Russia could destroy NATO ships in 20 minutes: ex-commander

August 29th, 2008 - 8:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Moscow, Aug 29 (RIA Novosti) Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is capable of destroying NATO’s naval strike group currently deployed in the sea within 20 minutes, a former fleet commander said Friday. “A single missile salvo from the Moskva missile cruiser, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, and two or three missile boats would be enough to annihilate all the NATO ships deployed in the Black Sea,” Admiral Eduard Baltin said.

The former commander was reacting over the NATO build up near the Russian waters in the wake of the Georgian crisis and subsequently Russia breaking off ties with the alliance.

On Tuesday, Russia’s General Staff said that there were 10 NATO ships in the Black Sea comprising three US warships, Polish frigate General Pulaski, German frigate FGS Lubeck, Spanish guided missile frigate Admiral Juan de Borbon and four Turkish vessels. It also said that eight more warships were expected to join the group.

But Baltin said: “Despite the apparent strength, the NATO naval group in the Black Sea is not battle-worthy.”

“Within 20 minutes the waters would be clear,” he said, stressing that despite major reductions, the Black Sea Fleet still has a formidable missile arsenal.

However, Baltin said the chances of a military confrontation between NATO and Russia in the Black Sea are negligible.

“We will not strike first, and they do not look like people with suicidal tendencies,” he said.

In addition to its flagship, the Moskva guided missile cruiser, Russia’s Black Sea Fleet includes at least three destroyers, two guided missile frigates, four guided missile corvettes and six missile boats.

NATO announced its decision to deliver humanitarian aid to Georgia after the end of hostilities between Tbilisi and Moscow over breakaway South Ossetia Aug 12.

On Tuesday, Moscow recognised the independence of Georgian break-away regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, despite being urged by Western leaders not to do so.

Russia’s General Staff later said the alliance’s naval deployment in the Black Sea “cannot fail to provoke concern”, with unidentified sources in the Russian military saying a surface strike group was being gathered there.

According to Russian military intelligence sources, the NATO warships that have entered the Black Sea are between them carrying over 100 Tomahawk cruise missiles and Harpoon anti-ship missiles.

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