As the war in Ukraine stretches into its third month it is important to note there have been many surprising developments. The fact that Ukraine still is fielding its armed forces and successfully resisting is a victory in of itself. The massive amounts of aid and weapons flowing into the country has been a huge factor in Ukraine being able to hold out. Another form of western aid that has been critical in Ukraine’s defense but has gone largely unreported is the sharing of intelligence.
The United States has satellite surveillance covering the country and it is a not so well-kept secret that the US is providing intel on Russian troop movements and asset locations. There is unconfirmed speculation that this intel capability played a role in the sinking of the Russian Flagship Moskva earlier this month.
Ukraine claims that it destroyed the ship with R-360 Neptune anti-ship missiles. Russia denies this claim and says that the ship was destroyed by an onboard fire. Whichever way you lean, and I tend to think a war is more likely during wartime than a random fire, the story does not end there.
There are all sorts of questions that arise if there were indeed nuclear weapons on the Moskva. The most obvious one is why? If Russia is considering using tactical nukes in the conflict it would make sense to use one that is ship based. If Russia were suddenly to launch an ICMB or a missile from a submarine that might result in a miscalculation from the west, whereas a ship-based missile has a much closer range. Another possibility is that Russia just felt that the ship had effective countermeasures and that Ukraine did not have the capability to pose a credible threat to the ship. Either way, if there were nuclear weapons on the ship it is a startling escalation.
Another more benign explanation does exist. There are reports that the “true cross” was aboard. The true cross is a Christian relic that is allegedly a splinter from the cross that Jesus was crucified on. It would make sense that Russia would try and recover it rather than see an irreplaceable relic lost at sea.
Whatever the reason, let us hope the war in Ukraine ends quickly. When that happens we may be able to learn exactly what happened with the Moskva.