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17 November 2004 (USA)  »

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Russian Submarine Dies.
23 December 2014 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

Professionally done documentary of the explosion aboard the Russian submarine Kursk, its sinking, and the death of its 118 crew members. Such things will happen. In 1963, in the world's worst submarine disaster, the USS Thresher (SSN-593) went down on diving exercises and never came up, and 129 men were lost.

It happened in August of 2000. The USSR had collapsed a decade earlier and Russia's Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, had been in office only 100 days, so what followed was the same sort of schedule that might have been developed during the Cold War.

On the afternoon of the explosion, even before the Kremlin had been informed of the submarine's sinking, U.S. National Security Adviser Sandy Berger and Defense Secretary William Cohen were told that the Kursk had sunk. Once officially informed, the British government, along with France, Germany, Israel, Italy, and Norway offered help, and the United States offered the use of one of its two deep submergence rescue vehicles, but the Russian government absolutely refused all foreign assistance. Minister of Defence Igor Sergeyev told the American Embassy that the rescue was well underway. The Russian Navy told reporters that communications had been established with the Kursk and a rescue was imminent. Putin was advised not to return from his vacation at the beach. There was a spot of bother but otherwise everything was just fine.

Of course it wasn't. After the Cold War, Russia had scrapped most of its submarines and cut its spending on repair and maintenance of the remaining subs. The officers and men of the Kursk knew what they were doing but the boat itself was an accident waiting to happen.

The political ramifications within Russia were serious. The top men most responsible for the evasions, lies, and delays were fired. The press was no longer controlled by the state and the press showed angry civilians cursing the politicians offering them reassurances.

The half-dozen talking heads comment on the politics surrounding the botching of the rescue, if any were possible at all, blaming it on Cold War attitudes, ancient technology, and so forth. Nobody mentions a founder effect.

Josef Stalin ruled the USSR with great brutality for decades. He killed more Russians than Hitler did, literally. And he was almost clinically paranoid. Everything must be kept secret from enemies and rivals. He had the most effective spy network of World War II. His spies spied on his other spies. Lies were taken for granted. And no one cared to bring Stalin any bad news.

Naturally obsolescent machinery and low budgets were the proximate cause of the explosion. What followed could have been planned by Stalin himself, a show of pride and a pageant of normality.


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