Russia’s Only Aircraft Carrier Catches Fire

According to the Russian TASS News and social media footage, a fire has erupted on board Russia’s only aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov, at a naval dock in Murmansk, northwest Russia. The aircraft carrier was undergoing repairs and maintenance when according to reports, the fuel tanks caught fire.

Three people were injured in a fire that broke out onboard Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov at a dock in Murmansk, northwest Russia, a source in the Emergencies Ministry told TASS on Thursday.

“Three people have been injured. All of them are receiving medical assistance,” the source said.

Eight people have been rescued by the emergencies services and firefighters and one person has gone missing.

According to emergencies services, the fire occurred during repair works in the first power unit and a thick plume of black smoke is seen from the upper deck.

The engulfed area has grown six-fold to 120 square meters. Diesel fuel is currently burning and the firefighting effort is carried out with the use of foam.

Safety rules’ violation is considered as a likely cause of the blaze. (source)

RT News later reported that it was a ‘blaze was sparked by welding in the first power section on the ship’s deck, after which the fire spread to a space of 600 square meters.’ha

While it is possible they may have been an act of sabotage, accidents are known to happen. It is impossible to make any sort of clear determination as to the circumstances with this case.

What is most interesting about this case is the fact that Russia has only one aircraft carrier, as also does China.

Russia has three major seaports- Murmansk, in the northwest near Finland, Odessa/Black Sear region, accessed through the Dardanelles, and Vladivostok, which is by the Sea of Japan. These three major ports are crucial because while there are others (such as Magadan), they are the ones that are accessible year round because of the ocean currents. Russia, while having a great land empire, also has territorial control over waters, and while she may not need a lot of aircraft carriers, the fact that she has so few yet with such a large land mass seems surprising.

China is a “rising power”, and that she only has one, and an old Soviet one at that, is also not a surprise. However ,one should expect that China is also working likely on other aircraft carriers as she wants to expand her geopolitical reach.

This is the situation for the second and third most powerful militaries in the world. The US, who is the most powerful, has twelve right now and is working on three more, which would bring the total to fifteen.

The main reason of aircraft carriers is to be mobile and project power through both sea based and airborne assets. Because mobility is a capacity to act, aircraft carriers allow a military’s forces to be deployed, to operate and to project state power beyond its borders. Air power is not a singular homogenous entity, but something that works in combination with land and sea power.

Halford Mackinder, whose works I have cited, wrote of ships as mobile islands. Geopolitically speaking, as noted above, are a critical part of the ability of states to project their power across space, most specifically into spaces beyond their own international boundaries and so to exert tremendous influence upon others where normal historical circumstances would prevent such from being the case. Naval power projection is enabled and maintained fundamentally through the deployment of ships at sea and their movements within maritime space, and the aircraft carrier is a means through which all of this is realized.

In simple terms, Russia may be really big, but for all of that land and in spite of the three major seaports that she has, she only has one ship to carry her planes to exert her sphere of influence. She has a large land army, but it still dwarfs China’s in physical size as well as population, and she has a much larger physical space on her direct territory to defend. The US, by comparison, is far smaller, but she not only has far more power to exert herself physically abroad onto other nations, but due to her geographic isolation, unless she is able to meet with a foe who can bring “mini islands” by which to exert land and air power onto her, she will be very hard to conquer and invade.

There is always the chance that the US could be invaded. However, the chances under natural circumstances are very small, and with the current military balance of geopolitical power are even less. Russia and China, by contrast, are very weak in this regard, being able to likely put up a good fight “at home”, but unable to really assert themselves abroad significantly. In fact, it is arguable the next most powerful military to impose foreign influence would be the French (by way of the French Foreign Legion and her naval power), and then the UK.

This is why Russia wants a new “Molotov-Ribbentrop” type agreement with Germany, so it seems again, and why the US is so concerned about this. Alone, Russia will likely fall to the US if Germany was with her. But if Germany allies with Russia, the combined powers of the two will force the US to “sit out” as she could not stand up to them both and win.

The aircraft carrier fire may have been a little incident, but little things can mean a lot. If Russia cannot project power into her own sphere of influence on her own, how can she expect to keep herself from being overrun?

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