Why Russia needs a global naval presence

Daredevil

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In recent weeks, the Russian authorities have made repeated statements about restoring the country's global naval presence, which was lost following the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was announced that a permanent task force fleet would be stationed in the Mediterranean, and Navy Commander Admiral Viktor Chirkov stated that similar formations could also appear in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Talks have been held with Vietnam on the use of the former Soviet navy logistics base at Kamran.

The new phase of Russia's naval expansion is nothing on the scale of the Soviet fleet that once patrolled the world's seas. The Mediterranean flotilla will consist of just 5-6 ships, utterly incapable of confronting the U.S. Navy. At Kamran, the best case scenario will see the appearance of a logistical support point, whereas in Soviet times it was a fully-fledged naval base complete with a powerful defense system and permanently stationed troops.

Instead, it points to a different manifestation of globalization. Russia is just one of a long line of second- or even third-tier countries striving to establish an open-sea fleet. Besides China, which claims to be the world's second superpower, naval programmes are being developed by India, which is promoting the concept of an expeditionary fleet capable of operating anywhere in the world. South Korea plans to build an ocean fleet by 2020, Brazil's National Defense Strategy 2008 contained a programme to build an open-sea fleet and Japan is quietly but effectively establishing a naval force. The desire to build an ocean fleet has also been expressed at various times by Iran and, somewhat earlier, Thailand (owner of the only aircraft carrier in South-East Asia).

The drive to create an open-sea fleet is the result of globalization — similar in many ways to the naval arms race at the turn of the 20th century. Back then, more than a century ago, globalization was associated with the acquisition of colonies and semi-colonies by the European powers and the US. In those days, the main threat to the interests of a great power came from rival powers. To protect colonies and transport links, they needed a powerful ocean-going battle fleet. An under-strength open-sea fleet made no sense, because it would have been destroyed in a direct confrontation with the enemy. That narrowed the number of participants in the naval race to a handful of the most economically robust nations.

Today's version of globalization has ditched the idea of colonies and zones of privileged interests. Even economically second-rate powers, such as Russia and India, can have multi-billion dollar investments and thousands-strong colonies of citizens on other continents. The main threats to the physical safety of the Diasporas and investments do not come from opposing armies, but from uprisings, social unrest, terrorism, piracy, and other activity by non-state actors.

The exorbitant price of direct military conflict between the major powers means that even mutually hostile countries employ tactics such as economic sanctions, blockades, and other non-military measures.

In these circumstances, a compact fleet capable of operating in open water is becoming a necessary tool for any large state with global economic interests. Developed countries in pursuit of their own global commercial interests either have their own open-sea fleet or are part of a military alliance with a country that does. All developing countries with global economic ambitions are currently building seaworthy fleets.

It is not about attritional rivalry with other powers, rather the creation of relatively compact formations able to deliver combat aircraft, cruise missiles, and special forces to any point on the surface of the globe, as well as to evacuate thousands of citizens from a hot spot. Such a fleet should be able to protect commercial shipping lanes from pirates and ensure the delivery of goods to any country against which unfair (from a Russian perspective) sanctions have been imposed.

In the absence of vessels specially equipped for such operations, for the time being Russia will make do with its Soviet legacy. Nevertheless, even now the Russian fleet is capable of carrying out continuous and long-term anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and maintaining a prolonged presence off the coast of Syria, thereby reducing the likelihood of direct military intervention from outside. Of course, any pretensions that Russia's new ocean fleet will rival the U.S. and its allies should be nipped in the bud immediately; Russia's attempts to confront the traditional maritime powers have usually ended in tears.

The author is an expert at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies.

First published in Russian in Vedomosti.

Why Russia needs a global naval presence | Russia & India Report
 

W.G.Ewald

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...naval programmes are being developed by India, which is promoting the concept of an expeditionary fleet capable of operating anywhere in the world.
Is there a thread on this subject?

The Indian Navy's New 'Expeditionary' Outlook
India's defence policies and strategic outlook have evolved over the years, but nowhere has this been more visibly perceptible than with its maritime policy. Having languished for long as the 'Cinderella' service - garnering a piffling share of the defence budget - the Indian Navy, today, is a fast growing enterprise, gathering assets, capability and experience at a rapid pace. The long list of the Indian navy's existing and planned inventory underscores the urgency with which the service has sought to renew itself. After acquiring top-of-the-line ships and submarines – including its latest aircraft carrier, INS Vikramadityaii, the Indian Navy (IN) is set to acquire airborne maritime surveillance assets, shore-based and carrier-based aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles. The operational revamp is not just confined to accreting combat assets. The service is upfront and upbeat about its plans to upgrade small outposts on island territories and refurbishing existing facilities.

In July this year, the Indian navy commissioned its latest naval base in the Indian Ocean. The new outpost, christened INS Baaz, is an air station located at Campbell Bay on the southernmost fringe of the Andaman and Nicobar Islandsiii. The base is a valuable addition to India strategic maritime assets, not just in terms of its crucial geographical position overlooking the Strait of Malacca and the Six degree channel, but also as a forward operating base and logistics hub for Indian Naval ships.

The commissioning of the Baaz" is another link in a chain of evidence affirming the new strategic 'heft' in India's maritime policymaking and operational thinking. In the past few years, the Indian navy has demonstrated a vision for itself in the Indian Ocean and regions beyond. It has actively pursued modern platforms, cutting edge technology and all-round assets that can be deployed in both tactical situations and the pursuance of long-term economic and security objectives.
 

W.G.Ewald

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Of course, any pretensions that Russia's new ocean fleet will rival the U.S. and its allies should be nipped in the bud immediately; Russia's attempts to confront the traditional maritime powers have usually ended in tears.
I assume that conclusion excludes the doctrine on use of Russian ballistic missile submarines.

Borey-class nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarine Yuri Dolgorukiy will provide Russia with effective nuclear deterrent : Voice of Russia

Professor Thomas Fedyszyn, the Chair of the Europe-Russia Studies Group in the US Naval War College, suggests that the development of 'Boreys' is the first crucial step in Russia's attempts to modernize and revitalize its aging military-industrial complex. As a first move towards modernization, the production of new submarines is likely to encourage construction of other sophisticated machines which will be able to protect Moscow's economic interests in the Arctic.Equipped with the most advanced weaponry, the new submarine will also provide Russia with an effective nuclear deterrence capability. Crucially, while the might of the new submarine cannot be underestimated, the expert argues that for the moment 'Boreys' should not be viewed as Moscow's bid for naval dominance nor a threat to the NATO.
 

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