Russia to rotate naval task force off Somalia

Admiral Vinogradov destroyer

The Russian navy will rotate patrol naval ships off the coasts of Somali to guard against pitate attacks.

Russian warships will continue patrolling commercial shipping routes in the Gulf of Aden in 2011 to help thwart frequent pirate attacks on merchant ships, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said.

A Pacific Fleet’s task force led by the Admiral Vinogradov destroyer will replace the current naval group led by Northern Fleet’s Admiral Levchenko destroyer in December, the official said on Wednesday.

“Warships from the Russian Navy will continue their regular presence in the Gulf of Aden and around the Horn of Africa in 2011,” he said.

Admiral Vinogradov carried out its first anti-piracy mission off the Somali coast in January-March 2009.

The current task force led by Admiral Levchenko, an Udaloy class guided-missile destroyer, arrived in the Gulf of Aden on July 3 to join the international anti-piracy mission near Somalia. The Russian naval group also includes the Olekma tanker and the SB-36 tugboat of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

The Russian task force has successfully escorted 13 commercial convoys with a total of 57 vessels through pirate-infested waters off the Somali coast since its arrival in the area.

The Russian Navy has maintained a presence off the Horn of Africa since October 2008, with warships operating on a rotation basis.

The extension is needed and welcome from my perspective, especially given the lawlessness of Somali and its coastal areas.  A little law and order is needed to maintain and build up stability.  This is another chance that Russia sees as an opportunity to at least be a player on African security matters as during the cold war.  It is trying to shore up its strategic engagement with African nations through arm sales. The challenge is tough since the U.S.  and China are both improving and expanding their clout, especially economically.  Even though Russia might be late, it never hurts to at least show up.  For more on Russia’s re-entry in Africa, see previous post here: Russia’s new dash in Africa.

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