the standard Western maritime powers by virtue of similar vein, the RFN is making every effort to maintain
its geographic and strategic circumstances, its way of and extend its forward diplomatic presence in the
government and what some have termed the Russian Caribbean, the Indian Ocean and the Far East.1
way of warfare. The old Soviet Navy certainly started
differently, especially with its initial emphasis on But whether such activity should really be seen as
submarines and aircraft rather than large warships, evidence of the imminent re-appearance of a powerful
The Russian Navy
and its different terminology and ways of doing and global navy despite the ambitious declaratory
business. But during the Cold War there was a gradual plans occasionally announced in Moscow is open
process of convergence as Soviet practices began to to considerable doubt. Over the past 15 years or so,
seem to mirror Western ones. So there is room for the RFN has not been spared from the neglect that
debate about the standards against which we should was so obvious from the lumbering performance of
be judging Russian naval aspirations and performance Russian forces in Georgia, much of their hardware is
Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies and what we should think about what they say and do. antiquated and rusty and recent customers of Russian
military equipment – such as India- have frequently
During the Cold War, the famous RUKUS [Russia, complained of unexpected price hikes, delays in
UK, US] talks launched in 1989 were an attempt to production and poor quality.
understand Soviet thinking and practice rather better
The Corbett Centre launched its first naval roundtable of a dozen experts on 23 march 2009.This initiative was and to seek an improvement in maritime relations. The RFN certainly faces a major problem in the
inspired by our general interest in navies, the way they work, the effect they have on the strategic context in These linkages have developed, and now include Black Sea area where their leases on port facilities
which they operate. Navies are often windows into national policy. Their size and shape, what they say, have France; they have become less academic in tone at Sebastopol are up for renewal with the Ukrainian
and do, tell us about national foreign policy purposes. They represent state resources so they tell us about the and composition and are now more of a venue for authorities in 2017. The current Ukrainian regime is
financial and institutional strengths and weaknesses of the state and the people they serve. practitioners to come together. Perhaps it is time to most unlikely to renew this agreement. The Black
revive the original idea? Sea Fleet is weak, and its strategic position exposed.
Russia’s apparently perverse up-grading of its facilities
The future trajectory of the RFN may also be (such as the Black Sea Fleet sailor’s Club] in the area,
We thought the Russian Federation Navy particularly Russian analysts often refer to the deduced from a look at the evolution of Russia’s and support for the legions of Russian military who
interesting because Russian naval developments may National Security Concept, Military Doctrine and have retired to the area, should probably be seen as
give us insights into the country’s future trajectory. country’s ‘exceptionalism...This Maritime Doctrine. The identification of the US and largely as part of a political campaign to prevent the
This is of great concern to the rest of us Europeans NATO as the principal military threats to Russia, the Ukraine from ‘going West’ for fear of its consequence
because Russia remains a major, if sometimes rather
may well be especially the case associated stress on preparation for high intensity for the near abroad, and indeed for Russia itself.
neglected, factor in our local strategic environment. when it comes to defining the conflict, and the placing of the navy and air force, Nor should the emotional importance of the base,
Recent headlines over the past couple of weeks behind the strategic nuclear forces but ahead of the founded by Catherine the Great to act as a gateway
indicate an on-going debate about whether roles of the Navy. army is worthy of note. The increasing stress on the to the south in rather the manner that Petersburg was
Russia is likely to be a partner or a competitor, importance of the Arctic likewise suggests increasing expected to do in the Baltic be forgotten.
raising questions about its likely trajectory and its prominence for the Navy.
implications for Europe. Will Russia prove a full partner Alongside this, some commentators have discerned The Roundtable came to no conclusions about the
or will its attempt to preserve its ‘sovereign space some stirrings of the bear, quite apart from its invasion As far as the actual performance of the RFN is extent of a prospective Russian naval revival, although
in the international system’ lead to rivalry, a lack of of Georgia. Russia’s evident military interest in concerned the its forces were actively involved in most were sceptical that this would be dramatic in the
cooperation and political conflict? Venezuela and its recent exercises with China imply a the invasion of Georgia, sinking Georgian ships, foreseeable future. We did, however, resolve to follow
rooted dislike of what it sees as Western containment attacking Georgian ports and supporting landing this session up with further studies. The topic clearly
The Russian economy is in a bad state as a result of the of Russia in Europe and an American-dominated operations in the classic Soviet manner in the Black deserves more attention than it is currently getting.
frailties of fast track capitalism in an age of recession international system. The Kuznetsov has been active, Sea theatre of the Great Patriotic War. But, recently,
and excess reliance on high commodity prices for oil long-range Bear flights have resumed in the North they have shown a much greater concern for the Moreover the format of this session – small groups of
and gas. The Ruble is down 35% against the dollar, Atlantic and the North Pacific, new submarines have defence of shipping than they did then, In recent selected and invited people worked well and will be
the Russian stock market lost 75% of its value through been ordered, and their seem to be plans for a military months, the nuclear battle cruiser Pyotr Velikiy, the repeated, alongside larger more orthodox gatherings
2008 and the official forecast for 2009 is a -6% growth upgrade from 2011 which concentrates on the Navy frigate Neustrashimy and the destroyers Admiral on this and other topics of concern.
in GDP. Past deficiencies in defence procurement and the Air Forces. Vinogradov and Admiral Panteleyev have been active
remain and many in the military resist reform. This in the troubled waters off Somalia defending Russian 1
Further details of this are available in �ee Willett‘ The
is all likely to mean that despite financial forecasts, Russian analysts often refer to the country’s and other flagged merchant shipping against pirate Navy in Russia’s ‘Resurgence’ RUSI Journal February
the Russians will be less able to spend on defence ‘exceptionalism,’ arguing that while all the above may attack. Russian naval forces have not been subsumed 2009. Dr Willett was one of the Roundtable experts.
unless its rulers see such expenditure as a way of be true, Russia should not be judged by the standards within Operation Atalanta or CTF 150 or 151, but their
re-invigorating the economy and compensating for of other countries. This may well be especially the ships have participated in joint operations against
Russia’s present financial weakness. case when it comes to defining the roles of the Navy. pirates with the Indian and Royal Navies and they do
Russian naval experience is radically different from attend regular coordination meetings in Bahrain. In
2 Corbett Centre Russian Navy Seminar Report Corbett Centre 3