العربية

Behind the Russian Quest to Develop its Naval Military Capabilities

Major General Ashraf Labib

There are many civil and military tasks, responsibilities, and duties undertaken by the ships of the naval forces around the globe, whether in times of peace or war. In the first case, countries aim to impose their maritime sovereignty on their coasts, territorial waters and maritime borders, in order to protect and secure economic interests and facilities in the territorial waters alongside their exclusive economic zone in the seas and oceans, as well as protecting the state’s commercial fleet and its maritime lines of communication inside and outside territorial waters from hostile acts such as sabotage, laying mines, piracy, infiltration, illegal immigration, and smuggling.

In addition to maintaining the safety and security of sea lanes to and from the country’s ports, monitoring the movement of ships to ensure their compliance with maritime navigation laws and rules, assisting the state’s civil authorities in maritime evacuation and rescue operations during disasters and crises, and cooperating with the state’s civil authorities to carry out demographic surveys of territorial waters and coasts, besides drawing and approving navigational charts for sea lanes and routes.

While in the second case, the case of war, the naval forces undertake various tasks, most notably: cutting off enemy commercial maritime lines of communication, preventing their ships from reaching their ports to stop the economic and commercial support for the enemy state, as well as obstructing and combating the infiltration of enemy submarines and preventing them from conducting reconnaissance, photography, and gathering information regarding the state’s ports and naval vessels. Moreover, the national naval forces aim at preventing the landing of hostile naval special forces to carry out sabotage operations against the ports and ships, protecting the fleet’s ships from hostile ships, supporting and protecting the operations of the ground forces during operations to defend the state’s ports and coasts, and imposing a naval blockade on the hostile ports to prevent the departure of their ships and submarines. Also the naval forces may carry out pre-emptive operations before the beginning of the naval war, through mining ports, hostile anchorages, and sea routes to prevent the departure of enemy ships and submarines.

As for the Russian case, it is clear that it possesses advanced naval capabilities, as it is the second largest naval military fleet in the world, with about 605 pieces, including many types and models for different purposes and armaments. Russia’s interest in developing its military capabilities in general and naval capabilities in particular has increased through the construction and manufacture of new advanced surface ships carrying winged, long-range, hypersonic, and precision-aimed missiles, as well as modern fifth-generation nuclear submarines capable of sailing long distances beyond their territorial waters, which carry intercontinental nuclear missiles and are characterized by high speed and complete secrecy, making them difficult to detect and combat, or by possessing new maritime systems, such as remotely piloted maritime drones.

The Russian naval forces include five naval fleet commands, in the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Pacific Ocean, and the North Sea. Nuclear submarines equipped with nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles and long-range cruise missiles are considered the main striking force of the Russian Navy, along with the only major aircraft carrier “Admiral Kuznetsov”, as well as the two heavy nuclear missile cruisers “Marshal Ustinov” and “Peter the Great” – the cruiser is currently undergoing repairs after being damaged during the Ukrainian war – that are considered the backbone of Russian surface ships.

By possessing weapons systems with advanced and sophisticated capabilities, Russia aims to confront the escalating challenges, both far and near, such as the spread of the seven American naval fleets’ ships in the oceans and seas of the world on the one hand, and the ships of NATO countries and European Union countries, on the other hand, which affects security and stability in Russia’s interrelated Asian-European region.

NATO’s pressure on Russia from northwest and eastern Europe was among the reasons for the outbreak of the Russian war on Ukraine, as Russian President Vladimir Putin anticipated and initiated a military invasion on Ukraine with the aim of penetrating the challenges posed by NATO’s proximity to Russia’s borders. Russia was able to achieve significant field gains, despite American and European support for Ukraine, which, according to some estimates, amounted to approximately $443 billion. Russia even supported some regions in the Donbas gaining independence, and agreed to annex them later. These successes achieved by the Russian army led a number of its members being decorated with the “Hero of Russia” medal.

Nevertheless, the Russian fleet in the Black Sea also achieved significant gains, and was able to impose its naval control within its operational scope, as it was able to besiege the port of Odesa on the Black Sea and destroy Ukrainian naval ships on the docks or by sinking warships that tried to leave the port to confront the ships of the Russian fleet. Moreover, the Russian fleet managed a successful attack on the Ukrainian coasts and ports in the Sea of Azov, and was able to control the ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk, along with sinking many Ukrainian naval vessels, seizing and capturing 12 others; hence, the Sea of Azov became a purely Russian sea, which imposed a new geopolitical reality in favor of Russia against NATO.

The Russian interest in developing its naval military capabilities came from its historical experience, which affected the way it manages the ongoing development process. It will not rush again into a new arms race that exhausts it scientifically and technologically, as happened in the space race during the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States. However, it is currently moving according to its well-defined priorities, which are trying to end the unilateralism that the United States clings to on the international arena, and Russia appears to be successfully implementing a large part of it.

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