Vietnam recently agreed to purchase six Kilo-class submarines from Russia, concluding discussions that had been in the works for a number of years. In an interesting twist, the project, announced this April, calls for Russia to complete construction of six submarines that were once planned for service in the Venezuelan Navy, and to instead turn the vessels over to Vietnam at an undisclosed date. This announcement is likely to have repercussions on at least four continents. In Venezuela, for example, the termination of the deal signifies a realization that falling oil prices and economic problems are throwing a wrench into Hugo Chavez's once proud dream of fielding a navy and military that might someday be capable of serving as more than just an irritant to the United States. This Russian deal with Vietnam is surely a relief to U.S. Navy planners, however, as it leaves six fewer quiet diesel submarines prowling potentially hostile South American waters. In Europe, meanwhile, the project is a significant step that allows Russian Admiralty Shipyards in St.
By Eric Wertheim