Doctrine not only maritime. New offensive Marine Doctrine of the Russian Federation
Marek Grzybowski ( Manager of eblueeconomy office in Europe )an exclusive interview for eBlue Economy
At the bigining Prof. dr hab. Piotr Mickiewicz, political scientist and historian of recent history, Head of the Department of Public Policy and Administration at the Institute of Political Science of the University of Gdańsk
He is the main research activities of Professor Piotr Mickiewicz are the issues of creating the state security policy, the use of military potential in state policy, the political and military influence of states and non-state actors in sea areas, as well as the Russian energy policy perceived as an instrument of political and economic expansion.
Prof. dr hab. Piotr Mickiewicz is the author of the monograph: Sea Checker. “Geopolitical importance of sea basins”.
He is the co-author of “Russian strategic thought and military potential in the 21st century“, “Russian vision of an energy superpower in the 21st century” and “The Baltic Sea in Russia’s security policy”.
Russia’s attack on Ukraine was concentrated not only on land but also on the sea. The local blockade of the Black Sea affects global food and fertilizer supply chains. A new maritime doctrine of the Russian Federation has been in operation for several years. It was decided to modify it. President V. Putin, during the “special operation” against Ukraine, approved the new maritime doctrine of the Russian Federation. Previously used activities and influence zones have been modified. The previous Naval Doctrine from 2015 was implemented after the occupation of the Crimean Peninsula. Russia has a real influence on transnational economic interdependencies and is trying to achieve a superpower character in its foreign policy, including in the areas of the World Ocean.
Marek Grzybowski: Does the new maritime doctrine result from the new situation? What were the reasons for the modification of the maritime doctrine of the Russian Federation?
Prof. Piotr Mickiewicz: President V. Putin, during the “special operation” against Ukraine, approved the new maritime doctrine of the Russian Federation.
He applied a similar solution after the occupation of the Crimean Peninsula, which was a rational decision, as this annexation changed the strategic situation in the catchments of the Caspian, Black and Azov seas, and the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea.
This cannot be stated with reference to the date of introduction of the current doctrine.
The decision to replace the Maritime Doctrine by 2030 in the present situation even provokes the recognition of this decision as a propaganda fact.
This conclusion is additionally justified by the analysis of the content of this document, in which the plan to sanction the position of a global maritime power and dominant state in the Arctic has been alienated from the Russian political and economic reality.
In Russian solutions, since 2000, the maritime doctrine is one of the four (apart from the energy, transport and security strategy) sectoral strategies for the leading state strategy (currently the Economic Security Strategy until 2030, although this name is inadequate to the content of this document).
National Maritime Policy of the Russian
Marek Grzybowski: What is the dominant strategic goal in the new doctrine of the Russian Federation?
Prof. Piotr Mickiewicz: The strategic goal contained in it is invariably the desire to dominate regions and reservoirs where it is possible to exploit inanimate resources and to obtain the possibility of unlimited maritime activities (mainly transport) in the oceans. The only variable is the assessment of the role of individual waters (Directions of the National Maritime Policy of the Russian Federation) in the Russian policy and the formula for achieving these goals.
Marek Grzybowski: What oceans are considered strategic areas for the operation of the Russian Navy?
Prof. Piotr Mickiewicz: Moving on to the assessment of the current document and comparing its content to the content of the Maritime Doctrine until 2030, adopted in 2015, it should be noted that it is – to some extent – its continuation, but taking into account the currently dubious political facts in the form of the success of the “special operation” towards Ukraine and the sanctioning of a new list of recipients of Russian energy carriers. Mainly located in the waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
On the other hand, the main disadvantage – its isolation from the conditions creating basic economic processes, i.e. increasing the production volume by the fuel and energy sector, gaining the ability to export new products (transport to port terminals, their reloading and transport by sea using own sea vessels) and energy transformation allowing to increase production and export opportunities.
The general conclusion resulting from the evaluation of the entire document is the conclusion that – compared to its predecessor – its content is largely focused on the sphere of political maritime activity, and the narrative course gives propaganda significance to the processes of developing the maritime potential.
The document completely ignores the consequences of the imposition of sanctions and the implemented change in the directions of energy supplies by EU countries.
Exploitation of the open sea
Marek Grzybowski: What makes the new doctrine different from that of a few years ago? How was the marine doctrine modified? Have any conclusions been drawn from the losses suffered in the Black Sea War?
Prof. Piotr Mickiewicz: While assessing its individual parts, three other features should be indicated, namely:
- skilful justification for recognizing the Pacific and Indian Oceans as priority waters at the expense of the North Atlantic, together with the Baltic and Mediterranean seas, while identifying the USA as the most important political rival;
- exposing water reservoirs that will not be controlled but defended with the use of military instruments;
- indicating the need for a multilateral approach to the control of the methods of exploitation of the open sea, with a skilful highlighting of issues related to the laying of pipelines and submarine cables.
Marek Grzybowski: What is the general conclusion from this comparison?
Prof. Piotr Mickiewicz: When analysing these solutions, it should be emphasized that Russia has decided to “escape” from the confrontation with the USA on the Atlantic Direction of National Maritime Policy (it also includes the Baltic and the Mediterranean Sea).
This proves the scope of the objectives adopted for this “direction” and granting the waters (the North Atlantic and the Baltic and Mediterranean seas) the status of “important” and not “key” reservoirs.
The Azov and Black seas, the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea, Baltic and Kuril straits were considered as such.
Port expansion programs
Marek Grzybowski: What are the global consequences of such an approach? How strong is the interest in the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and Red Sea?
Prof. Piotr Mickiewicz: This decision is a consequence of the assessment of the Russian navy’s ability to operate and the feeling of real loneliness in this area (no support from China).
Recognition of the primary waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans basically boils down to attempts to engage in the issues of shipping control and hydrological research, which is to allow the reconstruction of the scope of maritime cooperation with China and joining the activities aimed at taking over control of the Arabian and Red Seas by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The assumption is correct, but it requires the possibility of constant basing, which can only be done with the Chinese – not entirely certain – acceptance. When assessing the real perspective domination in the southern waters of the Arctic Ocean, the Sea of Okhotsk and the Russian part of the Caspian Sea (“key basins”), two issues should be indicated – which are decisive for the success of this concept – the implementation of transhipment port expansion programs and the construction of specialized maritime units. Both transport, state and research forces, capable of carrying out hydrological and geological works.
Marek Grzybowski: How did financial and technological limitations affect the activities in the new strategy?
Prof. Piotr Mickiewicz:However, this process is distributed both by the lack of financial resources (expansion of ports) and access to technology (construction of maritime units). In addition, the progressive expansion of the military potential along the borders of the Russian Arctic and the unequivocal definition of the goal of expanding the Arctic continental shelf causes reactions from other Arctic players. Not only the United States, but also Norway and Denmark – which have so far pursued a relatively balanced policy. On the other hand, the achievable goal appears to result from the third of the indicated issues, i.e. participation, and in reasonably co-steering of activities aimed at enforcing the law of the sea. However, Russian participation in these projects is conditioned by the ability to base naval forces and the conclusion of certain alliances.
Cooperation with BRISC countries
Marek Grzybowski: China or India are using the present situation of the Russian Federation to achieve economic goals. They buy Russian raw materials at a great discount. They do not extend military cooperation. Is the Russian Federation planning alliances with other countries that have access to the sea, ports of war and naval forces? Will it extend its activities to the Pacific and Atlantic?
Prof. Piotr Mickiewicz: Cooperation with other BRISC countries and the countries of East Africa and South America, some Indo-Pacific countries (mainly Indonesia, Vietnam and – to a lesser extent with India) and selected Arab countries should be considered possible in this area.
However, the strategic goals of potential allies relate only to a small extent to the control of high seas navigation in regions where Russian interests are located.
The area of their interest is the southern Atlantic and Pacific and the Indian Ocean with the Arabian and Red seas. In addition, not all countries, especially Indonesia, are interested in carrying out the most integrating actions of partners in the form of combating acts of maritime piracy.
And Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which stand out for their independence from the USA, and which sanction their dominant position as a regional maritime power, India, South Africa and Brazil are not interested in the Russian military presence in controlled waters.
Marek Grzybowski: How can the new doctrine be assessed from a strategic perspective? Is it long-term? What threats can we expect from the Russian Navy?
Prof. Piotr Mickiewicz: Summing up the considerations of the Maritime Doctrine of the Russian Federation of July 31, 2022, it should be considered a professionally made indication of the goals to which the Russian state should pursue and the presentation of forms of activity and processes allowing for their achievement.
However, the assessment of the possibility of achieving them was omitted, taking into account the possessed potential and the probable reaction of other sea players. The narrative process gives it the character of the concept of a global power, but the verification of literally read records proves that its authors have a sense of limited possibilities of achieving the adopted assumptions.
In conclusion, I believe that the current maritime doctrine will be significantly modified at the beginning of the fourth decade of the 21st century (2030-2035) or somewhat replaced by the introduction of a document operating in parallel but recognized as leading.
The variant of the assumptions of the Russian maritime policy in force in the future will also take the form of a sector strategy with a horizontal dimension (most likely applicable until 2050, just like other strategic documents).