Last month, in the week leading up to Remembrance Day, Vancouverites were treated to the odd sight of two warships tied up at Canada Place: the Canadian destroyer, The Algonquin and, much more bizarrely, the missile cruiser Varyag, the flagship of Russia’s Pacific Fleet. The sight was so outlandish not only because it was the maiden visit of warship to the port, but also because the Varyag bristled on all sides with huge missile tubes.
As I stood gawking over the rail one lunch hour, busily snapping pics along with dozens of other tourists, I couldn’t help marvelling how totally out of place this menancing Cold War relic looked next to the white sails of Canada Place and in the relatively peaceful confines of Vancouver’s harbour. “Does Varyag’s Captain know Vancouver is ‘Nuclear Free Zone,’?” I wondered.
After a bit of Google-ing, I quickly learned that the ship’s days of packing nukes are long over. Fair enough. Apparently, its chief duty is now to toodle around the North Pacific and create closer ties with other navies, including Canada’s. Also all fine and well, but I also can’t help wondering if Russia also relished a little show of strength on Varyag’s visit. After all, Russian’s Arctic ambitions are as well known as those of any nation, including our own. (See my last post, Harper Makes Shipbuilding History, for more on that).
I have to say I felt relieved when Varyag pull up anchored. Once it and its plume of amazingly noxious exhast faded on the horizon (sorry, but apparently the Russians have zero environmental standards for their navy), I felt relieved. Port Metro, Victoria, Gregor Robertson can we maybe think twice before allowing warships on useless missions darken our harbour?
The detachment of Pacific Fleet vessels took course for Vancouver on October 15 after the Russian-US military exercises “Pacific Eagle-2011.”