The “Inertia Scenario”, Part Two: Russia’s Naval Ambitions
Posted by democratist on September 14, 2010
14th September 2010,
In recent posts, Democratist has sought to highlight the significance, historical and contemporary, of Russia’s preoccupation with military competition – above all in relation to (comparatively advanced) western nations.
In the contemporary case, we have noted that Russia is continuing to fall behind in terms of its industrial, technological and scientific capabilities, and this has already started to have serious implications for her continued status as an international political, economic and (especially) military player.
We consider this (combined with a more general need to ensure foreign investment and growth, given the global financial crisis) as a key motivating factor behind the ”modernization” drive first proposed during the late Putin period, but which has become more publicly evident under Medvedev.
As such, we gave been extremely interested to read this recent report by the Research and Assessment Branch of the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom on, “The Russian Federation Navy: An Assessment of Its Strategic Setting, Doctrine and Prospects” which we feel gives considerable additional empirical weight to our argument.
Among its key findings are that;
- Russian grand strategy and military strategy is focused on the protection and projection of Russia’s position as a Great Power.
- Russia identifies itself as a world power and the principal threat to its position as emanating from the United States and NATO.
- Russia is looking to invest in a substantial expansion and enhancement of its naval forces over the long-term.
- Russia’s renewed interest and investment in sea power is a component of its increasing assertiveness and desire for global influence and power.
In this regard, key planned areas for development include;
- Nuclear-powered submarines.
- Aircraft carriers (with embarked fifth generation aircraft)
- Guided-missile cruisers;
- An enhanced amphibious capability
- Enhanced Command, Control, Communications.
- Computing, intelligence, and surveillance.
- Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance capabilities.
- Naval strategic nuclear forces
- Conventional strategic systems and nuclear sub-strategic weapons.
But, as report makes very clear (and in line with Democratist’s comments about the state of the Russian economy, and the impact that Russia’s extraordinary corruption has had, especially on state-dominated sectors such as the arms industry);
- The Russian Navy continues to have major problems with readiness and the quality of both personnel and equipment.
- The industrial base also remains a significant area of concern.
All of which reinforces our earlier conclusion that in the likely continued absence of innovation from within the domestic public or private sectors, or from foreign investors, over the next few years the corporatist Russian State will have to seek much of the innovation it sees as essential in order for it to remain militarily competitive with the west through a renewed emphasis on military and economic espionage.
This seems likely to remain the case despite France’s 2009 agreement to sell Russia four Mistral-analogue power-projection battleships, and a number of other similar foreign deals currently under discussion. This is partly because these deals now appear somewhat stalled, as the French seem unwilling to let the Russians have access to some of their cleverer on-board gadgets (and are almost certainly under considerable international pressure not to do so) , and also because the electronics of the other (Dutch, Spanish) ships that the Russians have looked into buying from Western firms, include US-made components, the transfer of which to Russia (or to other non-NATO countries) would necessitate US clearance, which Democratist suspects is unlikely to be granted.
But even if the Mistral and other deals do go through in some form, they will only go a very limited way to fulfilling the Russian’s requirements as outlined above.