I haven't had much time to blog lately, but that doesn't mean that I can't bring you all up to speed on the news. One matter that Prime Minister Shinzō Abe brought to President Trump's attention this past week should be discussed here at least in passing because the US mainstream media won't report things like this.
Japanese and Russian media reported on 22 November that the Russian Pacific Fleet has deployed state-of-the-art anti-ship missile systems on islands off northern Japan.
Pravda and TASS reported on the 22d, “The Russian Defense Ministry has deployed the anti-ship missile systems Bal and Bastion on the Kuril Islands of Iturup and Kunashir.”
“These units are part of the 72nd Coast Missile Brigade of the Pacific Fleet. The divisions are expected to hold firing exercises with the use of combat missiles before the end of the year.”
“On 23 August, the Collegium of the Russian Defense Ministry discussed prospects for the deployment of troops on the Kuril Islands. It was said that a division of coastal defense would be formed in 2018 in Chukotka.”
(Note: Chukotka Autonomous Okrug is the Russian district directly opposite Alaska across the Bering Strait.)
The Bastion coastal missile system is equipped with supersonic P-800 Onyx/Oniks missiles. Against sea targets, the system can destroy ships located within 350 kilometers (217 miles) of the shoreline. One firing unit may have up to 36 missiles and can protect more than 600 kilometers (372 miles) of coastline.
Armed with low-altitude subsonic anti-ship missiles X-35, the truck-mobile Bal missile system can destroy ground and surface targets to a distance of 130 kilometers (80 miles) from the launch site or 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the coastline. The X-35 missile is capable of destroying ships with a displacement of 5,000 tons. A Bal-equipped unit can fire salvos of 32 missiles.
|Bastion Coastal Missile Defense System (launcher)|
The islands – Iturup (Etorofu), Kunashir (Kunashiri) and Shikotan as well as the Habomai group of islets -- were seized by the Soviet Union following Japan's surrender in August 1945. The islands are called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia. The dispute over ownership of the four Russian-held islands off Hokkaido has prevented the two countries from signing a peace treaty since World War II.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in March that Russia would deploy the anti-ship missile systems on the islands before the end of the year. This action is substantively identical to Russia’s installation of the Bastion system in Kaliningrad and in Crimea in 2015. The Kola Peninsula also hosts a Bastion firing unit near Murmansk. In two years, a firing unit will be based opposite Alaska.
Russian is upgrading its perimeter defenses at strategic points. If this pattern holds and the money does not run out, Russia may be expected to base state-of-the art anti-missile and anti-aircraft systems at each of these points, as it has in Syria and plans to do in Kaliningrad.
Russia-China Cooperative Nexus -
Since Abe's Meeting with Pres. Trump
On 22 November, a Russian Navy Kamov Ka-27 antisubmarine helicopter flew near the Senkaku Islands, prompting Japan to scramble Air Self-Defense Force fighter jets.
The Self-Defense Force's Joint Staff said the helicopter came within about 10 kilometers of Japan's air space over the Kuba and Taisho islands, which are part of the Senkakus, as it flew in the area for a few hours Tuesday afternoon. Some Russian Navy ships, including a missile destroyer, were also spotted in the nearby waters.
The Russians have not commented on this incident. This was the first time a Russian helicopter flew near the Senkaku Islands. The Japanese are concerned about collusion between Russia and China. The Russians have been silent about China’s sovereignty claims to most of the East and South China Seas.
You should expect to see this expansion of Russian protection of its territorial boundaries and at least symbolic cooperation with China as their establishment of spheres of influence are more firmly established. The question of US response will be an interesting one and clearly it will be an early priority of a President Trump's foreign policy apparatus.
As the US ratcheted down its military under Barack-the-feckless, China and Russia have expanded -- as one would expect. What both the Chinese and Russians don't grasp is how a resurgent US after eight miserable years under the Obama Administration will challenge that. Japan wants a close relationship with the US to counter threats from China and Russia, which is why PM Abe was the first foreign head of state to visit President Trump during his transition meetings.