Soviet Sea Power in Northern Waters


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During the last 15—20 years much more attention has been paid to the idea that military means have consequences for international relations even without being used in violent conflicts, i. Concerning strategic atomic weapons, especially in the Unites States there have been developed very sophisticatd theories of deterrence, and theories about the importance of both superpowers possession of second-strike capabilities. In the situation of strategic parity or balance of terror which has developed since the beginning of the 60s, special attention has been paid to the significance of conventional military means.

Researches have pointet out that naval power in particular has a flexibility and a mobility that makes it particularly applicable for the promotion of political goals in times of peace 1. Or, as it is often expressed, between the capacity for influence and the perceived possibilities for the use of military means in specific situations. However the more specified character of this connection has been particularly difficult to fix. It can be very difficult to estimate the military forces of states and the possible effects of their use in violent conflicts.

But it is even more difficult to go on to theorize about the meaning of military wepons in times of peace. But even if it is very difficult accurately to evaluate those consequences, it is nevertheless very im- portnt to consider them now and in the future. The purpose of this article is to look at the following: 1. The interests of the Soviet Union in the Danish straits; 2 2. Political consequences up till now of the changing naval behaviour — if any can be ascertained; 4. Possible consequences in the future both in normal peacetime and in crises.

ARCTIS | Northern Sea Route and Jurisdictional Controversy

In this view it is shaped by the defensive outlock prevailing in the Soviet military and in the Soviet leadership. Forward deployment is still primarily considered as a rection to the actions of other sates, i. This interpretation stresses the fact that the Soviet Union still lacks the carrier task force necessary to project power far from the Soviet Union. This creates the desired background for a political use of the navy in peacetime. Put differently, there has been a tendency to forget that here too there is strategic interaction: the observers and researchers have become actors.

The question is, if similar considerations are relevant for an analysis of Soviet naval policy on the regional level, i. Put another way: will a discussion in itself of possible peacetime consequences of the naval behaviour of the three WP-countries create the desired background for a political use of the naval strength. It is principally relevant to consider such arguments. The perceptions of decision makers may not be so easy to influence.

At any rate an eventual critique must concern the reliability or validity of an evaluation of Soviet naval strength, and not that it should be unfortunate, altogether, to consider this problem. Soviet interests. The Soviet interest in the Danish straits is a funtion of the expectations of the importance of the straits in military conflicts on different levels.

Because of its composition compared to the three other Soviet navies, the Soviet Baltic fleet must be assumed to have relevance solely on the conventional level, not for conflicts or deterrence of conflicts on the strategic nuclear level. However, six Soviet Golf-2 submarines were transferred to the Baltic Sea from the Northern navy during the autumn These were built —62, and were the first Soviet submarines built to carry ballistic missiles. Each Golf submarine is armed with three nuclear missiles with a range up to nautical miles, i.

The missiles in the Golf submarines are not counted in the SALT-1 agreement on limitations of offensive missiles due to their relatively old age and short range, and they are likely soon to be replaced by more modern systems. The straits are unlikely to gain strategic importance on this account. In estimating the conventional situation in the Baltic Sea, observers have underlined the naval superiority of the WP, and the significant build-up of amphibious forces. Amphibious forces include a Soviet and a Polish division, in all about Almost half of this force can be carried in one lift by landing vessels to the Danish islands.

It gives the WP a good possibility for a surprise action perhaps supported by paratroops to control the straits or parts of Denmark. Denmark is inside the range of the landbased tactical Soviet air force, and hence the traditional Soviet naval weakness — the lack of carriers — is without relevance in the estimation of the situation in the Baltic. However, these visits are becoming rarer because the Parliaments of Netherland and Canada raised doubts over the interests of the two countries in operations in the Baltic.

Units from the U. These visits have very little effect on the naval balance in the area, but they do have an important symbolic value. The constant preoccupation with the problems of the central front at expense of the problems of the flanks could also lead to a lack of interest in the Baltic. The Soviet Union has interests in the straits as one of the few exits to the oceans from Russia and as a barricade against the traditional seapowers entrance into an area of importance for her. The straits can be made into a barricade by a much more limited action. The importance of the straits as a passage in a conventional conflict is estimated in different ways by the different observers.

Since the number of warships through the straits have fallen; from this it might be deduced that the Soviet Baltic navy primarily has tasks in the Baltic. It would then follow that the straits will be less important in a military conflict. However it seems probable that at least a part of the Soviet navy in the North Sea and the Atlantic is based in the Baltic. Behaviour in execises during the last ten years confirms this. The Soviet Union might then try to secure control of the straits in a rapid surpriseaction, particularly if a conventional conflict of longer duration was expected.

But in such a case the Soviet Union might try to take the ships through the straits before the outbreak of hostilities. This possibility is increasingly relevant, because technological development nowadays is favourable to the defense.

Laying mines to block the straits would be easy and it might be costly to force a way through. This possibility is clearly attractive to the Soviet Union and a greater danger than any actions related to Soviet interests in securing the straits as exits to the oceans. Routine deployments. What is the normal behaviour of the three WP navies in the Baltic Sea, and in what ways has it changed in recent years?

Soviet Navy

First, there has been a significant expansion of the supervision of the entrances to the Baltic through the Danish straits. This began in and by the two first permanent patrols were established — a Soviet south of Trelleborg in Sweden and an East-German in the Fehmarn Belt. In a Polish patrol between Rugen and the Danish island of Moen was added.

With these patrols the WP is capable of controlling all navigation through the straits. In the autum , when a NATO exercise took place in Denmark, the WP expanded its patrolling in the seas to the south of Denmark and increased naval activities elsewhere in the Baltic. Second, units from the three WP navies often sail around Zealand. In the years since the number of such circumnavigations have gone up sixfold and there are now about 30 a year.

It is assumed that the purpose is primarily to make the personnel acquainted with the Danish waters. More recently these have been performed by units from GDR and Poland. Third, in recent years the geographical location of the WP-exercises has changed significantly from the eastern parts of the Baltic to the areas directly to the south of Denmark. The first large Soviet amphibious exercise took place about 20 years ago along the Estonian coast at the entrance to the Gulf of Finland. Today exercises take place far to the west.

These activities have especially attracted attention in Denmark and they have been rather dramatically covered in the Danish press. Fourth, a significant number of warships pass the straits each year bound both for WP shipyards in the Baltic and for patrol duty outside the Baltic although the number of passages have decreased significantly since This lends support to the view that the Baltic fleet today primarily has its tasks in the Baltic. Fift, since the air activities of the WP countries have expanded especially in the western Baltic area.

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Formations af about 40 strike bombers often carry out flights from the Leningrad area to within minutes from Danish air-space. These activities especially the amphibious naval exercises and the flights have strained the Danish military alert system.

An activity which a few years ago would be quite abnormal is today a regular occurrence and this contributes to slowly creating the image of the Baltic as a Soviet lake or a sea characterized by Soviet dominance. The image of the decision-makers of the power relations in the area and of what can be done in crises have been changed. Soviet juridical view has devised a threefold categorization of the seas: internal, closed, and open seas. Internal seas are seas that are surrounded by the territory of one state and are consequently subject to its exclusive jurisdiction.

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Closed seas, which are enclosed by the territories of at least two states, are seas which either have no or limited communication with the open sea. The jurisdiction of the closed seas is a matter of concern of the littoral states exclusively. The Baltic Sea belongs to this group. The open seas are all those not within the first two categories. Soviet juridical view accepts that merchant ships from non-littoral states have a right of passage through straits to closed seas, but this right is denied to warships from non-littoral states.

To accept the Soviet juridical view would mean a legalization of the Soviet actual dominance in the Baltic, and acceptance of Soviet participation in the control of the traffic through the straits. However, practically the Soviet Union has treated the Baltic Sea as an open sea. That is in accordance with the view that the Soviet Union has two different objectives with regard to the Baltic Sea: a realistic and current in accordance with common international law and a long-term one in accordance with the Soviet juridical view.

The current objective is to secure free passage through the straits. The long-term object is to obtain control of the straits. The slowly changing routine behviour of WP navies in the Baltic is in accordance with the Soviet juridical view on the status of the Baltic Sea. Others have pointed to new Russian efforts to go after the network of undersea acoustic arrays that the United States and NATO have deployed for years to track submarines, or even classified naval cables. It's also responsible for a research vessel known as the Yantar, which was launched in with the ability to carry two manned submersibles and a remotely operated underwater vehicle.

In , Russia's official government newspaper, Rossiiskaya gazeta, boasted of the surveillance capabilities of the ship, which, like the AS, calls the Kola Peninsula port of Severomorsk its home. In , the United States went so far as to accuse Moscow of "tracking undersea communications cables" and imposed economic measures on the Russian company that was allegedly providing underwater diving equipment to Russia's Federal Security Service.

On July 2, there were conflicting reports about what may have sparked the fire, whether the dead sailors may have asphyxiated due to noxious fumes or for other reasons, and whether the fire occurred on the submarine itself or on another submersible launched by the AS Putin and military officials were excoriated in the immediate aftermath for lying about the rescue operation.

Naval War College. Despite lingering problems with design and corruption, Thieme -- who clarifies that his views are separate from those of the U.

Navy or the Defense Department -- said Russian military thinkers are still formidable. Search Search. Kazakhstan Kyrgyzstan Tajikistan Turkmenistan Uzbekistan. Armenia Azerbaijan Georgia.

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Soviet Sea Power in Northern Waters Soviet Sea Power in Northern Waters
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Soviet Sea Power in Northern Waters Soviet Sea Power in Northern Waters
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