DEBKAfile reports: Moskva missile carrier takes part in big Russian navy maneuver starting in Mediterranean Tuesday
January 14, 2008, 10:58 AM (GMT+02:00)
Russia has drawn eleven warships from its Black Sea and Atlantic Northwest fleets for a joint war game in the Mediterranean to underline its drive for a naval presence in all the world’s seas and oceans. They will rendezvous off Malta Tuesday, Jan. 15. The flagship Moskva is on its way from Sevastopol.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report: Air carrier Admiral Kutznetsov is on current missions in the Mediterranean, escorted by four ships, including the large anti-submarine Admiral Levchenko and the command and supply ship Sergei Osipov . On its decks are 47 Su-33 fighter-bombers and 10 helicopters.
Dmitry Medvedev, President Vladimir Putin's chosen successor, said Friday, Jan. 11: “Russia must restore its sea power.” Speaking at the giant Russian Barents Sea base of Murmansk, he commented: “The Soviet Union's naval might commanded respect - I won’t say feared, but respected.”
As part of their maneuvers, under the command of Vice Adm. Vladimir Maximov, the Moskva and other units will launch ship-to-air, marine missile interceptor and shore-to-ship missiles and carry out air force drills. During the joint fleet’s 71-day stay in the Mediterranean, the Russian vessels will call in at eleven ports of 6 countries, while carrying out three tactical maneuvers with target practices.
DEBKAfile reports that the Russian vessels will dock at the two Syrian military ports of Tartous and Latakia. Another flotilla led by the Ivan Bubnov fuel tanker will call in at Tripoli, Libya, to set up a logistical base for the vessels taking part in the exercise.
The Bubnov’s commander, Capt. Igor Dygalo, said this would be the Russian Navy’s first call in Libya in five years.
Medvedev’s Murmansk visit and his declaration of intent to revive the Russian navy exacerbated Russian-Norwegian strains in the Barents Sea.
Norway feels threatened by what it sees as a renewed Russian demonstration of strength by the buildup of Russian warships and submarines close to its shores. In the Soviet era, Russian fishing boats on spy missions for the navy were wont to interfere with Norway’s fishermen.
Moscow counters by accusing the Norwegian navy and air force of harassing Russian fishermen.
The extended Russian war games take place in one of the most crowded waters in the world, the Mediterranean, challenging its domination by the US Sixth Fleet and NATO. Israel and its navy are negatively affected. The fact that the Russian vessels will only visit Arab - not Israeli ports - bespeaks Moscow’s decision to strengthen its ties with Arab states and their military options vis-à-vis Israel, a reminder of Moscow’s massive support of Arab military forces in the Cold War.
Bush hits lowest approval rating yet in ABC poll
Published: Tuesday January 15, 2008
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President George W. Bush hit his lowest rating ever in an ABC/Washington Post poll released Tuesday, showing him for the first time below 33 percent approval.
"Just 32 percent of Americans now approve of the way Bush is handling his job, while 66 percent disapprove," the poll says. "Bush's work on the economy has likewise reached a new low. And he shows no gain on Iraq; despite reduced violence there, 64 percent say the war was not worth fighting, 2 points from its high."