Anyone remember the Russian submarine Kursk (K-141)? In the year 2000, it was severely damaged by an on board explosion and sank in relatively shallow water. All hands were lost.
(And yes, I know that Wikipedia is unreliable and should not be used as a reference. But it is the best brief encapsulation of the facts that I have found on this subject.)
Within days of the disaster, both the British and Norwegian military had offered the use of their underwater rescue teams. The Russians flatly refused, even though both of the foreign teams were probably the best trained and equipped in the world for retrieving crew from a stricken submarine. This proved to be a terrible mistake on the part of Russia, as budget woes since the fall of the USSR had caused maintenance to be cut back to the point that their own specialized rescue submersibles were no longer able to do the job.
What is more, then President Vladimir Putin found himself at the center of a great deal of negative PR. On vacation when informed of the disaster, he made the decision to continue relaxing while the rescue efforts started. It wasn’t until five days after the explosion that he made a public statement about the incident, lending to the impression that he was unconcerned about the lives of fellow Russians.
The humiliation of the Russian government was complete when it came to light that they didn’t even have the means to raise the wreckage from the sea floor! Two private Dutch companies had to do the work, making the initial refusal of help all the more poignant for the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives in the disaster.
I’m bringing up this bit of ancient history because I see some amazing parallels between the Kursk disaster, and the current problems with oil gushing from a damaged offshore well.
Most people interested in the subject already know about how President Obama went on multiple vacations, played a lot of golf and and attended many events to benefit his party, before he bothered to even travel to the Gulf for an extremely brief photo shoot.
Is this comparable to Putin’s continuing vacation when informed of the explosion on the Kursk? Not really, as it only took Putin five days to get into gear.
It seems that ships with oil skimming booms were available, as well as expertise in building sand barriers to protect delicate wetlands. But both the Obama administration and BP turned them down flat.
At least, they turned them down back then. Now that the problem has grown, not only in environment destroyed and dollars needed to be spent on a cleanup, Dutch help is most welcome.
To be fair, US maritime law prohibited Dutch ships from operating so close to our shores. The oil skimming booms owned by the Dutch government are being fitted to ships flying the American flag, a time consuming process. There was nothing keeping Dutch engineers from building sand barriers on US soil, however.
In the final analysis, the Kursk incident proved to be nothing more than a minor blip on Putin’s career. His efforts to build a stranglehold on the Russian government continued, and were so successful that he is essentially a dictator. Relaxing at a Black Sea dacha for five days while good men choked to death under the sea might have been a PR disaster, but it eventually came to nothing.
Something tells me that President Obama is hoping that the current oil spill will also fail to get him dirty.
(Hat tip to Glenn.)