Friday, April 15, 2016

Russia To Militarize Kuril Islands

Well, it was bound to happen.  After observing the lack of response by the US to China’s militarization of the disputed first island chain, Russia has announced that it intends to militarize the disputed Kuril Island chain.

Russia will deploy a range of coastal missile systems on the far-eastern Kuril islands, claimed by Japan, as part of its military build-up in the region, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Friday.”

"The planned rearmament of contingents and military bases on Kuril islands is under way. Already this year they will get Bal and Bastion coastal missile systems as well as new-generation Eleron-3 unmanned aerial vehicles," Shoigu said during a ministry meeting.” (1)

The Kuril Island chain forms an arc of islands extending 800 miles and connecting northern Japan to the Russian Kamchatka Peninsula.  The island chain bounds the Sea of Okhotsk.

Kuril Island Chain

As with the East and South China Seas and the first island chain, the Kuril Islands form a natural extended defensive buffer ring around much of the eastern coast of Russia.  Militarizing the islands will create a greatly extended anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) zone and will complicate and threaten US air and naval operations in the northern Pacific and Alaskan area.

No one outside of high level Russian leaders can say for sure but it seems obvious that the lack of response from the US toward China’s militarization of the first island chain provided the reassurance for Russia that its military moves would not be challenged.  This is what happens when you establish a policy of appeasement. 

Our appeasement of China and Russia is going to make future military clashes much more difficult for us.  We’re losing future battles before they’re even fought.


(1)Defense News Website, “Russia To Deploy Missile Systems on Kuril Islands, Defense Minister Says”, Agence France-Presse, March 25, 2016,


  1. Yup.

    We should have dealt with those 'atolls' that the Chinese were making into Islands as soon as it happened.

    And as far as I can tell, the Navy doesn't have any real solution for the A2/AD problem they face now.

    1. Agreed. From day 1 this should have been heavily publicised with all 'diplomatic channels' exhausted. Then we should have gone and dug them up as quickly as they could build them. It would have been far better to have risked coming to blows then than have stored the trouble for the future. As mentioned very short sighted appeasement, which as we know just does not work!

    2. This is a little off topic but why not send more subs to the South China Sea in coordination with Japan.
      If we need more subs then this article is interesting.

    3. I suspect that most people would agree that more subs (setting aside type, for the moment) would be useful. That makes the pending submarine shortfall that the Navy is allowing all the more puzzling.

    4. In fairness to the Navy, Congress and the post Gulf War 1.0 administrations are responsible for any shortfalls.


    5. Absolutely. The shortfall has been in the making for decades. What's puzzling is that the Navy is not increasing sub production to compensate or, most puzzling of all, running our existing LA class subs out to their full service life or even extending them. Instead, we're early retiring LA class subs. I did a post on this some time ago.

      I've also read articles suggesting that sub production can't be ramped up beyond two subs per year due to simple yard capacity limitations. I don't know if that's true or not.

    6. We were building 2.5 subs per year before sequestration - I have to check the SCN budget to see if that is still the case.


  2. If no one in SE Asia is interested in stopping or militarizing their own islands in response to China and Russia, what does that say about the allies we have in the region?

    1. It says they're not taking their own defense seriously but it also says that they're small, under-resourced countries, to be fair.

      On the one hand, we could leave them to their fate but that only assures that China will eventually seize them. On the other hand, we could recognize that propping up other countries and having access to their bases is in our own best strategic interests.

      The reasonable approach is to provide the bulk of their defense but to extract all the cost-sharing and basing rights that we can while doing so.

    2. Japan will seriously militarize once it truly sinks in that the US is not a reliable guarantor of Japan's security. When that happens, the question will become, who is the US's ally in the western Pacific, China or Japan? It would not surprise me at all if the US realigned itself as an ally of China.

    3. Not only will Japan militarize, we can expect them to develop nuclear weapons.


  3. So?

    The islands are russian, they can put missiles there if they want?

    1. Did you read the referenced article? I provide those links for a reason.

    2. Treaty of San francisco. peace treaty between Japan and Allied Powers
      The document officially renounces Japan's treaty rights derived from the Boxer Protocol of 1901 and its rights to Korea, Formosa (Taiwan) and the Pescadores, Hong Kong (then a British colony), the Kuril Islands, the Spratly Islands, Antarctica and Sakhalin Island.

      Note reference to Kuril Is.

    3. Ztev, if you don't start offering objective and factual comments you'll lose your commenting privilege. Your desire to bash the US is clouding your objectivity.

      Here's what Wiki has to say,

      "The San Francisco Peace Treaty with Japan from 1951 states that Japan must give up all claims to the Kuril Islands, but it also does not recognize the Soviet Union's sovereignty over the Kuril Islands. Furthermore, Japan claims that at least some of the disputed islands are not a part of the Kuril Islands, and thus are not covered by the treaty."

      Ownership of the islands is in dispute. I make no judgement about whose claims are valid. I simply note that Russia is unilaterally militarizing as China did.

    4. Regarding the peace treaty Japan signed, this is text of interest
      "(c) Japan renounces all right, title and claim to the Kurile Islands, and to that portion of Sakhalin and the islands adjacent to it over which Japan acquired sovereignty as a consequence of the Treaty of Portsmouth of 5 September 1905."

      Yes it doesnt assign sovereignty but it doesnt do that for the other islands discussed ( Taiwan, Spratly etc)
      But in the context of giving up its claims from the 1905 Japan Russia war and that USSR was in possession, that was the country in question.

      Im sure during the cold war these islands had a considerable soviet military presence.

  4. This should have gone with above.
    How could US challenge Russias use of 'its islands'

    1. Did you read the referenced article? Like the South China Sea islands, the Kurils are disputed.

    2. See above about Treaty of San Francisco.

      Those islands close to Japan may be disputed but I dont see evidence that Russia is using those per se as they have the whole chain.

    3. Since you clearly haven't read the referenced article, I'll spell it out for you. The article states that Russia is looking at militarizing the islands of Iturup and Kunashir which are the first two islands immediately north of Japan's Hokkaido Island so, yes, the islands close to Japan, which you acknowledge as being in dispute, are the ones Russia is looking to militarize, contrary to your statement.

      No further inaccurate statements will be allowed.

  5. I'm not sure this is an issue, really.
    China is a huge deal, because its building new islands.

    The Kurils are already huge islands, "militarising" them is in my view, a waste of resources.
    A short range / long range AAW battery and a long ranged ASW battery could be flown/shipped over in hours, predeploying them just means you have a couple of batteries out in the wilderness being battered by the elements.

    The danger, in my mind, would be if Russia deployed an engineering unit there for a long time, small harbour / pier, a runway capable of operating predator sized drones, and a great deal of underground storage for manpower, munitions and stores, maybe even a secure cable communications network between the islands.

    Modern day Iwo Jima them.

    A field deployed S400/Bastion is a nuisance, but its not a oversized SEAD/DEAD package will knock it out day one.
    A properly entrenched S400/Bastion, with multiple, connected, hardened, redundant shelters would need dozens of oversized SEAD/DEAD packages, or nukes.

    A near miss on a radar or a launcher in the open with a 250lb bomb is a kill.
    A near miss on a bunker with a 2000lb bomb is probably a kill, if that shelter happens to have the launcher in it today.

    The Chinese attolls have little value in a war, but they are very valuable in the build up, the Kurils could be a devil in a war, if they were properly prepared, which Russia doesnt seem to wish to do right now.

    1. Its a big deal.

      There's no defensive measure to be gained for Russian mainland in putting assets on these islands. Not getting into the territorial disputes. Lets say for arguments sake they were always soviet and never disputed. They are directly north of "mainland" Japan (as far as mainlands go in that country). Militarising, as in, putting in SS and SAM's all over them, essentially interdicting both land and air control, threatening Japanese civilian interests on a very wide scale is an enormously aggressive act.
      Theres no other way to look at it. Friendly neighbours do not place Radars and 400km's range SAM's overlooking your doorstep, especially when it could serve no defensive purpose at all.
      When arab nations pull stunts like these, Israel has gone to war for equivalent actions. Suez 55, 67, etc.

      Without flailing arms in the air and acting hysterically, this could be construed as an act of war. Russia has no strategic interest in militarising these Islands, other than to pose a threat to Japan, my laws of war are a little fuzzy, but from memory this is sufficient grounds for starting a shooting war.

    2. As an historical reminder, the Soviets placed missiles on Cuba and the US very nearly went to war over it.

    3. Nate, I would disagree that militarizing the islands has no benefit to the protection of mainland Russia. It creates an A2/AD zone, as with the Chinese first island chain, and makes it that much harder for the US/Japan to conduct military operations in the event of war. We would have to start that much farther out in the Pacific. Also, although I doubt Russia considers this, it moves the potential combat out, away form the mainland and the citizenry. We would consider that a plus but I doubt Russia does.

      Your Israeli example is apt.

    4. As is your Cuba one, that's precisely what the Japanese are facing here.

      My assertions that the expenditure of building defences on these islands is more a reflection on Russian economic dispersion.
      They've almost none in the east, Yakutsk, Kamchatka, their contributions to Russian GDP is so negligible as to be almost not worth mentioning. Russia is so vast, that to land ship, even by train, anything from European Russia, to eastern Russia, would cost horrendously more than simply putting on a boat in the black sea, sailing down Bosporus, suez, Indian ocean, etc. Even the North Sea route which they're trying to open.
      Its simply a vast sparse wasteland that Russia owns by dint of there not being anyone else around to give a shit.
      So yes, while i doubt much of a Jap/US invasion would ever be seriously considered against Russias eastern borders, and yes, should it be contemplated, it would be hampered by this buildup, realistically speaking, this is an offensive Russian posture, no int court would accept the defensive militarisation schtick, no more do they accept the Chinese ones.

      And yes, ultimately, some of those smaller asian countries will have to attempt to get into a stand up fight with China, US is being rather passive there, it'll be that old matrix, when there is more to lose by not fighting, than by fighting and likely losing, it'll happen. May not get there, but, more than likely, we'll soon see some ships sinking in that part of the world.

  6. i guess this is what 16 years of bad leadership does on a nation.

  7. Those islands are vulnerable. I wonder how Russia would react if the US or Japan liberated the islands that Japan claims. The Russians have probably threatened a nuclear attack if their territory is invaded, but would they really follow through in this scenario?

    The US should consider aggressive options to seize the strategic initiative instead of responding to what Russia and other enemies do. Although an invasion of the Kurils is probably not a good idea right now, it could be a proportional response to a Russian invasion of Estonia.

    1. Of course Russia is not going to initiate a nuclear war over a tiny island that no one really cares that much about. Understandably, Japan does not want Russian military forces camped about 10 miles off their shore. Equally understandably, Russia sees this a good opportunity to tweak Japan and the US while gaining some A2/AD space and being in a position to collect intel. They're not going to start a nuclear war for it, though.

      Japan ought to immediately flood the islands with their own military forces. For Russia, the islands are at the end of a long supply chain and, if confronted, would probably conclude the islands are not worth the effort.

    2. CNO,
      this is what i mean that we pacify because we are more successful.
      We've more to lose. Will Putin initiate a nuclear war over something so trivial? Who knows, the mans a reprobate, and, clues in the sentence, the "MAN'S".
      Its not even a Soviet oligarchs committee that the Chairman used to have to face, its one lone twat, who can end us all.
      Conversely, neither Abe, nor Obama, could no more start a unilateral war, nuclear or conventional, without having gone through a fair bit of due process and bureaucracy.

      Frankly, nasty as it is to be so insulted by a pissant like Russia (Japan out weighs them economically 4 to 1, never mind the US), i'd rather be on our side, being annoyed, then waking up in a country run by the nastiest toughest and most ruthless kleptocrats that have managed to steal a nation.

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  9. The Cuba problem was it introduced large numbers of nuclear weapons in the Americas, which was a huge escalation.

    There are already many thousands of short ranged nuclear weapons in Vladivostok.

    I just dont see the threat in this.
    Even from a Japanese point of view, its so close that they can knock them out with artillery, or aircraft flying nap

    1. I don't know where the Japanese military bases are but you don't see Russian bases 10 miles from the Japanese homeland as being a threat???!

      Even if the bases could be eliminated as easily as you claim (I highly doubt it!), they still constitute a threat that has to be eliminated before any other military action can occur. That soaks up Japanese effort and resources that they would, undoubtedly, prefer to use elsewhere should war come.

      I also see the bases as intel collecting stations with a prime seat next to Japanese bases (again, not knowing where they are but I assume they have several nearby. Would the UK allow Russia to set up a base 10 miles from one of their bases? Not likely!

    2. Nope, they would find themselves immediately IMMEDIANTLY removed or blockaded.

      We would never let them get settled ! it becomes so much harder then.

      We have a phrase "possession is 9/10ths of the law" I suspect we are falling foul of this here !

      I have to admit, I didn't realise it was those actual islands. To me this is MUCH more worrying than the Chinese. Putin is really starting to throw his weight around lately !?

      Im not convinced he has the funds right now to turn these island in Gibralta's. If he does however !?!?

    3. "Putin is really starting to throw his weight around lately !?"

      I suspect that he's trying to create an A2/AD zone using the islands just as the Chinese have done. It would push the US Navy completely out of the Sea of Okhotsk and create a large buffer zone to keep the USN at arm's length.

    4. I'm not sure ?

      You guys are rather attached to Japan, Those island are far far to close.

      As I recall USMC has some bases up north.

      Is he seriously thinking you will pull back from that ? I doubt it.

      This is extreamly provocative. Another stunt for internal and his allies consumption ? Or a very serious attempt to push the US out of Japan.

      Either way your right this is a "blood in the water" thing, encouraged by various actions, proberbly going as far back as Lybia, if not Iraq and Afganistan.

      Now it seems its reaching epidemic proportion.

      I'm starting to get a nasty feeling we are headed to a point something is going to have to happen.

  10. TrT..
    Cuba was a huge issue because the range was so short, had the soviets launched, US may not have had enough time to retaliate. Hence nearly going to war over it.
    Same deal with US missiles being removed from Turkey shortly after, just too close and too threatening.

    Having modern AA systems all of a sudden being built within range of 50% of your civil aviation, essentially, one military outpost could interdict your entire northern command is a huge strategic issue.

    Look at the chicken Israel had when Russia introduced an S400 into Syria, and they're nominally allied countries! Kinda.
    You'll find almost no developed nations have done this to one another. This level of threat isn't tolerated by strong nations.
    you may find an increasingly bellicose Japanes populace demanding nothing of the kind happen.
    That's nothing. Russia doesn't have 10% of the strength they need to face off against Japan Navally. You may find this is annoying filibuster more than real proposed action.


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