Monthly Archives: May 2015

Russia’s Eyes Massive Nuclear Submarine Deal with India

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The National Interest | Zachary Keck | May 29, 2015

Russia may help India build nuclear submarines and stealth warships, according to Indian media reports.

Last week India’s Economic Times reported that the Indian conglomerate Reliance Infrastructure—which owns stakes in numerous Indian defense companies—is seeking Russian assistance for programs to locally produce nuclear submarines and other stealth warships.

According to the report, top Reliance executives were in Moscow last week to meet with Russian defense officials about finding a partner for a joint venture between a Russian defense company and Pipavav Defence & Offshore Engineering, India’s largest defense shipyard, which Reliance has an 18 percent stake in. Specifically, Reliance is looking for a Russian partner with the “requisite technology expertise for manufacturing warships in India.”

As the Economic Times points out, the meetings come on the heels of India’s Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) approving a plan for an Indian company to locally manufacture six nuclear submarines and seven stealth warships. The initial investment outlay for the project was set at Rs 1 trillion ($15.67 billion.)

Although the Russian government refused to specifically confirm the report, it did sound receptive to such a possibility.

“The Russian side is open to negotiations with Indian partners on various projects, including cooperation and JV [joint ventures] to manufacture modern defense equipment,” a Russian official at the embassy in Delhi told ET in response to a query.

For its part, a Reliance official told the Indian newspaper, “We are deeply committed to investments in the defence sector and the PM’s Make In India program,” referring to Indian Prime Minister Modi.

Besides the Make in India program, the prospective joint venture would likely take advantage of the amendments Modi approved in the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) laws last year. FDI is now allowed to make up 49 percent of defense sector projects, up from 26 percent before Modi approved the changes.

Russia would arguably be the most sensible foreign partner for India as the two countries have an extensive defense technology relationship that dates back to the Soviet Union days. This has most certainly included submarines. In the 1960s and 1970s, for example, the Soviet Union sold India eight Foxtrot-class submarines, which India operated as Vela-class submarines.

India also currently operates a number of Kilo-class submarines, which are designated as Sindhughosh-class submarines by the Indian Navy.

Near the end of the Cold War, India also briefly leased a nuclear-powered submarine from the Soviet Union. More recently, in 2011 India began operating an Akula II nuclear attack submarine under a ten-year lease from Russia. That lease was valued at $970 million.

Despite Modi’s Make in India program, as well as the plan to build six indigenous nuclear-powered submarines, there have been indications that India may lease a second nuclear-powered submarine from Russia. During a trip to Delhi in December of last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia would gladly supply India with more nuclear-powered submarines.

“If India decides to have more contracts to lease nuclear submarines, we are ready to supply,” Putin said at the time.

Later, Indian news outlets reported that negotiations are underway for a second Akula II SSN, which would enter into service with the Indian Navy in 2018.

Besides the nuclear submarines, India is also looking for foreign partners to help it build at least six stealth diesel-electric submarines. Competition for that contract is stiff.

As The National Interest noted back in January, Japan has expressed interest in helping India build Air-Independent Propulsion-equipped submarines. Just this week, the German Defense Minister was in Delhi lobbying for a German company to get the contract.

Other countries reportedly in the mix for that contract include France, Sweden Spain and, of course, Russia.

Zachary Keck is managing editor of The National Interest. You can find him on Twitter: @ZacharyKeck.

Image: Wikimedia/Alex omen

Indian company seeks Russian support to build ships

Russia & India Report | Anton Mardasov, Svobodnaya Pressa | May 26, 2015

With India opening up its defence sector to private companies, an Indian company, Reliance Infrastructure, is seeking Russian assistance to build nuclear submarines and stealth ships, a newspaper report claimed.

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Project 20380 Steregushchy class corvette. Source: Rubinbot/wikipedia

 

The Indian company Reliance Infrastructure is seeking a Russian partner to launch a joint venture for the construction of nuclear submarines and ships with stealth technology, the newspaper Economic Times reported on May 22.

According to the newspaper, the company’s top managers have already met with senior representatives of the Defence Ministry in Moscow. A source close to the negotiations said they would visit Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu and name a potential Russian partner with the necessary technological expertise.

According to Lenta.ru, the Russian design bureau (DB) ‘Malachite’ (which built new submarines under Project 885 “Yasen”) said, with the approval of the government, it was ready to participate in this project.

“Our design bureau has all the necessary competence and resource. Our DB designed the nuclear submarine, which is currently leased by India,” the portal quoted the ‘Malachite’ representative as saying.

Is cooperation between Russia and India in the field of construction of modern submarines and surface ships really possible? 

According to Alexander Khramchikhin, deputy director of the Institute of Political and Military Analysis, Russia has never sold nuclear submarines to India, but has only given them submarines on lease or for rent.

“Thus, the K-152 third generation submarine ‘Nerpa’ of Project 971 ‘Schuka-B’ is now in service with the Indian Navy under a lease contract,” Khramchikhin said. “In January 2015, the media reported that New Delhi would also lease a second nuclear submarine; the Project 971 ship K-322 ‘Kashalot’. So, I do not think it will be a sensitive issue to us to transfer technology for the construction of submarines with nuclear propulsion. It would be naive to believe that while using ‘Nerpa’ (named ‘Chakra’ by the Indian navy), the Indians have no clue about it. Moreover, they build their nuclear submarines with submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), such as, for instance, the INS ‘Arihant’ type with missiles K-15 ‘Sagarika’. Therefore one shouldn’t completely rule out the Russian-Indian partnership in the field of submarines.”

“The major problem that we face today in the construction of ships, both surface and underwater, is shortage of production capacity,” Khramchikhin said. “Thus, in theory, we may be interested in building surface ships and submarines in Indian shipyards, especially considering that the Indians build their own submarines. That is, in case there is space, because the Indians are going to build six non-nuclear submarines equipped with air-independent power plants. But that is another question,” he said.

The President of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, Captain 1st Rank Konstantin Sivkov, indicated that stealth technology in the Russian Navy is represented by the frigates Project 20350 and corvettes Project 20380.

“Between Russia and India, there is an agreement on military-technical cooperation. Our countries have a wealth of experience in joint development of arms and military equipment, for example, the anti-ship missiles ‘BrahMos’. India seeks to build its Navy independently without purchasing ready ships from other countries. Russia is rich in technologies, so the desire of India to establish a joint venture with Russia for the construction of nuclear-powered ships and surface ships of the latest projects is only natural,” Sivkov said.

“It is clear that the joint venture will be organized not with a private, but with the state enterprise. Should some private enterprise be created, it will be merely a cover for a state company, nothing more. And the possible meeting of the representatives of India with the Defence Minister is a logical step, meaning that we are talking about an absolutely legitimate way of military-technical cooperation,” he said.

“As for the transfer of technology, whenever we sell arms we also transfer technology. Naturally, what we sell are not the newest developments, but the so-called second-order technologies which have already been used. India is our long-standing and trusted partner for many decades in the field of military-technical cooperation. Strengthening of India in the region fully meets our strategic interests, as the Indian Navy will be a counterweight to the Navy of the US,” Sivkov said. “India itself is building strategic submarines with SLBMs. However, their missiles, K-15 ‘Sagarika’, appear to have a relatively small effective range – from 750 to 1,500 kilometres. But that’s for now…”

Igor Korotchenko, Chief editor of ‘National Defence’ magazine, and director of the Centre for Analysis of World Arms Trade, believes that the Economic Times story could be either stove-piping or probing.

“It is clear that such decisions belong to the competence of heads of state and, undoubtedly, no company can individually conduct such negotiations on its own behalf or on behalf of the country,” Korotchenko said. “Basically, India, which is now actively building its fleet, is interested in such things, but the number of countries that own nuclear submarine technology can be counted on one hand. Until now we were leasing Delhi nuclear submarines, in order to allow the Indian crews gain experience in the operation of this class of submarines. However, these were not strategic nuclear missile carriers but multi-purpose ships. I think the development of strategic missile programs of India, as well as the development of the nuclear fleet will be based on Indian national developments.”

“Russia is ready to cooperate with India in other “sensitive” areas, for example, to create a system of aerospace defence. This would include a powerful radar for over-the-horizon target detection and missile warning, appropriate firepower target-hitting devices, including anti-aircraft missile systems of long-range, and then linking all this with the automated information processing complexes.”

“Accordingly, cooperation with India can be carried out in other areas of the complex defence programs of short and medium range. Israel has become very active in the Indian market now, offering a variety of joint programs in the field of air and missile defence, but this is an area in which Russia is not only on par with the United States, but above,” Korotchenko said.

“Russia building a comprehensive aerospace defence system for India would provide significant advantages to this country in terms of neutralization of any missile threats.”

Captain (1st rank) Boris Usvyatsov, head of the expert council of the State Duma Defence, Candidate of Military Sciences, noted that this issue is primarily political, since strengthening of India’s military power is always unnerving to China.

“Of course, Russia’s participation and the transfer of some technologies to India is possible, given the long-standing relations of Moscow and Delhi, but the construction of surface ships and submarines for the Russian Navy in the Indian shipyards is out of the question. According to the regulations of State program of arms, we build our ships only at home,” Usvyatsov said.

First published in Russian by Svobodnaya Pressa.

NATO Breaks Treaty to Establish Permanent Forces in Baltic

Sputnik News | 29.05.2015

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NATO is set to break a 1997 treaty it signed with Russia by establishing permanent forces in Latvia, as it piles in more troops to the Baltic States.

Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers has approved a request to ensure a permanent NATO military presence in the country following a review of Latvia’s NATO membership. Latvian Prime Minister, Laimota Straujuma, told the Baltic Times that government ministers were evaluating how plans proposed during the NATO Wales Summit in September 2014 to reverse the decline in military spending were progressing.

He said generals from Lithuania and Estonia will also request NATO deploys several thousand ground troops in their countries. Lithuanian military spokesman Captain Mindaugas Neimontas said:

“We are seeking a brigade-size unit so that every Baltic nation would have a battalion.”

NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, Philip Breedlove, said the three countries were to seek “permanent rotational NATO forces” as a “deterrence measure due to the security situation in the region.”

However, the deployment of permanent forces flies in the face of the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation which was signed in Paris, France on 27 May 1997.

It declared that “NATO and Russia do not consider each other as adversaries” and that the two parties will work together to prevent any potentially threatening build-up of conventional forces in agreed regions of Europe, to include Central and Eastern Europe.

The Act states that NATO “will carry out its collective defense and other missions by ensuring the necessary interoperability, integration, and capability for reinforcement rather than by additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces.”

Breedlove refused to confirm the number of troops that will be deployed in the region, but suggested a standard NATO brigade could consist of around 3,000 soldiers.

In February, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in a meeting with the Latvian President, said: “The Alliance’s responsibility is to protect and defend each and every Ally against any threat. And NATO’s support for its eastern Allies, including Latvia, was confirmed at the recent NATO Defense Ministers’ meeting in Brussels.

“Here, more progress was made in implementing our Readiness Action Plan, including establishing an enhanced NATO response force and a very high readiness Spearhead Force,” Stoltenberg said.

NATO’s Eastward March 

Historically, NATO — heavily backed by the United States — has sought to spread its influence further eastward, despite an alleged agreement after the reunification of Germany, that it would not encroach on the former Warsaw Pact nations. At the time, former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev was said to have been assured by (then) US Secretary of State James Baker there would be “no extension of NATO’s jurisdiction one inch to the east.”

Since then, the onward march of NATO eastward has continued unabashed with the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Albania, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia all joining the Washington-led military coalition.

NATO Denies Breach of Agreement

The breach in the NATO-Russia Founding Act has been denied by NATO spokesperson Ms Oana Lungescu.

“NATO continues to act in full compliance with its commitments under the NATO-Russia Founding Act,” Ms. Lungescu told Sputnik.

“In response to Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine, we have increased our military presence in the eastern part of our alliance. This presence is rotational and well below any reasonable definition of substantial forces.

“Plans to set up six command and control centers in Eastern Europe are also consistent with the Founding Act, which explicitly allows infrastructure to support reinforcements,” contends Ms Lungescu.

Regarding the statement that Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev was said to have been assured by (then) US Secretary of State James Baker that there would be “no extension of NATO’s jurisdiction one inch to the east”, Ms Lungescu told Sputnik that “Russia has never produced any evidence to back up its claim.”

Russia wants to build 50 new Tu-160 bombers

Russian strategic nuclear forces | blog | May 28, 2015

It’s not about modernization of the old aircraft anymore. Russia wants to resume production of Tu-160 bombers and build at least 50 new planes. At least this is what the commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force, General-Colonel Vladimir Bondarev told journalists today.

The idea resuming the Tu-160 aircraft was first mentioned by the defense minister Sergey Shoigu during his visit to the Kazan Aviation Plant about a month ago. At the time it seemed like a remote possibility, but apparently it is more than that and the air force is now talking about a decision that has been already made. At the same time, Bondarev said that the plan of building a new bomber, PAK-DA, is still there. And, of course, there are no plans to retire the old Tu-95MS aircraft just yet. Well, I guess that if it’s okay for the Strategic Rocket Forces to have seven or so different types of ICBMs, then there is nothing wrong with three types of bombers. Nobody in Kremlin seems to be counting money these days anyway.

Kerry counselor expected to succeed Sherman in key job

Al Monitor | Laura Rozen | May 28, 2015

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Thomas A. Shannon (L), then US assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, is pictured at the National Museum of Archaeology in Guatemala, July 17, 2007. (photo by REUTERS/Daniel LeClair)

State Department Counselor Thomas A. Shannon, a former US ambassador to Brazil, is expected to be tapped to succeed Wendy Sherman as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, two US officials told Al-Monitor May 28.

Shannon, a career diplomat who previously served as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, has served as counselor to Secretary of State John Kerry since late 2013. He did not immediately respond to a query from Al-Monitor.

A veteran diplomat focused especially on Latin America, it is not clear if Shannon would take on the Iran nuclear negotiations portfolio that Sherman and her predecessor Bill Burns dealt with in the job, the #3 position at the State Department. It may depend on what stage the Iran deal, or negotiations, are in, one official said.

Negotiators from Iran and the five permanent members ​of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) are currently meeting in Vienna as they work to finish drafting the comprehensive Iran nuclear accord by the June 30 deadline. Diplomats said this week that progress in drafting the accord has been quite slow since the reaching of a framework deal in Lausanne April 2.

Sherman plans to step down after the June 30 Iran nuclear deal deadline, she told The New York Times May 27.

Sherman, who has served as the lead US Iran negotiator and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs since 2012, plans to leave at the end of the July, US officials told Al-Monitor.

During her tenure, Sherman has helped negotiate the interim Iran nuclear deal, reached in November 2013, and the framework agreement for a final deal, reached in Lausanne Switzerland last month.

“Wendy has a special combination of diplomatic, political, managerial, and bureaucratic skills that have kept the negotiations on track and focused on U.S. objectives,” Robert Einhorn, the former top non-proliferation advisor on Sherman’s Iran negotiating team, told Al-Monitor by email May 28.*

“Whenever she leaves, it will be a big loss, but she will probably stay until the talks conclude — on June 30 or later, with an agreement or without one,” Einhorn, now with the Brookings Institution, said. “And if an agreement is reached, she is likely to be around long enough afterwards to make the Administration’s case for the deal.”

Sherman is currently leading the US delegation to comprehensive deal negotiations underway in Vienna this week between Iran and the P5+1. The last two rounds of talks have apparently not gone very well and progress in drafting the final accord is slow, diplomats said.

Sherman will join Kerry when he travels to Geneva May 30-31 to hold bilateral talks with Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the State Department said. US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz will also attend the US Iran bilateral meetings in Geneva, at Kerry’s request, the Energy Department said. Sherman will then rejoin the P5+1-Iran negotiations in Vienna.

US shifts the goal post on Iran deal

Indian Punchline | M K Bhadrakumar | May 28, 2015

The meeting on Saturday in Switzerland between the US Secretary of State John Kerry and the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will be taking place under the shadow of new uncertainties that crept into the “nuclear talks”. There is growing skepticism whether a deal could be closed by end-June.

The U.S. has shifted the goal post and now insists that the Additional Protocol providing for inspection of Iranian nuclear sites should also cover all (non-nuclear) military sites. The Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has refused to give in.

Why did the US introduce this potential “deal breaker”? France’s robust interjection suggests a Saudi hand in it. Could it be that Obama is simply negotiating harder and hopes to browbeat Iran to make more concessions, or, is it that he finds it expedient that negotiations continue into July and beyond so that the sanctions remain in place?

If the latter is the case, factors extraneous to the nuclear issue, relating to the regional situation, would account for it. A resurgent Iran poses serious challenges to the U.S. strategies in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. The U.S’ regional allies – Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, in particular – are apprehensive that the lifting of sanctions will augment Iran’s resources and enable it to play a forceful role in regional politics.

Conceivably, the U.S. will want to shift the regional balance of power in Syria and Iraq in its (and its allies’) favor before lifting the sanctions against Iran. Washington would know that Iran’s robustly independent foreign policies will not change even if a nuclear deal is reached with the U.S.

Meanwhile, the recent “thaw” with Russia strengthens Obama’s hand insofar as he feels reassured that Moscow will not complicate matters at this critical juncture in the negotiations while the U.S. tightens the screws on Iran.

The fundamental problem here is of mindset. The U.S. opinion still largely views Iran in hostile terms. As recently as last week, Obama sequestered 20 airplanes sold to Iran and sanctioned the companies that sold them; he also renewed oil and banking sanctions.

The “known unknown” is how far the U.S. is covertly manipulating the Islamic State [IS] as an instrument of regional policies against Iran. The U.S. plunged into a blame game with Baghdad and tried to distract attention from the real question as to why it did nothing to stop the IS capturing Ramadi last week when it had a base located hardly 100 kilometers away.

Not even the US aircraft intervened in Ramadi. Again, the U.S. keeps an ambivalent stance on Syria. Doesn’t all this suggest a concerted strategy to get Iran bogged down in a war of attrition with the IS?

A report prepared recently for the influential Washington Institute for Near East Policy by five top pundits in the U.S., including former national security advisors Samuel Berger and Stephen Hadley, underscores that in the U.S. strategic calculus, Iran figures a threat not much less than the IS, and, therefore, Washington should push back on Iran throughout the region until Tehran is compelled to alter its political calculation.

That is to say, reestablishing the U.S.’ regional dominance ought to be Obama’s top priority, whereas the nuclear deal with Iran can wait. The Kerry-Zarif meeting on Saturday will throw light on whether Obama truly wants a nuclear agreement with Iran at this juncture. Read an incisive analysis by Shireen Hunter on the strong undercurrents buffeting the U.S.-Iran talks.

U.S. says no extension for Iran nuclear talks: State Department

Reuters | Washington | May 27, 2015

The United States will not consider an extension to reach an agreement on curbing Iran’s nuclear program, the State Department said on Wednesday, despite indications from France and Iran that talks may stretch into July.

“We’re not contemplating any extension beyond June 30,” State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said at a news briefing.

Rathke said the United States believes the world powers working with Tehran can achieve their goal of reaching an agreement by the self-imposed deadline.

Secretary of State John Kerry plans to travel to Geneva for a May 30 meeting with Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif in another round of talks weeks before the deadline.

As talks resumed in Vienna on Wednesday to bridge gaps in negotiating positions, Iran’s state TV quoted senior nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi as saying the deadline could be extended, echoing comments by France’s ambassador to the United States, Gerard Araud.

Kerry plans to travel to Nigeria on May 29 for the inauguration of that country’s new president before flying to Geneva, Rathke said.

The trip also will include stops in Madrid and Paris, the State Department said.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Bill Trott)