Russia’s role in piracy crisis a cover for nuclear proliferation: Opposition

posted at 5:35 pm on August 19, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

When I originally saw this story, I wanted to write about how Russia had learned a valuable lesson in dealing with pirates.  Instead of negotiating with sea-borne terrorists, Moscow sent its military and captured the missing Arctic Sea after it had disappeared for three weeks.  However, Reuters reports that Russian opposition has accused Moscow of ginning up the piracy crisis as a cover to hide potential nuclear proliferation (via Instapundit):

The hijackers of a cargo ship that disappeared off the coast of France threatened to blow it up if their ransom demands were not met, Russian news agencies reported on Wednesday.

Russia on Tuesday arrested eight people on suspicion of hijacking the Arctic Sea off the Swedish coast and sailing it to the Atlantic Ocean, ending weeks of silence about the fate of a ship which has intrigued European maritime authorities.

But:

The official version of events was questioned by Yulia Latynina, a leading Russian opposition journalist and commentator.

“The Arctic Sea was carrying something, not timber and not from Finland, that necessitated some major work on the ship,” she wrote in the Moscow Times newspaper on Wednesday.

During two weeks of repair works in the Russian port of Kaliningrad just before the voyage, the ship’s bulkhead was dismantled so something very large could be loaded, she wrote.

To put it plainly: The Arctic Sea was carrying some sort of anti-aircraft or nuclear contraption intended for a nice, peaceful country like Syria, and they were caught with it,” she said.

I don’t believe that Russia would have to hide air-defense systems sales to Syria.  As far as I’m aware, Syria does not have sanctions on it that would block such sales.  However, Russia belongs to the IAEA and is forbidden from selling nuclear-use material to Syria or any other non-nuclear country.  Such sales would require a large amount of subterfuge — assuming that’s what this is.

If so, why did the Arctic Sea get stopped from making its delivery?  Latynina says that the Russians got “caught” red-handed.  Did the US or another naval power intercept the Arctic Sea?  Or did the US or the UK get wind of the shipment and threaten to expose it, necessitating a staged act of piracy to cover for its retreat?

Keep an eye on this situation.  If the Russians really did seize the pirates rather than negotiate a ransom, then they have done the world a favor.  If not — and the position of the Arctic Sea doesn’t exactly fit a piracy scenario — then the US had better recalculate its diplomatic position with Moscow and start demanding a lot more transparency on non-proliferation.

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Where are the pirates? or even pictures of the pirates. Did the Russians just dump them overboard?

danking70 on August 19, 2009 at 5:37 PM

then the US had better recalculate its diplomatic position with Moscow and start demanding a lot more transparency on non-proliferation.

And yet, sadly, with this administration, we all know there is zero chance of that.

AUINSC on August 19, 2009 at 5:38 PM

then the US had better recalculate its diplomatic position with Moscow and start demanding a lot more transparency on non-proliferation.

Quick! Someone get Hillary another button!

29Victor on August 19, 2009 at 5:38 PM

that Russian opposition has accused Moscow

There’s a Ruskie opposition that hasn’t been poisoned yet?

jgapinoy on August 19, 2009 at 5:39 PM

I think this Russian journalist is in need of some end of life counseling.

ICBM on August 19, 2009 at 5:39 PM

Its only a matter of time before a terrorist state gets a nuke. It may already be to late, and the clock is ticking for a nuclear attack here on US soil.

Wolftech on August 19, 2009 at 5:40 PM

Wolftech on August 19, 2009 at 5:40 PM

Yeah, sort of like Iran will…anytime now.

AUINSC on August 19, 2009 at 5:41 PM

Keep an eye on this situation.

I’ll keep an eye out. I’d listen for more news about the pirates, but it would cost me a buccaneer.

Daggett on August 19, 2009 at 5:41 PM

ICBM on August 19, 2009 at 5:39 PM

Sadly. I think he’ll be one of the russians with brand new air conditioning soon.

lorien1973 on August 19, 2009 at 5:42 PM

A perfect thread for A_Pirates_Tooth blue! /s

Ozprey on August 19, 2009 at 5:44 PM

i’m not worried. after all, barack obama is president. he speaks well, is highly intelligent, has tons of experience and he’s BLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK!

Ghoul aid on August 19, 2009 at 5:46 PM

OT NUCLEAR:

Tom Delay just asked Chris Matthews to ask Obama for his birth certificate!

faraway on August 19, 2009 at 5:47 PM

“Or did the US or the UK get wind of the shipment and threaten to expose it, necessitating a staged act of piracy to cover for its retreat?”

Imagine the possibilities……….

Seven Percent Solution on August 19, 2009 at 5:47 PM

Eeehh… if we (the US) knew it was carrying nuclear armaments… we were obviously tracking it… and if so…why didn’t we know where it got “captured”?

Wouldn’t the better cover story have been moving the Arctic Sea to a “safe port”, act like it’s offloading cargo and then return?

Skywise on August 19, 2009 at 5:48 PM

The official version of events was questioned by Yulia Latynina, a leading Russian opposition journalist and commentator.

Yulia Latynina to disappear or have radiation poisoning in 3…2…1…

portlandon on August 19, 2009 at 5:49 PM

Yulia Latynina should stay away from sushi and procure a food taster.

amerpundit on August 19, 2009 at 5:52 PM

Since Iran wants nukes, I would not mind delivering some at terminal velocity…

Jeff2161 on August 19, 2009 at 5:52 PM

The Arctic Sea.

Wouldn’t normally have to cut out a bulkhead on a ship of this size to accommodate most anti-aircraft missiles. Place them in the hold, cover, batten down the hatches. Done.

Now, a surface-to-surface missile system…on a ship of this size, it is conceivable that a bulkhead could be removed, supports added , and the larger surface to surface system placed in the hold, while not altering the exterior profile of the ship.

All speculation, of course. But, I do not believe this voyage of the Arctic Sea had anything to do with piracy. Perhaps dueling Russian mobs a more likely scenario if not the Russian MoD trying to circumvent the counter-proliferation folks.

The sea lanes it was in when it first “disappeared” and the various sea lanes it had to travel to get to the the Cape Verde Islands are pretty heavily traveled by commercial and military ships.

That almost all information about the Arctic Sea is coming from the Russian MoD…well…we all know how reliable their reporting on the Kursk incident was.

coldwarrior on August 19, 2009 at 5:52 PM

Delivery in 30 minutes or less, or it’s free…

Jeff2161 on August 19, 2009 at 5:53 PM

Another RESET button, maybe?

Attila (Pillage Idiot) on August 19, 2009 at 5:55 PM

I just love how the Medvedev administration is so transparent. Its nothing like the evil Bush administration.

Neo-Chase on August 19, 2009 at 5:56 PM

Weren’t Russian subs close to our waters around the same time?

misslizzi on August 19, 2009 at 5:58 PM

Your headline is backwards, it should read: “Russian Opposition: Russia’s role in piracy crisis a cover for nuclear proliferation”

DaveS on August 19, 2009 at 6:01 PM

I read this earlier, the information seems pretty sketchy to warrant an article in the NYT. I would love it if this is true and verifiable put appears to be opposition opinion. Regardless this reporter had a lot of nerve saying it out loud considering how they treat dissenters. Especially journalists.

Cindy Munford on August 19, 2009 at 6:01 PM

Attila (Pillage Idiot) on August 19, 2009 at 5:55 PM

Russia under Putin certainly has a lot less of what it once had, but they are not neutered by any measure. And they are still doing (under Putin) what they used to do best.

Not enough “reset” buttons in the world will dissuade them.

This Administration is being played. Russians in Burma, assisting on “peaceful” nuclear programs? Russians in and out of Iran, doing the same? Russians all over Latin America these days, in numbers not seen since the 80′s? Russia leaning on the EU and the new European states? Russia stirring things up in Georgia once again?

But Hillary and Medvedev and Lavrov got along famously…so no problem.

coldwarrior on August 19, 2009 at 6:01 PM

RESET!!

GarandFan on August 19, 2009 at 6:02 PM

misslizzi on August 19, 2009 at 5:58 PM

Couple weeks earlier.

coldwarrior on August 19, 2009 at 6:02 PM

It’s going to be a similiar situation where an EMP is launched off our coast from a “modified” “stolen” ship.

Dry Run?

Guardian on August 19, 2009 at 6:09 PM

Wait a minute…………are you telling me that I not only can’t trust the Messiah………..but now I can’t trust the Russians? What’s next? Are you going to be telling me Dave Axelrod is a thief? And that the Rev. Wright hates whites? Well I have to believe in something…………let’s see….oh I know…………I am positive that the Messiah was born in Kenya….I mean Russia….I mean Hawaii or something……………

Cinday Blackburn on August 19, 2009 at 6:11 PM

Its only a matter of time before a terrorist state gets a nuke. It may already be to late, and the clock is ticking for a nuclear attack here on US soil.
Wolftech on August 19, 2009 at 5:40 PM

Yes, couple that with skill at hijacking cargo ships……

Anybody here live near some coastal ports?

Chainsaw56 on August 19, 2009 at 6:14 PM

Guardian on August 19, 2009 at 6:09 PM

Interesting.

Launching such a weapon from a disposable ship…

To have any major (relative, I know) effect at all an EMP weapon would have to have altitude…somewhere at about 30,000-40,000 feet and deep over the East Central part of the US.

A sea-level burst would be largely absorbed by the sea and reflection from the sea to a localized area.

Now, sailing into NYC or Norfolk (my choice) or Long Beach (not the Chinese’ choice) would have a huge impact, the standard surface destruction, but nothing like a well-oriented EMP burst.

coldwarrior on August 19, 2009 at 6:14 PM

Cape Verde keeps popping up too.

Transfer of goods at sea? Abandoned military installation? Oil rig?

Would Venezuela or Brazil report a “pirated” ship in their waters/ports?

journeyintothewhirlwind on August 19, 2009 at 6:23 PM

US had better recalculate its diplomatic position with Moscow and start demanding a lot more transparency on non-proliferation.

They’ll just buy a prettier reset button and try harder to get the label right.

aikidoka on August 19, 2009 at 6:24 PM

In the mean time, Axelrod, and Rahm are handling the situation, while Obama curls up under his desk, sucking his thumb!

capejasmine on August 19, 2009 at 6:26 PM

coldwarrior on August 19, 2009 at 6:14 PM

Why bother with an EMP attack?

Hijack a ship, sail it in and fire it off.
No need for a launch vehicle and setup, less to go wrong.

Chainsaw56 on August 19, 2009 at 6:29 PM

http://www.interfax.com/3/511877/news.aspx


EU rapporteur presumes Arctic Sea transported Russian missiles”

This naval unit was significantly stronger than that engaged in a
recent Somali piracy crisis, he noted.

The cargo that was on board the Arctic Sea, i.e. timber bound for
Algeria, could have been the best camouflage for arms contraband, Kouts
said.
“A whole alley of guided missiles can easily be hidden under stacks
of timber, because, in order to uncover them, the vessel needs to be
brought to a port, and its hold has to be emptied. They are not so easy
to uncover at sea,” he said.
Kouts emphasized that only the transportation of weapons can
explain Russia’s controversial behavior during the incident
.

the_nile on August 19, 2009 at 6:37 PM

coldwarrior on August 19, 2009 at 6:14 PM

Chainsaw56 on August 19, 2009 at 6:29 PM

You need to read a book called ‘One Second After’ by William Forstchen. Its a fictional account of what would happen to the US (and the rest of the world) in a coordinated EMP attack, but the science is sound. To be honest, I think it paints too rosy of a picture of what would happen to society as a whole in that situation, it will make you think… and scare you.

Wolftech on August 19, 2009 at 6:38 PM

Chainsaw56 on August 19, 2009 at 6:29 PM

Was responding to Guardian on August 19, 2009 at 6:09 PM.

Me?

Depends if you are looking at counter-force…Norfolk…detonate once you pass under the 664 bridge.

Make a huge statement…NYC…off Jersey City would do nicely.

coldwarrior on August 19, 2009 at 6:38 PM

the_nile on August 19, 2009 at 6:37 PM

A ship such as Arctic Sea? Have to worry about center-of-gravity, being even slightly top heavy could cause a fatal roll. Heavy cargo below deck…then a cover (maskirovka) of raw lumber on the deck, plausible. Makes inspection a bit more difficult should any coast guard come along side…would have to remove the on-deck cargo before being able to open the hatches.

Wonder if the Russian MoD or Ministry of Maritime Fleet sent a worldwide “stop and board” message as part of their effort to “locate” the ship?

coldwarrior on August 19, 2009 at 6:44 PM

If this was a “official” sale and not a black market sale from aka Lord Of War. Why was there not an armed contingency of troops acting as civilian crew. My bet is that it was a black market sale that filled some generals pocket and then the higher ups need the pirates story to protect the seller and buyer. It was not any government approved proliferation, the Russians do not need to hide any if they wanted to do it they would.

tjexcite on August 19, 2009 at 6:58 PM

Why must it be America? Of more immediate use would be the Black Sea and the pipelines.

OldEnglish on August 19, 2009 at 7:12 PM

Was responding to Guardian on August 19, 2009 at 6:09 PM.

Me?

Depends if you are looking at counter-force…Norfolk…detonate once you pass under the 664 bridge.

Make a huge statement…NYC…off Jersey City would do nicely.

coldwarrior on August 19, 2009 at 6:38 PM

Sorry if there was any misunderstanding.
My only point was that any potential terrorists would maybe chose a somewhat simpler plan.
Both scenarios are equally plausible, and equally frightening.

One would hope those in the counter-terrorism business have considered such possibilities and are planning accordingly.

Chainsaw56 on August 19, 2009 at 7:24 PM

Would love to know how water logged the timber is now.

journeyintothewhirlwind on August 19, 2009 at 7:25 PM

Do ships have to carry any equipment for containment of oil leaks? Could it be used to corral timber for awhile?

journeyintothewhirlwind on August 19, 2009 at 7:28 PM

Would the US Navy send a warship after a cargo ship carrying timber? When they don’t have a ransom demand or an sos?

Why would the Russian navy send a ship then? Isn’t their budget tighter than ours?

journeyintothewhirlwind on August 19, 2009 at 7:33 PM

The sea lanes it was in when it first “disappeared” and the various sea lanes it had to travel to get to the the Cape Verde Islands are pretty heavily traveled by commercial and military ships

How much do those change during hurricane season?
I know it has been quiet, maybe that is why they had to come up with a pirate story.

journeyintothewhirlwind on August 19, 2009 at 7:48 PM

journeyintothewhirlwind on August 19, 2009 at 7:48 PM

Baltic to North Sea, through the Channel, cross the Bay of Biscay, hug the Portuguese coast, follow the west coast of Africa past the Canaries to Cape Verde…not a big Hurricane Zone this time of year.

Apparently the ship first “disappeared” in the North Sea, off Norway, according to the initial reports.

coldwarrior on August 19, 2009 at 7:58 PM

You could always remove a bulkhead to mount a short, med, or even long range ballistic missile ala q-ship style. But…why would someone want to do that? Gee, let me count the reasons!!!!!!

scottm on August 19, 2009 at 8:13 PM

If this was a “official” sale and not a black market sale from aka Lord Of War. Why was there not an armed contingency of troops acting as civilian crew. My bet is that it was a black market sale that filled some generals pocket and then the higher ups need the pirates story to protect the seller and buyer. It was not any government approved proliferation, the Russians do not need to hide any if they wanted to do it they would.

tjexcite on August 19, 2009 at 6:58 PM

The story I’d heard earlier this week was that the initial intercept was by a submarine, possibly one of the ones that was off our coast a couple weeks ago. That makes the whole “armed fake-crew” idea somewhat moot, if true.

Blacksmith on August 19, 2009 at 8:22 PM

Who cares what Russia does? their military is a joke

liberal4eva on August 19, 2009 at 9:26 PM

liberal4eva on August 19, 2009 at 9:26 PM

Is that you, Custer?

OldEnglish on August 19, 2009 at 9:41 PM

then the US had better recalculate its diplomatic position with Moscow and start demanding a lot more transparency on non-proliferation.

Obama says “transparency for thee, not for me…”

bookman on August 19, 2009 at 9:56 PM

Who cares what Russia does? their military is a joke

liberal4eva on August 19, 2009 at 9:26 PM

Ees beeg choke on you, comrade. When Spetnaz come knocking on door, you go to gulag, like all liberal fools. Conservatives we do not like, but Conservatives we trust. Liberals are dangerous snake in grass…cannot trust them, ever.

The reality of it all is that while a lot smaller, the Russian military has increased its lethality over the past decade. In an armed confrontation between the US and Russia, today, it’ll be a tough and bloody struggle.

But, Russia does not desire an armed struggle with the US, then, or now. They prefer the easy way…which is why Lavrov had that reaction to the pseudo-Easy button Hillary gave him. Putty in the hands of the Russians, this Obama character. And Hillary confirmed it.

coldwarrior on August 19, 2009 at 10:08 PM

Thanks CW. I thought it might have went out in open waters. I am not a sailor. Just putting questions and ideas out there hoping someone has the answers and I gain knowledge.

It disappeared for the 2nd time on July 31st and then was missing for 2 weeks.

Russian subs were spotted off coast on Aug 5th.

It was suppose to dock Aug 4.

Would it have that much extra fuel?

Or am I misreading the original article?

Did anyone take down how much fuel was used? How many miles traveled?

journeyintothewhirlwind on August 19, 2009 at 11:29 PM

GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR…

I’ve never had to say that to HotAir before but GDit Eaglespeak and I were trying like hell to get this story noticed for over three weeks. Nobody, but nobody, was listening (except eldenrude?-forgive me my friend).

This story was Tom Clancy on steroids from July 24th on.

Sorry to go all twisted-sister on it but sometimes the bruises on my head make me do funny things.

Limerick on August 19, 2009 at 11:44 PM

Here

and Here

A day by day update of this twisted sea yarn. Eaglespeak is a ex-naval security expert.

Limerick on August 19, 2009 at 11:48 PM

And I wouldn’t put anything past them. A rational US sailor might not take chances with a cargo transfer on open seas because of the danger to the ship but if it is smuggling…

Look at the tunnels going into israel, from mexico into our country, at all the ways drugs are smuggled into the us, using kids as bomb carriers in Iraq. Our drug dealers even have mini submarines- they do end up on the bottom of the ocean alot-but they have them.

Money, their goals, no value of a human life- anything goes.

journeyintothewhirlwind on August 19, 2009 at 11:55 PM

Barry may end up the last US president yet.

Griz on August 20, 2009 at 3:10 AM

Let me preface this, it’s all speculation, but it fits. The Russian gov’t and military are known for being secretive and devious. Suppose this was some sort of missile/nuclear device under the control of a rogue general or Russian mafia type. The Russians are going to want to find it and neutralise it ASAP, without tipping their hand. If this ship/cargo wasn’t sanctioned by the gov’t., the last thing they’d want would be some sort of attack on the Eastern seaboard that could be traced back to them.
That would go a long way toward explaining why those Russian subs were off our coast. Not only were they a picket line to keep the ship away from us, they made their presence known. They know this is unusual enough that our response is to increase surveillance in the area, increasing the effectiveness of the picket line without us even knowing what is really going on. Basically, they’re using our response to help them find the ship.
Even if the ship was spotted by us, they simply say, hey, we’ve got Spetsnaz on the subs, it’s our ship, we’ll board it and find out what happened. They’re not going to tell us anything they don’t absolutely have to, and would do anything they could to keep something like this under wraps.

Dan859 on August 20, 2009 at 7:53 AM

Who cares what Russia does? their military is a joke

liberal4eva on August 19, 2009 at 9:26 PM

So nuclear weapons become a joke, if your surface navy is not capable of taking on the US?

MarkTheGreat on August 20, 2009 at 8:59 AM

This thread

Russian navy is a joke. That all you need to know

liberal343 on August 4, 2009 at 9:59 PM

Now this thread..

Who cares what Russia does? their military is a joke

liberal4eva on August 19, 2009 at 9:26 PM

Bots, united.

Limerick on August 20, 2009 at 9:16 AM

Who cares what Russia does? their military is a joke

liberal4eva on August 19, 2009 at 9:26 PM

These are the attitudes that terrify me…..

search4truth on August 20, 2009 at 9:28 AM

Who cares what Russia does? their military is a joke
liberal4eva on August 19, 2009 at 9:26 PM

I’m sure the Georgians and Chechnians are laughing their a$$es off right about now. Are you really that ignorant, or is today some sort of special occasion?

Dan859 on August 20, 2009 at 11:12 AM