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​russian Varyag and Marshal Shaposhnikov Ships Sail Into the Red Sea for a few Reasons

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The Varyag missile cruiser / open source
The Varyag missile cruiser / open source

What is the geopolitical dynamics in one of the world’s busiest maritime corridors?!

The naval contingent, comprizing the Varyag missile cruiser and the Marshal Shaposhnikov frigate, successfully traversed the Bab el-Mandeb strait and entered the Red Sea. This update was relayed by the Pacific Fleet, emphasizing the group’s ongoing engagement in “various scenarios of countering the hypothetical adversary” while executing planned tasks as part of an extensive sea voyage.

Although the route taken by russian vessels may seem routine at first glance, it’s essential to grasp the larger context. Currently, the Bab el-Mandeb strait and the Red Sea are active theaters of conflict, with Yemeni Houthis attempting to target civilian ships. This maritime corridor constitutes a significant portion, accounting for 14% of global maritime traffic. In response, the United States, alongside NATO allies, has deployed a substantial force, including the USS D.D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) carrier strike group, to intercept Houthis’ missiles and drones using a range of defenses like Aster missiles and helicopters adept at countering UAVs.

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The Varyag missile cruiser Defense Express russian Varyag and Marshal Shaposhnikov Ships Sail Into the Red Sea for a few Reasons
The Varyag missile cruiser / open source

Moreover, the established communication and collaboration between russia and Iran against the Yemeni Houthis require no elaboration, especially as the Houthis have pledged not to target russian and Chinese vessels. Prior to entering the Red Sea, Varyag and Marshal Shaposhnikov ships conducted joint exercises with Iran and China, underscoring a strategic alignment. Given the Red Sea’s congestion with numerous warships, russia is poised to monitor NATO actions and potentially relay information to the Houthis.

There’s a plausible trajectory suggesting the russian naval group might proceed to the Mediterranean Sea, possibly towards Syria, home to russian Tartus naval base. This parallels a previous visit in fall 2022 when the Varyag ship joined the Admiral Tributs large anti-submarine warfare ship at Tartus.

The Marshal Shaposhnikov frigate Defense Express russian Varyag and Marshal Shaposhnikov Ships Sail Into the Red Sea for a few Reasons
The Marshal Shaposhnikov frigate / open source

It’s notable that the Varyag is a sister ship (same project) to decommissioned Moskva cruiser of the Project 1164 Atlant. Currently, russia has only two operational ships of this project, with Marshal Ustinov serving in the Northern Fleet. The total inventory of missile cruisers stands at three, with the Pyotr Velikiy ship also in the Northern Fleet. The Marshal Shaposhnikov frigate represents a modernized variant of the Project 1155M, equipped with 16 vertical launchers for Kalibr and Oniks missiles, standing as the sole representative of its subclass.

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