MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military commentator Ilya Kramnik) - The nuclear-powered battle cruiser Pyotr Veliky (Peter the Great), the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) ship Admiral Chabanenko and their supply ships arrived in La Guaira, Venezuela, after leaving Severomorsk, the main base of the Russian Navy's Northern Fleet in northern Russia, a month ago.
The Russian naval squadron conducted exercises in the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean en route to Venezuela.
Russian warships, which have never been to Venezuela before, are now sailing the Caribbean Sea for the first time since the break-up of the Soviet Union.
The current Russian show of flag is a simple and effective method for using naval units in peace-time.
By dispatching their warships to any specific region, naval powers show that they have strategic interests in that part of the world, display a readiness to defend those interests and force their rivals to monitor a new potential threat.
This is also the best way to remind the world about the existence of naval powers and to raise their popularity in countries being visited by warship units.
The best and most powerful warships always take part in such visits. Suffice it to recall the number of voyages involving British battleships over the ages.
The arrival of the Russian squadron in La Guaira also illustrates this concept. Moscow's friendly relations with Caracas are a highly important element of the Russian foreign policy striving to enhance the Kremlin's influence in Latin America.
A recent Russian-Venezuelan exercise involving two Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers and the latest visit will serve to improve Moscow's reputation.
Russia and Venezuela plan to conduct a joint naval exercise involving joint maneuvers, high-seas rescue operations, ship inspections and in-motion refueling and materiel transfers. Naturally, the visit does not threaten U.S. domination in the Caribbean region in any way.
Russian warships will remain in Venezuela until December 1 and will then sail into the Indian Ocean around the Cape of Good Hope.
After reaching its new destination, the squadron will exercise with Pacific Fleet warships, namely, the guided-missile cruiser Varyag and the ASW ships Admiral Tributs and Marshal Shaposhnikov.
Instead of merely showing its flag, Russia wants to resume regular naval presence in the region, probably the most difficult high-seas theater of war in the world.
It would be pointless to try to use the Pyotr Veliky and the Varyag for fighting Somalian pirates in the Indian Ocean because this would be a classic case of cracking a nut with a sledgehammer.
The Pyotr Veliky displaces over 25,000 metric tons, carries 20 Granit anti-ship missiles, including nuclear-tipped missiles, 96 S-300F long-range surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), 96 Kinzhal (Dagger) short-range SAMs, a 130-mm twin mounting, other short-range anti-aircraft weapons and various ASW weaponry, including three helicopters.
The Varyag displaces 12,000 metric tons, carries 16 Vulkan anti-ship missiles, 64 S-300F long-range SAMs, short-range SAMs, artillery systems and ASW weapons.
The guided-missile frigate Neustrashimy (Intrepid) now fighting local pirates will, most likely, be replaced by the Admiral Tributs or the Marshal Shaposhnikov.
Apart from showing the Russian flag and maintaining regular naval presence in key areas of the world's oceans, this and other voyages make it possible to train ship crews and to enhance combat readiness.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
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