Updated: Jun 8, 2020
Reports are emerging that the entire crew of the Orel, a Project 949A Oscar II Class Guided Missile Submarine, has been quarantined at the Zapadnaya Litsa naval base located in Murmansk Oblast, Russia. According to B-Port, a Russian news outlet, a second submarine moored near the Orel has also been quarantined due to reports that crew may have also been exposed to COVID-19. Zapadnaya Litsa also serves as Russia's Northern Fleet headquarters.
The Russian Navy is faced with the same set of issues being encountered by the United States Navy due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Testing aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), USS Boxer (LHD-4), USS Ralph Johnson (DDG-114), and USS Coronado (LCS-4) have revealed each of these vessels have several cases of COVID-19, with the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the most serious situation with 36 reported cases.
While the safety of the crews of US naval vessels is extremely important, the risk of losing several valuable power projection assets in such a short period of time should be extremely concerning. If American operational readiness falls and naval movements are suspended, the deterrence naval power has granted the United States may slowly erode, resulting in foreign nations challenging our strategic objectives and targeting our national interests. It would be wise to remember, however, COVID-19 targets everyone equally, regardless of nationality. If the United States Navy is experiencing operational delays due to the virus, most likely so to is an adversary or peer competitor.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Army, Department of Defense, or the United States Government.