Saturday, April 22, 2017

Moscow Can No Longer Afford a Blue Water Navy, Defense Minister Suggests

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 24 – Sergey Shoygu, Russia’s defense minister, says that Moscow will still build submarines – a giant one was launched this week – and will recondition its only aircraft carrier – despite rising costs – but will build frigates rather than larger ships, implicating acknowledging that Moscow can no longer afford large surface ships for a blue water navy.

            In reporting Shoygu’s assertion that the Russia’s main task is to attack coastal targets, Vzglyad journalist Andrey Rezchikov says that according to experts with whom he spoke, the minister’s words mean that “Russia can no longer permit itself an oceanic fleet” consisting of large surface vessels as in Soviet times (

                Military journalist Sergey Sochevanov, who edits the  portal, says that what Russia is doing is consistent with what many countries are as far as their navies are concerned, relying on smaller ships to do what they had assumed only large ones could do.  And that Moscow will still send out these smaller ships into the distant seas.

            But Konstantin Sivkov, the first vice president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, takes a more jaundiced view. He says that Shoygu’s statement means that Russia is no longer planning to field a fleet as powerful as the American one and instead is focusing on coastal defense and those tasks that smaller ships can perform.

            “The possibilities of the Russian navy are significantly more modest than the oceanic fleet which was constructed in the time of the USSR, and the defense minister in essence has confirmed this,” he says. And the minister’s words mean that Moscow will have to rely more on aviation and on submarines.

            But Sivkov leaves no doubt as to why this decision was taken: Moscow hasn’t taken it because its strategy has changed but because it lacks the money to do otherwise. In sum, its strategy is being dictated by the lack of money to do otherwise, not the best way, he implied, to decide how to defend the country.


Moscow Can’t Jail Everyone, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Their Supporters Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 22 – Less than 48 hours after the Russian Supreme Court banned the activities of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, Russian officials in various parts of the country have launched “a wave of force” against that religious community, according to Yaroslav Sivulsky, a member of the denomination’s administrative center in Russia.

            He told Vladimir Oyvin of the Portal-Credo religious affairs portal that the Jehovah’s Witnesses “will not be able to conduct our major activities” but that members of the group will “continue to meet in private homes, a serious limitation on [religious] freedom” (

            In St. Petersburg, Sivulsky said, persons unknow threw stones through the windows of the Jehovah’s Witness Congress Hall; and in Russian-occupied Crimea, police broke into meetings of the group to break up the service and then sealed the building so that the Jehovah’s Witnesses can’t use it now.

            As for the Administrative Center of which he is a member, the religious leader continued, “it has in essence ceased its customary activity: its account has been frozen and no one is allowed to come to work in its office. We are obeying the court ruling, and we cannot for the time being do anything else.”

            He said that each individual member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses must decide whether to continue their efforts to spread the word of the Bible by visiting the homes of others.  And many will do so because “practice shows that no court decisions can stop a Christian from fulfilling the tasks set by Jesus Chris or God.”

            Anton Chivchalov, a Russian Jehovah’s Witness, said that the Russian decision to ban his denomination and equate it with the Islamic State as extremist was backfiring on the Kremlin.  He described this perhaps unexpected turn of events on his Facebook page (

            If there's one thing that I'm pleased with in the current situation,” he says, “it's that more and more people begin actively defending us. More and more experts, lawyers, journalists, even prominent Orthodox figures who never defended us, now do. In social networks common people talk about absurdity of the situation and even draw cartoons emphasizing this.”

“Other denominations write appeals to the President in our support. All this was unthinkable even six months ago,” Chivchalov continues.

“And this means that it won't be possible to jail everyone,” he says. “With the wave of indignation and support now rising, jailing the first 10 people will simply result in the fact that not almost everyone, but plainly everyone will speak out in our defense. Each prison where a Witness sits will have round-the-clock pickets and processions.”

“How will this affect the Kingdom work? You can think for yourself.”

More Drivers Join Russian Truckers Strike Despite Police Actions Against Them

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 22 – More drivers have joined the long-haul truckers strike over the last 24 hours, at least in the North Caucasus (, and they have done so despite reports that the police in some regions are now seeking to break up  the strike by detaining drivers (

            Two other developments regarding the strike are these: On the one hand, strikers are now seeking to win support from everyone who drives a car by pointing out that the fees Moscow is seeking to impose on the truckers may soon be extended to the drivers of private cars as well (

            And on the other hand, drivers are meeting with the leaders of other protests groups in the capital of Tatarstan to explore where they can cooperate and how they can support each other’s demands (

            It says everything one really needs to know that all of these reports come from agencies far from Moscow. The Kremlin’s effort to suppress all information about the strikers is proving ever more successful, at least in the central government-controlled media.  But despite the media silence, the drivers remain committed to their goals.

            And if the regime refuses to negotiate with them, there is every likelihood that they will become more radical, especially as they seek to cooperate with other opposition groups. (On that likelihood, see and