Even in a season already full of weird stories coming out of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, every once in a while you run across an article that just leaves you scratching your head. That was the case with this report from Newsweek last night. The main thrust of the article deals with intelligence reports claiming that the Russians are loading up some of their submarines and surface ships with their 3M-54 Kalibr cruise missiles. There’s nothing all that unusual about such a move. We already knew that Russia was using some of its naval forces to bombard Ukrainian cities near the coast. But the really startling part of the report came with the alleged reason that the Russians were doing this at this particular time. The article alleges that the Russians were responding to a report that the United States is preparing to blow up Russia’s fleet in the Black Sea.
Strategic movement in the Black Sea continues with Russia reportedly loading cruise missiles onto a pair of submarines among its Black Sea fleet. This comes just days after a report that stated the U.S. was preparing to target the Russian fleet to free up paths for Ukraine to export grain.
Two Russian submarines have already moored at berths in the South Bay of Sevastopol to onload the Kalibr missiles, according to the Ukrainian media outlet Kyrm.Realii. Four of these “Caliber” types of missiles will be loaded upon two of the six Varshavyanka submarines, which are designed to fire these kind of missiles that have both land and sea capability strikes.
Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2017 said these missiles have the ability to strike a target from 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) from the underwater vessels.
I’m sorry, but… what? The claim that America is preparing to take out the Black Sea fleet apparently came from Ukrainian ministry of internal affairs adviser Anton Gerashchenko last Friday. According to Newsweek, he tweeted the following: “The effective work of the Ukrainians on warships convinced (the USA) to prepare a plan to unblock the ports. Deliveries of powerful anti-ship weapons (Harpoon and Naval Strike Missile with a range of 250-300 km) are being discussed.”
I went back and scrolled through Gerashchenko’s Twitter feed (which takes a while because this guy tweets like a madman) and it appears that the tweet has since been deleted. But if they have the wording of the tweet correct, I don’t know that he was actually suggesting that the American military was planning to sink Russia’s ships. He mentioned “deliveries of powerful anti-ship weapons.” That sounds more like he was aware that the United States was planning to send missiles to the Ukrainians so they could blow up the Russian ships.
Or at least I certainly hope that’s what he meant. The Russians are already ticked off at all of the modern, high-power armaments we’re giving Ukraine to fight back against the invasion, but they haven’t actively done anything about it yet. But if our military sinks one of their warships or destroys a Russian submarine, that’s an act of war. And even under the accepted rules of engagement (which the Russian army frequently ignores anyway), they would be entitled to fire back at us. We would no longer need to sit around wondering when we might be dragged into an active shooting war with Russia because it would have already begun.
Newsweek should really be a bit more careful with its phrasing. Putting things out into the media ecosystem and saying “the U.S. was getting ready to destroy Russia’s Black Sea fleet,” will only provide the Kremlin with more propaganda to fire up the Russian people. Putin has been claiming since the beginning that this has all been some sort of elaborate plot by the west to “destroy Russia as a country.” We shouldn’t help him reinforce that message.