A few days ago, the Ukrainian Navy carried out a surprise check of combat readiness, which coincided with a courtesy call of the destroyer USS Bulkeley to Sevastopol (for details see The Day No.45 of August 13, 2013). Officially, the US seamen shared with the Ukrainians the experience of operations in the active piracy area off the Horn of Africa, from where the US ship came.
It is no secret that the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s intelligence service closely watched every detail of the US ship’s visit to the Ukrainian base in Sevastopol. The main result of this covert action was a news story, rather frivolous in tone and contradictory in content, on the ORD Internet forum. It says that, in reality, the Ukrainian Navy staged a war game to cover up a special operation to find and dispose of a Russian reconnaissance radio buoy. The story says in conclusion that, although almost the entire Ukrainian Navy was engaged in the operation, the buoy was not found.
Meanwhile, competent observers claim that the Russian undersea reconnaissance equipment, unlawfully installed in the Ukrainian waters, was disposed of thanks to the counter-reconnaissance devices of the destroyer Bulkeley. A LiveJournal blogger, Oleg Leusenko, says that the anonymous post about the mysterious Black Sea buoy was immediately followed by quite a well-reasoned commentary by, apparently, a naval expert. He notes that the US ship’s crew helped to spot the Russian reconnaissance equipment, and the recovered radio buoy was then handed over to them for examination. A LJ commenter noted that it was no mere chance that the reconnaissance equipment was found when the US destroyer was visiting Sevastopol – for if the Russian seamen had tried to put up obstacles, “the US destroyer Bulkeley’s military might would have been more than enough to take on the entire Russian Black Sea Fleet. In other words, it covered the Ukrainian operation from all sides.”
Bloggers also comment that the information war is a natural continuation of the Russia’s political flop in the case of both Ukraine and the US. The media have already reported about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s dissatisfaction over his recent useless visit to Ukraine. The comments also mention other factors that have cooled Russia-Ukraine relations, such as the shooting and ramming of a fishing boat in the Sea of Azov by Russian seamen, Russia’s trade war against Ukraine, stubborn unwillingness to reduce high gas prices, and refusal to delimitate the border in the Sea of Azov and the Strait of Kerch. On the whole, commentators view the buoy incident as a loud slap in the face of the Russian seamen on the part of their Ukrainian and American counterparts who managed to outdo them in a reconnaissance operation perhaps in revenge for the APC that sank during a parade rehearsal and the public declaration that “the Ukrainian Navy has totally collapsed.”
What happened in reality? The Day has asked some experts to express their opinion on this situation.
Oleh CHUBUK, Ukrainian Navy spokesman:
“I know nothing about any buoy, and we cannot comment on this [?! – Author]. All I can say is that the Ukrainian Navy has finished a surprise check of combat readiness, which was carried out on the orders of the chief of the General Staff and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on August 8 to 12. The bulk of the warships and auxiliary vessels, which were subject to inspection, have returned from the training grounds to their bases and resumed their daily routine, while a part of the forces continue to carry out preplanned combat training actions in the sea.
“The inspection comprised a number of exercises aimed at checking the combat readiness of units and the organization of all kinds of defense and protection in diverse situations. On the whole, more than 30 warships and auxiliary vessels, more than 15 airplanes and helicopters, and other unites were engaged in the war game. The navy performed a number of missions in conjunction with Ukrainian Air Force and Army units. A tentative assessment of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine says that the forces subject to inspection successfully coped with the assigned tasks. In particular, Admiral Ihor Kabanenko, First Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, noted: ‘The inspection showed the ability of the Navy and the complementary Air Force and Army units to act according to the intended purpose and, what is more, to act in a fast changing situation. On the whole, the actions of units during the surprise check were assessed positively – four out of maximum five points. As for the US seamen, the boarding party of the destroyer USS Bulkeley, which was unofficially visiting Sevastopol, met the personnel of the Ukrainian Navy’s Sea Operations Training Center, where Ukrainian seamen and marine helicopter and special-purpose units train to take part in anti-piracy and anti-terrorist operations. After the US boarding party had met the center’s personnel, they took part in a briefing, where the Ukrainian side told them about the center’s objectives, personnel training programs, and theoretical and practical courses. The American guests were shown the logistical base, the actions of a boarding party and an assault team, the procedure of suspicious persons’ examination, etc. The next day the personnel of the Ukrainian Navy’s Sea Operations Training Center visited the guided missile destroyer USS Bulkeley at the US side’s invitation, where they acquainted themselves with the ship’s armament, rigging, and the way the boarding party and the assault team work.
“And I know nothing about a buoy.”
Myroslav MAMCHAK, Ukrainian naval officer, public figure, political journalist, researcher of the Ukrainian navy’s history:
“Of course, it is clear why the Russian side strives to carry out reconnaissance in the Black Sea, especially when a US destroyer is there. But if there really was a ‘buoy,’ it would have of course been easily detected and localized by the US ship’s surveillance equipment. I do not think that the Russian radar had any secrets that interested the US military or that it was unexpected and presented any difficulties for them. In all probability, the whole story is a ‘legend’ of the Russian military who were hurt by the presence of US naval servicemen in Sevastopol and thus tried to snub the Ukrainian side that had invited the Americans to their port, believing that nobody will deny their ‘legend’ even unofficially. But they were mistaken – they were denied in the same way and at the same place. The Russians are used to feeling as masters in any situation, but in this case they failed, and the true masters were the Ukrainian seamen. This is why the Russians unleashed an information war against the Ukrainians, describing a routine military exercise as a failed special operation. But things are no longer as smooth as before for Black Sea Fleet misinformers.”
Vadym MAKHNO, Captain 1st Rank in the Reserve, Ukrainian Navy; military historian:
“This ‘buoy’ is a legend which Russian navy spin masters tried to foist on the Ukrainian side. They thought they were starting another information war but met with a sharp, albeit unofficial, rebuff and shut up immediately. The point in this situation is not in whether or not there was a ‘buoy’ but in that Russian seamen seem to be trying to make friends with their Ukrainian counterparts, but this friendship is only for parades and holidays. In reality, they not only rival but are even at loggerheads over some matters. Therefore, any strategic partnership, which the two presidents tried to speak of during the latest holiday, is so far out of the question.”