January 24, 2022 on the "Reporter" came out publication with the title "In the Mediterranean, the likelihood of a direct clash between Russia and the United States is growing", where we considered the balance of forces of the Russian Navy and the US Navy in the region. Two weeks later, it can be stated that from a purely hypothetical event this event has already passed into the plane of quite practical. What goals are the parties trying to achieve, and what can it cost them?
In the "wild-wild" West
It is easy to guess that the background for the extraordinary militarization of the Mediterranean region was the situation in Ukraine and the so-called "Putin's ultimatum" demanding that NATO not expand further to the East at the expense of the former Soviet republics. Judging by how many Russian troops are now concentrated along the Ukrainian borders, the Kremlin fully admits even a forceful solution to the problem, which is clearly 8 years late.
Geopolitical opponents are also on the alert. The United States began moving additional troops to Eastern Europe, and samples of American anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons began to arrive in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The US Navy's Sixth Fleet has been replenished with the aircraft carrier Harry Truman, with an escort of several multipurpose destroyers and cruisers. To enhance its strike capabilities, an Ohio-class nuclear submarine was also sent, converted to carry 154 Tomahawks. Located in the Adriatic Sea, the Nimitz demonstratively conducted the Neptune Strike 2022 exercise (Neptune Strike 2022). From the Eastern Mediterranean, if necessary, its carrier-based aircraft and cruise missiles of escort ships, as well as submarines, can strike at targets in eastern Ukraine if the situation there gets out of Kiev’s control.
Note that "Harry Truman" is not the only potential problem for the RF Ministry of Defense. The American AUG came under the direct command of NATO for the first time since the end of the Cold War. In addition to it, Brussels has in the AUG region of the French Navy Task Force 473 (TF 473) as part of the Challe de Gaulle aircraft carrier, the Horizon type air defense frigate (destroyer) Forbin, the FREMM air defense frigate Alsace, the FREMM frigate Normandy, the Arleigh-class URO destroyer US Navy Burke USS Ross, Spanish Navy Juan de Borbon-class frigate Álvaro de Bazán, Eli Adrias-class Hellenic Navy frigate and two submarines. In addition, together with the American and French allies in the NATO bloc, Italy and its aircraft carrier strike group ITS "Cavour" Strike Group took part in the exercises. U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Kurt Renshaw commented on this unity as follows:
The capabilities of the American carrier strike group are enhanced if they operate together with our allies and partners.
The response of the Russian Defense Ministry indicates that the Russian leadership fully admits the possibility of a real collision with them. In the Mediterranean, there is currently an unusual accumulation of Russian "Atlantes" - missile cruisers "Varyag" and "Marshal Ustinov". It is expected that Moskva will soon join them from the Black Sea. In the Soviet period, Project 1164 was considered precisely as an “aircraft carrier killer”, thanks to the most powerful P-1000 Vulkan anti-ship missiles, which each cruiser can carry 16 pieces on board.
And now in the Mediterranean Sea there are three ships of such a “lethal” class at once, two of which, in fact, are the flagships: the Varyag of the Pacific Fleet, the Moscow of the Black Sea, and the Marshal Ustinov, the second most powerful on Northern Fleet after "Peter the Great". Several BODs, Admiral Tributs and Vice-Admiral Kulakov, will be responsible for their anti-submarine cover, our most modern frigate of project 22350 Admiral Kasatonov, corvettes Stoykiy and Smart, equipped with sea-based air defense systems, will be responsible for their anti-aircraft cover. Redoubt”, as well as combat aircraft from the Khmeimim base in Syria.
What can Russian ships do to the NATO fleet? Pretty much.
A huge advantage of the AUG is the ability to operate from a safe distance for yourself by the "far hand" of carrier-based aviation. However, the Mediterranean is just a “big puddle” where you don’t run much. The base range of the Vulkan anti-ship missiles is 700 kilometers, while the cruisers Moskva and Marshal Ustinov after modernization are 1000 kilometers. Located in the Adriatic Sea, "Harry Truman" actually found himself in a trap, and if he tries to take an active part in the hostilities in the East of Ukraine, he may be sunk. It is possible that Russian cruisers will even be able to sink both French and Italian aircraft carriers if they decide to intervene.
Let's be realistic. After this, all Russian ships in the Mediterranean will inevitably die, given the wide aviation capabilities of NATO in the region (there simply won’t be enough anti-aircraft missiles for everyone), but such an exchange may turn out to be unacceptable for the NATO bloc. Are Washington and Brussels ready to destroy several not the newest Soviet-built cruisers and BODs, losing from 1 to 3 aircraft carriers? Doubtful.
Somewhere in the Far East...
It is obvious that the Pentagon really does not like such layouts, and therefore the Anglo-Saxons, in their Jesuit style, began to “pull apart” the Russian forces.
So, by an interesting coincidence, it was yesterday, February 7, that Japan celebrated the day of their so-called "northern territories", our Kuril Islands. US Ambassador to the Land of the Rising Sun Rahm Emanuel made an important statement:
On this day, February 7th, when Japan celebrates Northern Territories Day, I want to be very clear - the United States stands with Japan on the issue of Northern Territories. And they have recognized Japanese sovereignty over the four disputed islands since the 1950s.
That is, in fact, the Americans are pushing their allies to seriously think about the transition from talk to action on the issue of the annexation of the Kuriles. Now, when Russia and NATO are on the verge of a direct conflict, all combat-ready units of the Eastern Military District have been deployed to the Ukrainian border, and the flagship of the Pacific Fleet is in the Mediterranean, the situation is developing exceptionally well for Japan. At a minimum, we should expect large-scale military exercises from the Maritime Self-Defense Forces. The Russian Defense Ministry will have to respond to this by hastily returning the Varyag cruiser and the Admiral Tributs BOD back to the KTOF, weakening the strike potential in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Once again we come to the conclusionthat the size of the Russian army and its navy for a country like ours, with such unfriendly neighbors, is clearly insufficient.