Russians ready warships for Gulf
By Joe Baker, Senior Editor
Russia is planning a counter move in the worsening Mideast crisis.
According to The Guardian, a British newspaper, Russia has put three of its warships on standby to head for the Persian Gulf in the next month to protect Russian national interests if America invades Iraq.
Central command has ordered Russias Pacific fleet to ready two cruisers and a fuel tanker for immediate deployment to the Mideast.
That move will increase tensions between Moscow and Washington because both covet Iraqs oilfields. Cruisers Marshal Shaposhnikov and Admiral Panteleyev would be used to protect Russian interests in the Gulf if the clash between the U.S. and Iraq escalates.
Both vesselsarmed with missiles and reconnaissance gearhave been directed to be ready to go late this month and early in February.
Russias largest oil company, Lukoil, lost a very large contract with Baghdad to develop the West Qurna oilfield. It was canceled last month after the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein reportedly learned Russia had been negotiating with Husseins opposition.
Military analysts said Russian defense of national interests might also reflect the militarys desire to maintain surveillance on both sides in any conflict.