NOOSA - The 7,000-tonne Russian training ship Perekop with 200 cadet sailors on board arrives in Port Moresby tomorrow for a three-day visit, the first time a Russian warship has visited Papua New Guinea.
And in Darwin, the Royal Australian Air Force base has been placed on a short period of “increased readiness” just in case.
Perekop is armed with anti-submarine rockets and anti-aircraft guns and is on a two-month training mission from its home port of Kronshtadt in northern Europe, where it is part of the Baltic Fleet.
Dr Euan Graham of the Lowy Institute told Primrose Riordan of The Australian newspaper that the diplomatic motivation behind the visit was unclear, considering the vessel had strayed from usual Russian naval routes.
“There is no sort of bristling military weaponry or capability … it’s really just a visiting of the flag.
Graham said Russia was keen to court countries that the West considered their partners.
“A poke in the eye for the United States — that’s the standard cynical interpretation for anything they would do down here,” he said.
“It may just be a fairly low-cost way of showing the flag, announcing that Russia is still present and operates globally ... is engaged and has an interest in areas that other countries might regard as their backyard.”
He told The Australian that PNG’s role as host to the APEC summit this year could also be behind the visit.
Perekop was built at Stettin shipyard in Poland and launched in 1976. Since then it has covered more than 640,000 km at sea, but this is its first visit to the Pacific.
The crew is normally 12 officers and 120 enlisted personnel but for training the ship also takes up to 30 instructors and 300 cadets.