Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting on the situation in the oil and gas sector via videoconference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Thursday, April 14, 2022. (Photo: AP)
The Kremlin in Moscow has acknowledged that it has lost the eponymously named flagship of its Black Sea fleet — Moskva — which sank after ammunition on board exploded. What the Kremlin will not admit is this major blow to the prestige of its war machine might have been caused by Russian class Neptune cruise missiles fired by Ukraine, possibly from a truck on the Odesa shore, having launched distracting Bayraktar drones into skies over the Black Sea.
After 500 sailors disembarked on Thursday, Russia retaliated with huge strikes all over Ukraine, especially Kyiv, on Friday after a lull during which Russian troops were said to have been regrouping in tune with reset war objectives. While we fear for the suffering Ukrainians once again, what brings greater dread is what such losses in war, like a suspected toll of around 20,000 Russian soldiers as claimed by Ukraine, and the sinking of the biggest warship since 1945, will push Vladimir Putin into.
In modern naval warfare, all ships are vulnerable to missile strikes, particularly if seamen are not alert to danger from designer cruise missiles that fly at sea-skimming altitudes to duck radars. Apart from the symbolism of the strike that dents the maritime invincibility of the Russian war machine, there will be operational problems for the rest of the Russian fleet as no other ships in it are equipped with wide-area air defence like the S-300F missile system on Moskva.
Ukraine may boast of the biggest maritime strike in the modern era but war scenarios are painful reminders of the threat the world itself faces from a miffed strongman at Russia’s helm. While nuclear threats have been uttered at least twice already by Mr Putin, more came from a close aide about deployment of nuclear and hypersonic missiles nearer Nordic countries if Finland and Sweden decide to finally join the western alliance Nato.
The war, past 50 days now, hasn’t gone well for Mr Putin’s generals who said five might do. There are larger lessons about the futility of warfare in the modern age when pounding of cities in Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, etc. and killing of civilians as collateral damage have brought nothing but human suffering and misery. Will the sinking of Moskva make the Russians see the light is the question — alas, probably not, the answer.