(CNN) – Russian guided missile ship Moscow Relax in the depths of the Black Sea this morning.
It is unclear whether he was hit by Ukrainian missiles, Russian incompetence, misfortune or a combination of the three. However, the huge loss of a naval ship during the war in 40 years is sure to raise questions of concern not only for Moscow but also for military planners around the world.
What caused the sinking?
The ship sank on Thursday in the Black Sea off the coast of Ukraine.
The Russian Defense Ministry says the explosives stored on the ship exploded in an unknown fire, and the resulting explosions caused structural damage in Moscow. It says the warship sank in turbulent seas when it was towed to a nearby port.
Ukraine claims to have hit Moscow with anti-ship missiles, which extinguished the fire that ignited the explosives.
U.S. and Western security officials support the Ukrainian version.
The United States is “moderately confident” that the version of the events in Ukraine is accurate, a source familiar with the latest intelligence told CNN.
Moscow was armed with anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles, torpedoes, naval rifles and missile defense systems, meaning the ship would have contained large quantities of ammunition.
When was the last ship of this size lost in battle?
On May 2, 1982, during the Falkland Islands War, the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano was torpedoed by the British nuclear submarine HMS Conqueror.
General Belgrano and Moscow were the same size, each about 600 feet (182 meters) long and displaced 12,000 tons, although General Belgrano’s crew of about 1,100 more than double the number of Moscow’s personnel.
Russia has not released the death toll from the Moscow fire and its aftermath. A total of 323 personnel died in the sinking of General Belgrano.
What does the loss of Moscow mean to the Russian war effort?
The biggest effect may be on Russian morale. Primarily for the Russian Black Sea Fleet, Moscow was one of its most visible assets in the Ukraine War. Despite Moscow’s careful handling of reports of war in Russia, it is difficult to hide the sudden absence of such a large ship.
Its loss would cast doubt on Russia’s war-fighting capabilities due to enemy action or accident.
Analysts Mason Clark, Katarina Stepanenko and George Barros wrote that “both explanations for the sinking of Moscow point to possible Russian shortcomings, be it poor air defense or an incredibly loose damage control and the Black Sea Navy’s primary defense practices.” The Institute for War Studies (ISW) in its daily war report.
Carl Schuster, the former captain of the U.S. Navy, said suspicions had reached as far as the Kremlin.
“Ten years later (Russian President Vladimir Putin) announced that Putin will regain naval capabilities, morale and professionalism, which raises questions about naval capability,” Schuster said.
“He appears to have failed to deliver on any of his promises to any of Russia’s military services,” Schuster said, adding that Russia had also suffered a setback on the ground.
But analysts are divided over what impact the sinking of the Russian invasion will have.
ISW analysts consider this to be a relatively minor success, noting that the ship was primarily used for naval missile strikes on Ukrainian logistics bases and airports. Russia has ground systems and attack planes that can do the same, they said.
However, if it really led to the sinking of the Ukrainian missile, the Russian navy would have to reconsider its operations, perhaps moving ships out of Ukrainian territory and adjusting its air defenses.
In Washington, the Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Moscow’s main task was to provide air defense to Russian forces in the Black Sea.
“It will have an impact on that ability, of course in the short term,” Kirby told reporters.
Lesson for China?
Analysts say the sinking in East Asia will be carefully studied, especially if it is confirmed that Ukrainian missiles hit the warship.
In particular, analysts will look for any perspective he could offer to any potential military conflict involving the democratically-ruled island of Taiwan, which the ruling Communist Party claims as part of its territory in Beijing. Beijing has not ruled out using force to gain control of Taiwan, which has caused tensions with the United States, which is determined to equip the island with defensive weapons.
RAND Corp. Timothy Heath, a senior international security colleague on the think tank, said the Moskva attack underscored the “impact of surface vessels” on any potential military confrontation between China and the United States.
In such a scenario, Heath said, the U.S. Navy would like to have its surface ships beyond the range of anti-ship missiles that Beijing has accumulated on China’s mainland.
On the other hand, Heath et al said that China would have known that Taiwan was buying anti-ship missiles at a lower price, just as Ukraine claims to have attacked Moscow.
Because of this, Heath said, “any possible (Chinese) invasion of Taiwan is a very risky task.”
But some analysts say the sinking of Moscow is limited to the situation in East Asia.
Thomas Schukert, a former U.S. Navy submarine commander who is now an inspector at a new U.S. defense center, said there were many differences between the circumstances.
Shukart said Moscow’s air defense systems were not on par with the modern Aegis systems in US naval destroyers, and that Ukrainian anti-ship missiles were not as good as China’s.
Soviet-era warships, such as the Moscow, were generally “known for their attack, not their defense systems or their damage control,” Schukard said.