Thursday, May 22, 2008
The Russian Navy will soon follow the path of their Air Force, and begin regular patrols and deployments.
Russia's Northern Fleet will dispatch ships and submarines on tours of duty to various regions of the world's oceans in 2008, the fleet's commander said on Tuesday.The cold war is over, and since the end of the cold war the number of deployments by the Russian Navy has been remarkably few. If we were to look for trend lines, we would observe that most Russian deployments with one major exception have involved exercises with NATO or Asian Navies. There have been no indications yet what purpose Russia intends to deploy ships for, except perhaps to show the flag.
"There will be tours of duty this year, involving surface ships, submarines and aircraft," Vice-Admiral Nikolai Maksimov said. "We will visit the Atlantic, the Indian and the Pacific oceans, and the Mediterranean."
The strategic choices for Russia in how it uses forward deployed naval forces will be interesting to observe. Russia can enter the maritime domain as a contributor to safety and security of the global maritime commons, and would be welcomed into the fold by the international community. This approach would include contribution to the international security forces that currently operate in the Mediterranean Sea and off the Horn of Africa. In both cases Russia brings unique capabilities to contribute to international forces, including political clout through existing relationships with nations in those regions.
An alternative approach for Russia would be to be present at these locations, but intentionally remain disconnected from regional international forces seeking a nationalistic policy towards specific regional goals to Russia. This would be a return to the competitor position Russia enjoyed during the cold war, which held sway over many whose interests conflicted with the West.
We believe Russia will ultimately choose the first option, and participate in regional international frameworks to sustain forward presence. We believe this offers the best political options to Russia as a reemerging super power. Should that happen, it will be a positive development for the US Navy, but may not be popular among those who frame policy.
As an outsider, Russia would not sit at the table and would not be in a position to influence the larger international community in the same way they will if they sit at the same table. As a participant, Russia becomes an involved partner, while at the same time an alternative to United States policy in the broader international discussion towards managing challenges to the global system. Such an arrangement would allow Russia to emerge as both a participant with and alternative to the United States as the Russian Navy grows, and this arrangement would be particularly influential with Europe who does not always agree with US policy.
It will be interesting to observe what approach Russia takes with its fleet. The choices made will be an early sign regarding the type of relationship the US and Russia will have during the rebuilding phase of the Russian Fleet soon to begin.