The Russian frigate Neustrashimy makes its way through the Suez canal, in the town of Suez, Egypt. A Russian Navy spokesman said the Neustrashimy will join military vessels from other nations protecting shipping in pirate-infested waters off Somalia.
"The Dynamics of Russia’s Response to the Piracy Threat"
Journal Article, NATO Science for Peace and Security Studies, volume 95, issue E: Human and Societal Dynamics
Author: Simon Saradzhyan, Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: The US-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism
Russia’s Maritime Doctrine describes “maritime shipments” as being of “vital importance” to the country. Maritime shipments have accounted for 60 percent of Russia’s foreign trade shipments in the recent years. However, vessels bearing the Russian flag account only for 4 percent of Russia’s foreign trade shipments. And the Russian fishing fleet remains relatively near to Russia’s shores, not venturing into the Indian and South Pacific Oceans.
This helps to explain why Russian vessels account for only a small fraction of the ships annually victimized by piracy and other armed attacks directed at vessels, registered by the International Maritime Bureau.
There are no Russian government statistics on the number of attacks on Russian crews or vessels in the public domain, although Russian government officials have repeatedly noted that the number of such attacks has increased in the past several years.
The Russian press has reported that the number of attacks by pirates on Russian vessels increased in the aftermath of the break-up of the Soviet Union, peaking at twenty-eight incidents in 1993, before decreasing in the late 1990s.
The record for the number of Russian citizens to be seized by pirates in one attack was set in November 2009, according to one Russian media report, when as many as twenty-three Russian citizens were on board the Thai Union fishing vessel, which was seized by Somali pirates.
Overall, however, the odds that any of Russia’s some 6,400 civilian shipping or fishing vessels or Russian crew members of foreign ships will be seized by pirates remains very low.
Some 25,000-35,000 ships pass through the Gulf of Aden per year, with only dozens being hijacked, and only several of these being vessels with Russian crew members and/or owners, according to Sea Bulletin-Sovfreight, a respected Russian commercial shipping news outlet.
These low odds help to explain the fact that, until the fall of 2008, Russia did not employ any naval assets to fight piracy. The financial difficulties experienced by the Russian Navy in the aftermath of the break-up of the Soviet Union also help to explain this lack of a response, as has done, until recently, the low level of public awareness and interest in the issue in Russia.
This article begins by outlining the laws that regulate Russian governmental agencies’ responses to piracy. It then describes the dynamics of the practical response of the Russian Defense Ministry and other government agencies to this threat before noting the danger of the potential nexus between piracy and terrorism. The article then concludes with an explanation of why the piracy may be elevated higher in the hierarchy ofthreats to national security as seen by Russian authorities, and offers selected general recommendations.
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