Naval power Russia (part 1)

Gerald Böhm/Matthias Wasinger


Like in many other states, in Russia, too, different political systems have dominated: Federal principalities, the centralistic czar system, the socialistic Soviet state, and now the Russian Federation of today as a semi-president federal republic. Despite this multitude of political systems there always existed certain constants. Russia’s relevance as a state for Europe is caused by its geographic vicinity to the largest-scale country of the world. The economic interdependencies are of eminent importance, too, for Austria as well, as Russia is the largest exporter of energy into Europe. These two factors imply that on the long run the security policy of the Russian Federation will be of special relevance for the states of Europe. The objective of the authors of this essay was to investigate the naval strategy of the eastern neighbour of the European Union in the course of time, to find causes for their effectiveness, to depict commonalities, and finally to sum up the effects of history in the 21st century. According to the authors it is necessary to look back to the early stages of Russian maritime warfare, beginning with the Warägian princes and ending with Russia’ naval forces of today. Whenever convenient, acting persons are mentioned, such as the czar Peter the Great, or the great Naval Admiral Sergej Gorschkow, and their way of thought is explained. Not until the genesis of the Russian naval forces is comprehensively apprehended it is possible to perceive their ratio of action of today and even to anticipate fields of action in future. Thus, time and again single persons are put into focus in the course of the considerations, as they were formative for the intensity of maritime effectivity. The establishment of the Red Navy is to be assessed as a remarkable overall national act of force, although it has never been as relevant as the establishment of the land and air forces. As with Peter I., the strategic orientation altered with the vision of the Leader Stalin towards a Blue Water navy which can be used in all oceans of the world. Nevertheless, the Soviet Fleet has never neglected the coastal areas and the inland waters. The latter has been underpinned by numerous strong ships and boats for the deployment on rivers and lakes. The fleet as a means of projecting power on all four oceans has been realised, and Russia attempted to reduce its geo-strategic disadvantage by building four separate fleets. The geo-strategic disadvantage in the north was diminished by the construction of the Stalin Channel. In the beginning, the Soviet Union tried to remedy the lack of technological know-how by additional purchase from abroad, and afterwards by establishing technological arms research of its own.