HomeTop StoriesNATO navies can exploit Russian fears and prevent Putin from invading more...

NATO navies can exploit Russian fears and prevent Putin from invading more neighboring countries

The world’s largest aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60) steamed in formation in the Mediterranean Sea, August 21, 2023.MC2 Jackson Adkins/US Navy

  • NATO’s naval power is far superior to Russia’s, which exists primarily to defend its motherland.

  • The Russian fear is that NATO ships could launch offensive missiles into the Russian interior.

  • It could force Russia to strengthen maritime defenses and divert attention from rebuilding its battered military.

The age-old rivalry between continental and maritime nations has always been an exercise in frustration. For example, Napoleon and Hitler were furious at the English Channel and the Royal Navy for preventing their mighty armies from conquering Britain. Conversely, the British needed a continental power with a large army – usually Russia – to fight the French and Germans on land.

Today, NATO’s naval power is far superior to Russia’s. The problem is that Russia has always been a continental power whose strength rested in its military. NATO may dominate the oceans, but that may not help much if Russian tanks invade the Baltic states or Poland.

How can NATO exploit its maritime advantage? Two British experts have an idea: use NATO’s navies to wage psychological warfare against Russia. Or more specifically, use naval power to scare Moscow into using its scarce resources to defend its vast coastlines rather than invading its neighbors.

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“Forcing Russia to commit to its own maritime defense would divert crucial Russian resources to tasks that the Alliance [NATO] considers it less threatening,” Sidharth Kaushal and Rene Balletta wrote in a essay for the British think tank Royal United Services Institute.

For America and Britain, the sea has been a friend: a buffer against invasion, a highway to overseas empire and a way to ensure wars are fought on foreign soil. But for Russia, with a coastline of almost 40,000 kilometers in Europe and Asia, the sea has traditionally been a source of vulnerability. Although the Russian Navy is one of the most important the world’s largest, it exists mainly to protect the motherland, to support the military and to provide strategic firepower, such as from nuclear missile submarines. Many of the cruise missiles that have targeted Ukrainian cities over the past two years were launched by the Black Sea Fleet.

But control the seas, the way the famous 19th century American naval theorist did Alfred Thayer Mahan it has defined is not the mission of the Russian Navy. “Rather than naval combat per se, the purpose of Russian naval power is to ensure that the Russian state can compete and engage in conflict safely and effectively,” the essay said.

In the Crimean War of 1854, Russia was defeated by a British and French amphibious assault that captured Sevastopol. There are fears that NATO ships could launch long-range guided missiles into the Russian interior in 2024.

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There are several ways NATO can exploit this fear, Kaushal and Balletta said. Western countries can conduct exercises, deploy nuclear submarines closer to Russia, invest in drones and hypersonic missiles, and even convert onboard anti-aircraft missiles – such as the US SM-2 and SM-6 – into land-attack weapons.

As Russia rebuilds its military to deal with the massive losses of the war in Ukraine, the Kremlin may feel compelled to shift resources to naval forces rather than ground forces. “To the extent that the Alliance can expand the area over which Russia must achieve naval denial to protect itself from long-range attacks, it can shape the contours of the recovery of Russia’s armed forces,” the essay argued. “It can achieve this primarily in two ways: by expanding its long-range land strike capability, and by operating with new vectors that Russia has historically not had to defend.”

The Kremlin will not find it easy to strengthen its maritime defenses. “While Russia can achieve sea denial and some degree of naval control in its coastal seas, challenging freedom of action out to 1,000 kilometers and beyond will be difficult and costly for a country that must also rebuild its armed forces on land,” the essay said . Although Russia has a large arsenal of sea- and land-based anti-ship missiles, it mainly lacks ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) capabilities. to detect distant naval targets and guided missiles towards them.

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Ships – especially those intended for blue-water rather than littoral operations – are also expensive to build, maintain and crew, at a time when Russia’s military and aerospace forces are in desperate need of trained personnel. Russian shipyards are already overloaded and new ships may need imported parts blocked by Western sanctions.

However, the West also faces limitations. As the authors acknowledge, making Russia nervous can make some NATO members on Russia’s borders – such as Finland and Norway – nervous. And of course there is the fact that Russia has historically feared attack by the West – and that the country has the largest nuclear arsenal in the world. Fanning the Kremlin’s fears of waves of cruise missiles coming from the sea risks nuclear escalation.

Nevertheless, this approach takes advantage of NATO’s maritime advantage. If the Kremlin had a choice, it would probably prefer to buy tanks for the fight in Ukraine, rather than warships to guard the Baltic Sea. NATO can make that choice even more difficult.

Michael Peck is a defense writer whose work has appeared in Forbes, Defense News, Foreign Policy magazine and other publications. He has an MA in Political Science from Rutgers Univ. Follow him further Tweet And LinkedIn.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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