Monday, January 19, 2009

Expansionist Statements of Russian Naval High Command Are Cause for Concern

File:Kuznetsov 960111-N-9085M-002.jpgConfirming possibilities raised posted September of last year on Unequal Time's sister blog, Dancing With Bears, the Russian Navy has announced its intention to establish a continued naval presence in international waters outside of Russia's own maritime jurisdiction.  As reported by Russia Today's English online edition (by way of our friend at the Naval Open Source Intelligence blog), Deputy Chief of Russia's Armed Forces Staff, Anatoly Nogovitsyn, is quoted as saying:

"The political decision on this matter has been made. Bases will settle down on Sokorta Island (Yemen), in Tartus (Syria) and Tripoli (Libya). Now it’s very difficult to say when these bases will appear in these countries, but in several years time it undoubtedly will happen. From both the economic and the technical military point of view, there is no other way to solve the problem of our Navy’s regular presence in distant sea areas for the protection of Russia’s national interests."

Although the Russian navy's global reach has been continuing its policy of forced contraction in recent years - as evidenced by their withdrawal of the strategically valuable Vietnamese port of Cam Ranh in 2000 - mainly due to a lack of funding stemming from the weak Russian economy.  Recent growth in Russia's defense industry, combined with an emphasis on power projection should awaken the minds of Western policymakers to the very real possibility that there is an endgame in progress.

Despite its massive size, Russia has many of the same problems of historic powers that had to rely on maritime superiority as a means of promoting domestic economic prosperity.  Nearly surrounded by a host of allies of convenience or outright enemies, the Russian Federation cannot build its power on a foundation of over dependable over-land or straight-line airborne routes.

There are reasons to believe that the Russians have shifted policy to one that is drastically more expansionist.

  • the Russians have been given permission by the Icelandic government use of the former U.S. airbase at Keflavik, Iceland (read here)
  • Russian and Venezuelan naval vessels participated in joint exercises in the Caribbean in the fall of 2008 (read here)
  • Russian Federation commits to full funding for completion of GLONASS global satellite navigation system, a system that in addition to its surface navigation capabilities was originally designed as a ballistic missile targeting system (read here)
  • Joint exercises in December 2008 with Indian navy ships in the Indian Ocean to train on carrier-destroying tactics (read here)

There are more data points on this curve; these items must be considered along with a tidal wave of arms agreements, mutual defense agreements, and other developments that have been made between Russian and many other nations across the globe.  All indications would point to some intention by the sleeping bear to enhance its power position across the globe particularly in their commitment to making GLONASS fully operational.

As Americans begin to assess the incoming Obama administration, they should do with a firm understanding of the geopolitical events currently unfolding.


Cross-posted at Dancing with Bears.

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