The Russian military has begun to re-examine its naval force structure following last year's conflict with Georgia, and the lack of a large amphibious assault ship is chief among its most pressing requirements. A dramatic shift in how the Russian Navy acquires some of its vessels may be on the horizon, however, as the Kremlin has indicated interest in purchasing a foreign-built large-deck amphibious ship. This presents an interesting dilemma for a nation that has not been known to look outside its own defense industrial base when purchasing major weapons, but must now face the reality of a lethargic domestic shipbuilding capability. Other than the United States, the nations considered most qualified to build large amphibious ships are all strong U.S. allies, and with the exception of South Korea and Japan, they are also members of NATO, including France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
By Eric Wertheim