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m/v Alaed bound for Baltyisk, Russian Navy bound for North Atlantic?

Famous and now Russia-flagged general cargo vessel Alaed left Murmansk and as of morning July 13 is steaming along the coast of Norway, sparkling the flames of rumours and allegations, with regards to her final destination, all over again. AIS indicates next port of call as Baltyisk, situated in Kaliningrad region in Baltic sea. Owner and operator of the vessel, Russian company FEMCO announced on its’ Russian web site, that vessel is sailing to S-Petersburg with ETA July 17, inviting shippers to offer incidental cargoes bound for Vladivostok, Russian Far East, which is stubbornly declared to be Alaed’s final port of call. It’s anyone’s guess whether Alaed will actually call Baltyisk and then S-Petersburg as declared, and not sail to Syria istead, though on the face of it, it seems to be true. Some collateral facts indicate, that the military cargo (notorious helicopters and air defence missiles) is still on board, however strange it may look from rational point of view. Most probable then, is the offloading of the military cargo in Baltyisk and then sailing a short leg to S-Petersburg for the declared purposes of finding any cargo bound for Vladivostok, and preparing vessel for the long voyage across three oceans. How Alaed is going to make it, to reach Baltyisk and then S-Petersburg, and then from S-Petersburg sail to Vladivostok without proper insurance, is not clear at the moment. It’s not clear at all, to be exact. Considering the recent moves of Russian authorities (most of which can’t be explained by any other sensible reasons except drug or alcohol influence), anything is possible, including the Alaed’s voyage to Syria, just for the sake of it.
Anyway, FEMCO is trying to save whatever is left of company’s reputation by publishing extracts from an article “Maritime Transport and Arms Shipments – Transport Services under an Arms Trade treaty” published by an edition ”Rough Seas, TransArms” (USA), July 10, 2012. Actually, much of what’s written in article is true – Russia is in its’ full right to ship to Syria whatever she wants to ship, FEMCO is not violating any sanctions or laws, and insurance withdrawal by London-based Standard Club is at least controversial. Still, FEMCO is contradicting this publication (declared to be most unprejudiced article about the whole incident) by some other statements, in which company, again and again, denounces its’ connection to the inglorious cargo and its’ final destination, and rejects having any knowledge about the true nature of the cargo and its’ destination. FEMCO still sticks to its’ early version of the story, in which company simply chartered vessel to (unnamed) charterer, and forgot the whole business, vessel including. Before present developments take place, it was rather an awkward explanation to which nobody believed, now it’s not even funny, it’s foolish and ridiculous.
FEMCO is licking the wounds inflicted by that mysterious unnamed charterer, whom everybody belive to be Rosobornexport, or in broader terms, by Russian authorities and their erratic behaviour. FEMCO found itself in a very difficult, frustrating situation, feeling no guilt for what it has done, but still, being made a scapegoat for the wrongs of those whom FEMCO can’t even name. FEMCO chartered out the vessel for seemingly absolutely legitimate shipment of the arms to be delivered to Syria under long-term contract between Russian and Syrian authorities. FEMCO most probably didn’t have any doubts or apprehensions at all, at the time of making a deal. All what company can do now to condone itself in order to lessen reputation and financial losses, are attempts to explain the situation and the company’s true role in the scandal, but company can’t reveal all the facts and names, thus appearing more guilty than the company really is.

Meanwhile, Russia is sending to Syria a fleet of Navy ships capable of carrying enough helicopters and missiles to make a new Air Force for Assad’s regime. Russian observers made a list of ships which may soon be found in Syrian waters.

Large attack landing ships:
Georgiy Pobedonosets with carrying capacity of 500 tons of military cargo and equipment, and 225 troops;
Alexander Otrakovskiy with carrying capacity of 500 tons of military cargo and equipment, and 225 troops;
Kondopoga with carrying capacity of 500 tons of military cargo and equipment, and 225 troops;
Tsezar Kunikov with carrying capacity of 500 tons of military cargo and equipment, and 225 troops;
Nikolay Filchenkov with carrying capacity of 47 battle vehicles and 440 trrops;
Other ships:
Destroyer Admiral Chabanenko;
Destroyer Smetliviy;
Destroyer Admiral Panteleyev;
Destroyer Vice-admiral Kulakov;
Frigate Yaroslav Mudriy;
Auxiliary Naval ships:
Naval tankers Sergey Osipov, Lena, Boris Butoma and Ivan Bubnov;
4 naval salvage tugs.

The funniest thing is, nobody can explain, can just definitely name the aim of the whole undertaking. The Federal Agency of Military Cooperation (FSVTS, responsible for arms supplies to other countries under governmental agreements) voiced and vehemently backs its’ own version of sending the Navy to Syria – the main task of Russian Navy presence in Syria and Med is to protect Russian cargo vessels carrying Russian arms to Syrian legitimate government. Ministry of Foreign Affairs without mentioning FSVTS expressed its’ deepest bewilderment at the “rumours” about Syria being the main object of the expedition, and said Russian Navy has no plans to sail to Syria at all. Navy Command in their turn, said the Navy is steaming out of Navy bases in Barents, Baltic and Black seas in order to take part in pre-planned routine exercises in North Atlantic. Later Navy said ships are sailing to Syria to take part in anti-piracy drills, which is actually, a sheer idiotism.
Most probably, Kremlin (Putin) doesn’t know the real reason and doesn’t yet have definite plans, either. Simply because Russian authorities, in most cases, act on impulse or out of some short-term considerations, the latter being more often, than not, derivations of somebody’s personal interests. Russia doesn’t have any long-term policy, any plans expanding to some decades ahead. Everything is temporary in Russia, and the present rulers feel themselves more vulnerable and prone to extinction, than any commoner, given the questionable legitimacy of Russian Parliament and President. Russian authorities, starting from Putin, hate the West with all their guts, it’s not, let’s hope, a secret any more (Who’s Mr. Putin? Remember?). But if Kremlin will find itself in a situation when it will badly need the Western assistance, Russia will turn into staunchest Western ally in no time, and Russian Foreign Minister Mr. Lavrov will rival Mrs. Clinton in defending American interests.
Those who try to guess or figure out next moves or u-turns of Russian Foreign Policy, are mostly, something very sorry to look at, because in the end they find themselves to be basically wrong in their assumptions. They don’t get the main and only lesson though, the main reason of their failures, which is simple. There is no Russian Foreign Policy in terms and meanings of Western Foreign Policy. It’s an erratic, chaotic process of collisions of personal interests and wills, complexes and ambitions, instincts and lusts, with sometimes, some backward thoughts of national true interests.

Voytenko Mikhail
July 13, 2012

Full story of m/v Alaed: “
m/v Alaed incident, full report”
m/v Alaed re-flagging and insurance:

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