes in today’s “Nezavsimaya gazeta,” “Ukraine has stopped its military-technical cooperation with the Russian Federation.” While Russian officials are downplaying the significance of this move and stressing that Moscow can work around it, Kyiv’s decision at least in the short term harms the Russian armed forces (ng.ru/armies/2014-03-31/1_nuclear.html).
What is most intriguing, Mukhin continues, is that the impact of this Ukrainian decision will be felt first in Russia’s Strategic Nuclear Forces.
According to Vladimir Yevseyev, the director of the Moscow Center for Social-Political Research, Russian dependence on Ukraine in this sector and especially in supporting its RS-20B inter-continental ballistic missiles is very clear, and it is these missiles which give Russia a kind of parity with the United States.
While the Russian missiles are aging – many were built in the 1980s – they could easily serve until 2019-2021 if they continue to be served by the specialists of the Yuzhnoye complex in Ukraine. If that support element disappears, Russia will face a problem until it can find or develop a replacement.
Yury Netkachev, a retired lieutenant general, says that “the freezing of military cooperation [between Russia and Ukraine] is in the first instance beneficial to the Americans,” who he says have every interest in preventing Russia from relying on the RS-20B. Indeed, he suggests, some in the West would be willing to see chaos in Ukraine if that was the price of cutting off such support to Russia.
In Mukhkin’s words, “Kyiv has the chance to put sticks in the wheels of the defense capacity of the Russian Federation in other directions as well.” Igor Frolov, a Russian specialist on the defense industry, says that Moscow relies on Ukrainian-manufactured engines for some of its ships and helicopters.
Russia, “of course,” the “Nezavisimaya gazeta” writer continues, “will be able to resolve the problems connected with its dependence on the Ukrainian military-industrial comple but for this it will need time,” perhaps several years. And consequently, some Russian military and military industry officials are hoping Moscow and Kyiv can agree to restart cooperation.