Kursk Disaster


Kursk Disaster Essay, Research Paper

The Kursk, a Russian nuclear submarine, which sank on August 12th is at the bottom of the Barents Sea, 150km (90 miles) off Russia’s northwest coast. While performing a routine naval tactical exercise something undetermined went wrong sending the submarine to the sea s floor. One of the most advanced submarines of this modern era is now a casket of steel for all 118 crewmen that were aboard the vessel. President Vladimir Putin and his government s actions towards the disaster are both irresponsible and shameful. The incident with the Kursk is the worse peacetime naval disaster ever.

The cause of the sunken Russian nuclear submarine the Kursk is still unknown. However, there are many theories that address the issue. Miniature submersible cameras have shown us the extent of damage the Kursk has undertook. The damage included a shattered bow, a buckled foredeck, a battered conning tower, and worst of all, a gaping tear in the vessel s hull that would have permitted massive flooding. One theory is that an explosion may have ripped through the torpedo compartments in the bow flooding the entire forward sections of the sub ( Bout ). Those in this region of the ship most likely died an instantaneous death while others who escaped this initial disaster face a far more slow and agonizing death. Those explosions led to the speculation that one of the Kursk s fish (nickname for a torpedo) may have malfunctioned during firing, detonating the rest of the explosives stored in the vessel s torpedo compartments. Another theory that is quite weak is that the Kursk may have collided with another submarine ( Fennell ). Possibly an American or British submarine could be a factor in the disaster because both submarines were in the vicinity of the Kursk when it happened. There have also been rumours and suggestions that the Kursk was sabotaged and is linked to the war in Chechnya but this is also most likely false ( Starobin ). The reason is that if anyone were able to sneak aboard the Kursk and tamper with its nuclear weapons the world would have a much bigger problem than just the fate of a Russian submarine and its crew. Another theory is that the submarine collided with the seabed during a manoeuvre, causing tanks of pressurised air inside the submarine to explode or otherwise triggering a larger explosion. The Kursk was designed for the ocean and not shallow waters in which it was in. It makes it much more difficult to carry out torpedo firing due to strong currents and winds.

For the first time since his election, Russian President Vladimir Putin was forced to endure public condemnation. He was fiercely criticized for remaining on holiday in the Black Sea resort of Sochi throughout the affair, emerging tanned and wearing a yellow short-sleeved shirt, five days after the Kursk sank to utter his first words of concern. He finally returned to Moscow from Ukraine the following weekend, cutting short a trip to a summit of former Soviet republics. Putin said that the reason he did not go to the rescue site was that his presence might only have proved a distraction to rescue efforts. The Kursk, the pride and joy of Russia s once-powerful northern fleet is now in ruins leaving Putin and his government with an incompetent vibe. They failed to deal with the matter accordingly and responsibly.

Grieving families had the option of traveling aboard a hospital ship to the site of the sunken vessel to throw flowers on the water. Putin planned to hold a memorial service at the site of the disaster but surprisingly many family members opposed this plan still having false hope that some crewmembers were still alive ( Fennell ). One woman told reporters that he should be killed ( Fennell) . Putin quickly cancelled the memorial service trying to stop any further outbreaks of verbal abuse towards him from family members. The shattered image of the president will be hard to erase since this issue of the Kursk will be discussed for years. Putin declared a day of mourning, and promised that the families of the deceased will receive an average compensation of $10,300 each, which is equivalent of an officer s wage for ten years ( Fennell ).

Although president Putin has much to do with the failure to handle the situation, he is not the only target of criticism. The Russian navy, whose rescue efforts were unsuccessful, refused to seek outside help and specialist assistance until August 16th, four days after the incident. Although these decisions could have easily been overruled my Putin, he believes above all in the state and the need to protect its prestige. Putin believed that it was a Russian problem and that it could have been taken care of without any intervention from other countries. The arrogance and pride of Putin and his navy may have led to the deaths of those 118 crewmen. Some people called this close to murder itself. The first international rescue attempt was by the Norwegian s. On August 20th their divers reached the Kursk only to find that after opening a rear hatch of the vessel the ship was completely flooded and that any signs of life in the ship would be impossible ( Caryl ). The Norwegian divers had achieved more work in 36 hours than the Russian rescuers did in a week. The speed of the rescue attempt stirred an uproar of angry families knowing that crewmen could have been saved if Moscow had immediately sought foreign help. Norwegian rescue vessels were permitted to arrive only when there was neither hope nor purpose to their mission. The Putin regime preferred to see these men die rather than do everything possible to save them. People are even thinking about impeaching president Putin.

Another element of an irresponsible government was that Putin and his government tried to cover up the incident saving any embarrassment and shame. After the cover-up and the lying came the attempt to blame the West. A Russian admiral was found to claim falsely that a British submarine had collided with the Kursk. It was put forth as sinister that two American submarines were within 70 miles ( Fennell ). Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev continued to suggest that the tragedy was a result of a collision with either an American or British submarine. But if that was so then were is the other damaged vessel? Washington and London angrily dismissed the allegation. The Norwegian and British divers who were attempting the rescues found no signs or evidence of a collision. The USS Memphis, an American submarine that was in the vicinity as he Kursk recorded two large explosions at the time of the disaster on their sonar (Fennell ). They recorded that the initial explosions was not as intense and big as the second. They claimed the second explosion could have been recorded as 3.2 on the Richter scale ( Bout ). Putin s response to all the blame was that if the liberals didn t cut military funds the Russian military would have had a way of dealing with the crisis including a successful rescue mission. The Russian government was quite insistent on blaming others for the catastrophe rather than taking the blame themselves. This is an example of a typical Cold War mentality still gripping Russian forces.

The deaths of these 118 men were contributed by Russia s national pride and secrecy. One can argue that it was probably just human error but it seems evident that Putin and his navy made many wrong choices due to arrogance and incompetence. Foreign help probably would have made a difference if only they were called in earlier. The conclusion that Russian officers were reluctant to accept foreign help is inescapable. The Kursk disaster has weakened Russia s military standing and has questioned its competence. The theories as to why the Kursk sank can hopefully prevent further accidents and problems for any navy. Hopefully everyone can learn from this disaster and how it was handled.

Works Cited

Bout, Leopold. Russian Submarine Disaster. World Press Review Oct. 2000: 43

Caryl, Christian. Into Troubled Waters. Newsweek 136 (2000) : 28. Canadian MAS

FullText Elite. EBSCOHost. Capilano Coll. Lib., North Vancouver. 18

November 2000. Keyword: Kursk.

Fennell, Tom. Tragedy and Anger. Maclean s 113 (2000) : 18. Canadian MAS

FullTEXT Elite. EBSCOHost. Capilano Coll. Lib., North Vancouver. 25

November 2000. Keyword: Kursk.

Putin s Sea of Troubles. Economist 26 August 2000: 13

Starobin, Paul. A Catastrophe Casts a Fall Over Putin. Business Week (2000) : 66.

Canadian MAS FullTEXT Elite. EBSCOHost. Capilano Coll. Lib., North

Vancouver. 23 November 2000. Keyword: Kursk.

Watson, Russell. A Cry From The Deep. Newsweek 11 (2000) : 43. Canadian MAS

FullTEXT Elite. EBSCOHost. Capilano Coll. Lib., North Vancouver. 25

November 2000. Keyword: Kursk.


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