The story of that Russian submarine that was apparently deliberately scuttled by its crew - who are now being lionized in Russia by President Putin as having averted a global catastrophe - continues to get stranger and stranger. I have to admit that when the story first appeared, I had to fight the urge to blog about it immediately, because it seemed so strange. After all, within the time frame of the incident, Presidents Putin and Trump, and U.S. Vice President Pence, cancelled meetings, and we were told Mr. Putin scheduled a meeting with the Russian Defense Minister (General Shoigu), and one can only assume that the Trump-Pence cancellations were due to the same incident. The story - and the speculations - quickly grew, however, so tempted as I was to blog about it a few days ago when the story broke, I decided to wait.
What has now emerged are very few details, and a mountain of speculations, and I want to review them here, and to add my own high octane speculation to the mix. This review is by no means comprehensive, but does represent a good cross-section of the articles on the incident that everyone has been kind enough to send. A big thank you to all of you who did so.
The Planetary Catastrophe Story:
Russia's version of the story was encapsulated by this Zero Hedge article, where we're informed that the crew of the lost submarine managed to avert a planetary catastrophe:
As noted in the article, the Russian government is not saying exactly what the nature of that "planetary catastrophe" was, nor is it forthcoming about the mission the submarine was conducting. We'll get back to that.
Shortly after this, the Russian government admitted that Defense Minister Shoigu had actually traveled to the far eastern base, and confirmed that the submarine experienced a catastrophic fire. Notably, the following article lists the names of the lost crew members, most of whom, it is to be noted, were officers and indeed captains.
Then more details emerged that indicate that the submarine was perhaps nuclear powered, and that it was a "spy submarine" with several high-ranking Russian naval officers aboard, and that the submarine was on some sort of secret mission, one speculation being that it was mapping the ocean floor around the Bering Strait:
The problem with this explanation of course is the apparent absurdity of the mission. As "B." put it in an email to me, why would one send a sophisticated deep-sea spy submarine - full of high ranking naval officers no less - to conduct depth measurements which could easily have been conducted by any number of civilian vessels available to the Russians?
2. The "Internet Cable Cutting Mission" Hypothesis:
One speculation that quickly emerged in the alternative media (and even gained some minor play on the major media in radio talk shows), was that the real mission of the submarine was to cut internet cables:
As the reader might have guessed, I have no difficulty with the idea that underwater internet cables have been carefully mapped by any number of nations (the usual suspects), including the Russians. That's not my difficulty here. My difficulty is the idea that the mission of the submarine was to cut them, not map them. Cutting them would be construed as hostile action, and would call forth some sort of retaliatory response from the West. And as if that's not enough, there was even
3. The "U.S.-Russian submarines in secret fire-fight" Theory:
Here the story turns murky:
First reports reaching DEBKAfile’s military sources say that a US submarine intercepted a Russian nuclear sub in American waters opposite Alaska. The Russian sub escorting the nuclear submarine responded with a Balkan 2000 torpedo and scuttled the US vessel. Urgent consultations in both the White House and the Kremlin were taking place on Tuesday night. US Vice President Mike Pence called off an appearance in New Hampshire after being recalled to Washington for a conference called by President Donald Trump without explanation.
Russian President Vladimir Putin cancelled an engagement and headed for the Kremlin to confer with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and military chiefs, after learning that 14 submariners died in a fire that broke out on a nuclear-powered “experimental submarine in Russian waters.”
The problem here is the usual "anonymous sources" problem; we have no way of checking the assertion that some sort of firefight was involved between Russian and American vessels. However, there has been no news report of any damaged or lost U.S. naval vessels. This may or may not be significant, since in the case of an actual firefight, it is conceivable that news of it might be deliberately suppressed precisely in order to avoid dangerous escalation of the incident.
And last but not least, there is
4. The Doomsday Cobalt-Bomb Theory:
The key to this speculation is that a mere submarine fire, even a breech in the reactor core, would not qualify as a "planetary catastrophe," which when those words are parsed, lead to the idea that perhaps the submarine was on a mission to plant a massive 100-200 megaton themonuclear device on the ocean floor:
Among other reports we've seen (not verified so grain of salt) is that seven of the dead were captains, meaning whatever they were up to was pretty important.
The fact the Russians are repairing and returning the boat to its mission would also point in that direction.
So what was the submarine or its submersible - capable of 20,000 foot dives - carrying?
The best guess I've seen is a high-yield, 100 - 200 megaton, cobalt thermonuclear bomb.
A bomb that size, two to four times more powerful than the biggest ever exploded, the Soviet Tsar Bomba (limited to 50 MT to allow the delivery plane a chance to escape) a bomb that size is awful enough but if it is encased in cobalt it becomes the most lethal munition ever built. (Boldface emphasis in the original)
And with that, my own high octane speculation begins. A radiological bomb such as is being described would lead to the death of the northern Pacific ocean, and perhaps over time to much of the rest of the world's oceans. But the intention of such a device - first popularized in Stanley Kubrick's dark comedy classic, Dr. Strangelove - is to create a fallout cloud which would float around the world and cause massive death from radiation poisoning. The ocean floor is obviously not the most optimal deployment for such a bomb. The explosion itself, however, could conceivably set off earthquakes in the Pacific rim if properly positioned, or create massive tsunamis and flooding of coastal areas, or both. The idea of using massive undersea explosions to do both is not new and in fact was studied by Australia, New Zealand, and the USA during World War Two as a means of softening up Japan prior to an actual boots-on-the-ground invasion of the Japanese home islands. With this speculation in mind, it's worth noting that the article itself raises the same issue in a round-about way:
More recently, June 14, 2016 The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Volume 72, 2016 - Issue 4: Security at sea, and under it published: Would Russia’s undersea “doomsday drone” carry a cobalt bomb?
Following the November 2015 “leak” of a classified slide purporting to show a Russian nuclear-armed and nuclear-powered drone intended to create long-lasting “zones of extensive radiological contamination,” both Russian and Western observers have suggested that Moscow may be developing a cobalt bomb.
While the underwater detonation of a massive cobalt or “conventional” nuclear weapon might create zones of long-lasting contamination, Russian decision makers would have little confidence that these areas would be in the intended locations, undermining the strategic case for such attacks. These findings suggest that the Kremlin is not pursuing radiological “doomsday bombs,” even though the nuclear-powered drone on the slide seems to be a real research project. (Italicized and italicized-boldface emphasis added, boldface emphasis in the original)
In other words, forget about the cobalt; if the goal was to deploy a massive thermonuclear device on the ocean floor, the probable aim is to create instabilities in the earthquake-prone region, and floods.
Under such a scenario, it is perhaps possible that there may have been an attempt by American submarines to prevent that deployment. But again, if so, then there is no corroboration, as no losses of U.S. naval personnel or vessels, or of damaged U.S. naval vessels, have been reported. All we have by way of "corroboration" is the suspicious cancellation of appearances by Vice President Pence to attend a meeting called by President Trump. There's little doubt in my mind that these meetings are directly related to the Russian submarine incident; but mere meetings do not corroborate the "firefight" scenario.
It is intriguing to note that the sudden spate of earthquakes in California was more or less coincidental in time to the submarine incident, and some of those earthquakes have reportedly hit the secret military facilities at China Lake.
So one wonders if, in fact, the two stories are related in some fashion, and - if the "firefight" scenario be true - whether some other actor may be on the stage, trying to "start something" between Russia and the U.S.
But there is one telltale indicator that this incident was much more important and significant than meets the eye, and that there are aspects of this story that are being deliberately withheld from the public, and that telltale indicator is the almost complete and total silence on the US side of things about what was discussed at those meetings called by Mr. Trump. Russia, at least, told us that an unspecified "planetary catastrophe" had been averted, and that the submarine was on a secret mission of some sort.
The U.S.A. is not talking about it at all.
This is one of those stories to "file away" and remember, because I strongly suspect in years to come, odd details will emerge that may cast some light on the incident.
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