Russia Sending a Submarine Salvage Ship to the Wreck of the Moskva Makes You Wonder What They Misplaced

(AP Photo/Caleb Jones)

When the Russian Black Sea flagship, the guided-missile cruiser Moskva, sank in a non-existent storm (BREAKING. Russian Flagship Sinks While Being Towed to Port) after being hit by two Neptune anti-ship missiles (BREAKING. Flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet Hit by Ukrainian Missiles, Dead in the Water, Crew Evacuated), one unanswered question remained: was the Moskva carrying nuclear weapons?


Among the weaponry on the cruiser were SS-N-12 “Sandbox” anti-ship cruise missiles capable of carrying a 350-kiloton nuclear warhead.

Ukraine threw the flag on the issue of nuclear weapons. They would have been negligent not to do so. What aroused suspicion was Russia ignored the allegation. If you’ve been following the progress of Putin’s War, you know any time Russia is accused of something egregious or criminal, they have three sequential responses a) we didn’t do it, b) you faked it to create a “provocation,” and c) you do it all the time.

Less than a week after its sinking, something untoward happened.

According to Forbes:

It’s unclear what exactly the Russian salvage team might be looking for, but it might include cryptological materials—radios and keys indicating secret codes—as well as any weapons or logs that might be of interest to a foreign power.

There might be bodies, of course. The Kremlin was quick to circulate video of the cruiser’s survivors, but the footage depicted at most a couple hundred of the 500 or so men who likely were aboard Moskva at the time of her sinking.

There was speculation, in the days after Moskva sank, that the cruiser had nuclear warheads in her magazines. The Pentagon official tamped down on the rumor. “We have no indications that there were nuclear weapons on board the Moskva when it went down,” they said.


The Jerusalem Post has more:

Parts salvageable could include missile tubes, sensors, and munitions. There was also an indication that a Christian relic of the “True Cross” could be aboard.

While there was a rumor that the Moskva sank with nuclear weapons, last Monday a senior US defense official said in a Pentagon press briefing that they had “no indications that there were nuclear weapons on board the Moskva when it went down.”

According to Hutton, the Moskva is likely far too large for recovery of the hull.

“We’ve seen no efforts by the Russians to try to as you put it recover the Moskva,” said the US defense official. “This is a cruiser of some 600 feet. That would be an enormous engineering task to try to bring that ship up to the surface. We’ve seen no indication that they have shown any interest in doing that.”

I think everyone could agree that the largest warship sunk since 1945 — 600-feet long and displacing 11,490 tons in 300 feet of water — isn’t going to be raised. Then the question is, what is worth the effort of deploying a submersible and possibly divers to recover. It is difficult to imagine that there are surviving electronics or crypto gear that just have to be salvaged. The idea that conventional munitions or missile tubes would be worth this level of effort strikes me as ludicrous. Just as silly is the theory that the Russians are trying to recover bodies from the wreckage. The Black Sea is a closed environment; ships entering have to pass through The Straits, and Moskva’s wreck is a very short distance from the major Russian naval base at Sebastopol. Physical monitoring of vessels entering the Black Sea and the wreck site could provide eternal security. There is no danger of a repeat of the Glomar Explorer going after the wreck of the K-129 in the open Pacific.


While one can never rule out bureaucratic stupidity, my opinion is that the totality of the facts and circumstances indicate that one or more nuclear warheads are entombed in the Moskva. BBC has documented how the Soviets have at least two nuclear-powered and armed submarines sunk in Arctic waters. There is the K-27 in the Kara Sea and the K-159 in the Barents Sea. Neither show any sign of radioactive leakage. Besides, thinking the Russians were suddenly listening to Greta Thunberg and obsessed about preserving the environment is silly. If nuclear weapons are on the bottom of the Black Sea, Russia could be trying to avoid a PR nightmare in case the Moskva is salvaged in the future, but the risks of that, as I outlined above, seem small. The other logical reason is that something about the warhead(s) makes them easier for a third party to arm than one would imagine.

All of this, of course, is speculation except for one thing. There is a marine salvage vessel with a submersible at the site of the Moskva, and there are no logical reasons that don’t involve nuclear weapons.


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