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Russian Navy: Role and Missions

26.12.12
Text: Central Navy Portal, by Valery Valkov
"In ancient times Russia was quite courageous and brave but not armed enough for its location. As political proverb says, states without navies are single-handed, so our country had only one hand then".
Peter the Great


Underestimation of naval force for the country's development and insufficient attention to the Navy's problems always had grievous consequences for our Motherland.

Veterans of the Navy do remember 50's when further fate of Soviet Navy was open to question. The country had no scientifically grounded naval strategy, aircraft carriers were anathematized as "instrument of aggression", officers were retiring, and the Navy's strength was cutting down. The Cuban Missile Crisis changed the views. Standoff of the two superpowers became most noticeable at sea.

Obviously, only under a sound naval strategy it is possible to concretize directions for the Navy development, determine strategic tasks and substantiate forces needed for their accomplishment.

Soviet politico-military leadership determined the following tasks through the period of 1945-1991:

1945-1955 supporting of land troops at coastal theaters;
1955-1960 disruption of sea lanes;
1960-1970 destruction of opponent's naval strike groups and ground-based assets;
1970-1985 destruction of opponent's naval strike groups and ground-based assets;
1985-1991 destruction of opponent's naval strike groups and ground-based assets in retaliatory counter-strikes.

The then Soviet Navy Commander-in-Chief Admiral S. Gorshkov is rightfully considered the author of the only Soviet naval strategy developed in mid-60's. According to that strategy, Soviet Navy's nuclear forces were to be capable in cooperation with other branches to destroy (degrade) enemy land objects and similar forces in order to prevent nuclear attack upon the Soviet Union.

History proved that the Navy created in accordance with abovementioned strategy generally met demands and realities of the Cold War. Thanks to presence of Soviet naval forces, numerous conflicts and clashes were either prevented or considerably eased.

The present-day Russia inherited that mighty but outworn tool of the Cold War, the war which has fallen into oblivion.

Events of the recent two decades have dramatically changed geopolitical balance in global maritime activity. Those things had an extremely negative impact upon Russia's maritime capacity, its economic and military components and all interrelated elements like transport, fishing, naval, and scientific fleets, oceanology, various industrial sectors, basing and port infrastructure, highly qualified researchers, designers, engineers, technicians, and seafarers.

Number of sea accesses most significant for maritime shipping and, therefore, for national economy have considerably reduced, especially Baltic communication capability which is the shortest and cheapest way to contact with West European countries. Russia's maritime transport capacity at the Black Sea has been halved. About 50 percent of port infrastructure fell to other CIS countries. Almost 40 percent of Russia's foreign maritime commercial traffic is served by Baltic and Ukrainian ports. Portion of Russian export/import cargoes in Baltic ports is somewhat 70-80%; that brings those countries income exceeding 30% of their gross national product. Russia loses over $2 mln a year.

Those changes most negatively affected military component of maritime potential the Navy which availability characterizes real capability to maintain and protect Russia's interests in the World Ocean. Number of warships had sharply reduced, almost by 4 times. Difficulties of ship repair aggravated, the fleet's ageing process is growing, chronic underfinancing of the Navy mostly affects building of new ships.

Departmental approach to exploration of sea spaces and resources has inevitably led to contradictions and conflicts amid various sectors of maritime economy, types of maritime activities, regions of their basing, centers of infrastructure.

As a result, since 90's and up to the present time, Russia has been loosing its positions as a great seapower. Such state of Russia's maritime activity and, the main thing, lack of real steps to recover the country's posture in the World Ocean has led to increasing number of real and potential threats to Russia's national security at sea and coastal theaters.

The urgent need emerged to review role and missions of Russian Navy and, accordingly, to substantiate a "well-balanced fleet" (N.G. Kuznetsov).

Analysis of foreign experience shows that the basis for well-balanced development of any navy is appropriate course of external policy which influences on nature of armed forces, military doctrine, missions and role of a navy as a military branch. Building of a well-balanced navy should be financed with due regard to a country's economic capabilities. Scientifically grounded military doctrine is of great importance for correct solution of the well-balanced navy problem. Judging from the nature of potential war and condition of the world's leading navies, it must be understood at governmental level what kind of a navy the country should have, what missions it would accomplish (littoral or worldwide) and what part it would play in the national security system. Thus, a decision on the well-balanced navy should be made at political (governmental) level and stated in a country's military doctrine.

Therefore, protection and implementation of Russia's interests in the World Ocean requiring urgent practical realization for economic development and national security has recently become the object of focused attention of the Russian Government and the President.

It was correctly concluded that the basic reason for negative trends in Russia's maritime activity was underestimation of such activity for economic development and maintaining of national security, and the need for common governmental control over all kinds of sea-related activities.

Analysis of all those matters was essential, because marine economic sphere and military-strategic use of oceans are continuously expanding, maintaining and complementing each other. Maritime economy is increasingly turning into a multi-branch complex; all production and protection types within that system cooperate being united by the World Ocean.

Thus, protection and implementation of Russian national interests in the World Ocean should become one of the key priorities in the state policy requiring prompt realization for Russia's economic development and national security.

This primarily regards two interrelated problems. On the one hand, Russia must resolve contradictions, eliminate threats, maintain and conduct Russia's maritime activities by politico-diplomatic, economic, informational, and other non-military ways. On the other hand, Russia must have appropriate naval power and be able to use it to support the country's maritime activities.

Significance of the World Ocean for Russia's stable development, the need for protection of vital national interests, and the necessity to popularize marine culture have brought the sea-related matters to the level of a national problem and a matter of special importance.

This means that reanimation and development of Russia's sea power and its core component the Navy would be possible only if the government takes permanent, target-oriented, well-coordinated and continued maritime policy, just like foreign, internal, social, financial, agricultural, regional, military, and other policies, which is steadily pursued by all political departments.

The President, the Security Council, and the Government made landmark decisions this area (presidential decree "On improvement of maritime activity of the Russian Federation" issued on March 4, 2000; governmental resolution "On measures to improve maritime activity of the Russian Federation" issued on June 14, 2000; "Policy framework of Russian maritime activity up to 2010"; and "Maritime doctrine of the Russian Federation up to 2020"). The Marine Council was established which is an advisory board at the Russian Government. It was finally understood at the governmental level that the 21-st century would be the age of World Ocean and Russia must be prepared for that.

According to "Policy framework of Russian maritime activity up to 2010", basic missions of Russian Navy are:

- to deter use of military power or its threat against the Russian Federation and its allies at sea theaters, including participation in strategic nuclear;
- to protect interests of the Russian Federation in the World Ocean by means of warfare;
- to keep naval capacity of the Russian Federation ready to be used for intended purpose;
- to control activities of foreign naval forces and politico-military alliances in adjacent seas as well as in other regions worldwide important for security of the Russian Federation;
- to identify, warn, and prevent military threats, repulse aggressions against the Russian Federation and its allies at sea theaters, participate in actions aimed at prevention and neutralization of local conflicts at early stages;
- to buildup forces at any region worldwide where potential threat to national security of the Russian Federation threatening may come from;
- to provide protection of state boundaries of the Russian Federation in underwater domain;
- to prepare waters of the World Ocean and littoral zone of the Russian Federation as a sphere of possible warfare;
- to create and maintain conditions for safe economic and other activities of the Russian Federation within its territorial waters, exclusive economic zone, on continental shelf, and remote regions worldwide;
- to maintain naval presence of the Russian Federation in the World Ocean, demonstrate colors and military power of Russia, participate in international military, peacekeeping and humanitarian actions meeting interests of the Russian Federation.


In fact, these obscure and indefinite formulations do not define specific tasks of the Navy at any theater of operations. The only practical implementation of current Navy command's views on condition and certain ways of development is the Russian Navy Construction and Development Plan 2001-2005 and further periods.

Are the adopted statements adequate to realities of the present-day global policy?

It should be emphasized that the leading part in realization of current American military strategy is given to the US Navy, and that is stated in all scenarios of anticipated wars. A navy is commonly considered the most combat-worthy, versatile and survivable branch capable to accomplish strategic missions not only at ocean and sea theaters but also at coastal areas of warfare.

Navies can be effectively used at peacetime and in wars. Considering the present-day state and planned innovative technologies of the 21-st century ships, US Navy contains the basis for permanent strategic threat to any region worldwide. This is due to the fact that about 70 percent of the world's population and somewhat 80 percent of global economic capacity including state contingency control centers are located within the reach of US Navy's high-precision weapons (500-km). For instance, if one projects this assertion on the Russia's North, it is 60% of the territory, 8% of the population, 80% of natural resources, 25% of national income, and 75% of the country's currency earnings. The trend of turning warships into platforms for delivering strikes upon the whole depth of enemy's defense is clearly seen in shipbuilding programs of leading sea powers. That inevitably raises significance of naval forces both as a branch within armed forces and as a tool of foreign policy.

For any country, one of the most important elements of foreign policy is protection of national interests.

In Russia, such national interests supposed to be protected by the Navy are:

- providing the Russian Federation with assured access to resources and space of the World Ocean, elimination of discriminatory actions against it or its allies by particular states or politico-military alliances;
- non-admission of dominance of any states or politico-military alliances in those regions of the World Ocean that are important for realization of interests of the Russian Federation, especially in adjacent seas;
- settling of current international legal problems of the World Ocean use on terms beneficial for Russia;
- focusing of international efforts on peaceful exploration and use of the World Ocean;
- development and conservancy of natural resources of the World Ocean for purposes of social and economic development of the Russian Federation;
- establishment of sea (river) transport lanes and ensuring their effective functioning;
- providing Russia with favorable conditions for participation in international division of labor; - maintaining of appropriate scientific, technological, industrial, and workforce capacity needed for naval activities.


In this context, following threats to Russia's military security at sea theaters should be outlined as well:

- accelerating of naval efforts by leading seapowers, tipping the balance of naval forces to disfavor of the Russian Federation;
- improvement of combat capabilities of leading seapowers, including destruction of assets all across the Russian territory at all strategic directions; mounting of 80% of high-precision air attack means (sea- and air-based cruise missiles) on naval platforms;
- restriction of access of the Russian Federation to resources and spaces of the World Ocean and main international sea traffic lanes especially in the Baltic and the Black seas by means of economic, political, and legal pressure;
- intensive growth of illegal extraction of marine natural resources of the Russian Federation, rising of foreign influence on maritime activities of Russia;
- an array of complicated law problems regarding legal status of the Caspian, the Azov, the Black, the Barents, the Bering, and the Okhotsk seas; territorial claims to the Russian Federation by a number of adjacent countries.


Taking all the foregoing into account, strategic mission of Russian Navy in the peacetime is creation and maintaining of favorable environment reliably safeguarding Russia's national security and protection of all national interests in ocean regions, sea zones and adjacent continental areas.

In case of crisis situation or threat in the peacetime, the Russian Navy's mission will be participation in effective military deterrence measures aimed at easing of tension and prevention of an aggression against Russia and its allies; those measures must be taken alongside with political, diplomatic, and economic actions.

In wartime, role of Russian Navy lies in making a maximal contribution to actions of Russian armed forces aimed at fastest stopping of aggression against the Russian Federation and its allies on the most favorable terms.

In peacetime, Russian Navy performs the following operational-strategic tasks:

- participation in global and regional strategic deterrence along with other branches in order to maintain Russia's military security;
- countering threats and protection of Russia's national interests by military means in key regions worldwide and adjacent inshore areas beyond national jurisdiction;
- providing favorable conditions and safe maritime activities of the Russian Federation in the territorial waters, economic zone, and continental shelf.


Ways of Russian Navy's use in peacetime are as follows:

- presence in key regions to carry out Russia's naval activities;
- deployment;
- patrolling;
- maintaining of favorable operational environment;
- special actions and operations.

In case of crisis or pre-war period, Russian Navy performs the following operational-strategic tasks:

- participation in strategic deterrence within nuclear forces, getting prepared for effective operations when outbreak of aggression;
- preparation of general-purpose naval forces for effective operations in wartime and participation in conventional deterrence;
- maintaining of favorable operational environment and Russia's safe maritime activities, opposition to threats, protection of Russia's national interests by military means in key regions worldwide and adjacent inshore areas beyond national jurisdiction;
- timely preparations for shifting from peacetime to wartime, building up of the Navy's combat and mobilization readiness, and bringing the Navy into highest degrees of readiness sand mobilization deployment in case of further crisis escalation.


In peacetime, Russian Navy carries out demonstration activities, and participates in peace-enforcement operations held by Russian armed forces.

In wartime, Russian Navy will accomplish the following operational-strategic tasks:

- participation in strategic deterrence within nuclear forces at opening stage of war and inflicting of appropriate defeat to an enemy with further changeover to use of nuclear weapons;
- participation of general-purpose naval forces within armed forces in deterrence of further escalation of aggression and peace enforcement activities;
- defeating of enemy naval groups in close and remote sea zones, assistance to other branches operating at coastal theaters;
- maintaining of favorable operational environment and Russia's safe maritime activities in close sea zone.


Ways of Russian Navy's use are:

- initial and further combat activities of fleets (under naval operation);
- combat operations of fleets aimed at destruction of enemy naval groups and other key assets;
- initial and further combat activities of flotillas;
- combat operations of flotillas.


Introduction of abovementioned provisions into the text of new Russian military doctrine will determine role of Russian Navy in maintaining of national security.

It must be emphasized in the "Principles of Military Policy" section that the Navy as a branch of armed forces plays the key role in maintaining of Russia's military security in vital sea regions.

Without Navy, it is impossible to speak about protection of national interests and sovereignty. Countering of threats and assured security of national interests of Russia and its allies in the World Ocean must be based on active naval capability of the Russian Federation.