Monday, May 19, 2008

The Stolen Submarine

by Pa Rock
Seeker of Truth

Nine years ago while visiting Russia with a group of social workers, our tour bus pulled up next to a beautiful modern building that was very out-of-place in the gray, monotonous architecture of Moscow. I asked our tour guide, Cornelius from Great Britain, about that building. "That's the headquarters of Yukos," he explained, "the largest oil company in Russia." He said that Yukos had been owned by the state during the socialist years, but now it was independently owned. "How had that happened?" I asked. He explained that after the fall of the Soviet government, many state assets had simply been appropriated by the people who had been charged with running them for the government. Moscow today, not surprisingly, has the largest per capita population of billionaires on earth.

(Things may be changing. Last year Yukos was seized by the Putin government who had political issues with its "owner." It was later sold at auction to Gazprom, an oil conglomerate that is controlled by the government.)

My friend, Andy Cleeton, had been with me on that trip to Russia, and last week she was with me again when we visited San Diego. One of the attractions that we took in during the California trip was the Maritime Museum (actually several vessels) at the harbor in San Diego. One of the vessels was a Soviet B-39 Attack Submarine, much like the one that was featured in the movie "The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!" As we worked our way through the length of the submarine, I remarked to Andy that I was sure the submarine was stolen.

Back on shore, I had a visit with the lady who was running the souvenir shop for the Maritime Museum. "Hey," I inquired innocently, "Where did you get that sub?"

"We bought it from Vancouver." She replied without blinking.

"Where did Vancouver get it?" I prodded.

"I believe they bought it from Seattle." She was starting to get a little edgy.

"And where did Seattle get it?"

"Well," she replied with some finality, "It obviously came from Russia."

"Yes, it's a Russian sub. I'm sure that it came from Russia. My question is this: how did Russia lose control of it?

And then she blinked. "Well, I don't know exactly, but I've heard that a Russian Naval officer may have sold it after the fall of the Soviet Union."

You bet your sweet bippy he did!

No comments: