July 27, 2015
Putin’s Maritime Doctrine: Atlantic is the new Black SeaBy Ivan Lizan
Translated from Russian by J.Hawk
Vladimir Putin approved the new Maritime Doctrine of the Russian Federation. It’s main purpose, according to the head of state, is to ensure Russia pursues a purposeful and consistent maritime policy aimed at protection the country’s national interests. The document emphasizes the importance of the Arctic, an important part of the 21st Century world map. The Atlantic received separate treatment due to the strengthening of our geopolitical adversaries. Incidentally, the document has a new chapter dedicated to civilian and naval ship-building. It also addresses, for the first time, purely social issues: maritime medicine, improving the sailors’ health.
Vladimir Anokhin, the Vice President of the Geopolitical Issues Academy, told us about the most important aspects of the revised doctrine, and about whether the Northern sea passages will be militarized.
Q: What do you think is the most important part of the new doctrine?
A. I believe it’s the systemic approach to eliminating threats to our country emanating from several directions. That’s one aspect. And the other is the elevated importance of the Arctic.
Q: The new Maritime Doctrine was adopted “to reflect the current international situation.” What is its future orientation?
A: Russia’s maritime situation has not changed since the time of Peter the Great and it will not change. We have always faced threats and we will always repel them, there’s nothing new in that. Our current policies are the continuation of centuries of Russian policies. That’s the first factor.
Secondly, this is not an aggressive doctrine. It communicates the intent to strengthen our positions. I am glad to see that.
Q: The Arctic and the Atlantic are new in this version of the doctrine. Why were they included now and not earlier?
A: Nobody said anything about the Arctic during the Soviet era because everyone assumed it’s Soviet territory. Yeltsin had other things to worry about–it was a matter of keeping our pants from falling to our ankles. But now Russia is coming to after its liberal-democratic transformations.
Q: Why is there a chapter dedicated to the Atlantic? Why is it getting more attention from Rogozin?
A: Given the scale of contemporary war, the Atlantic is a potential battlefield where a clash may decide the outcome of any naval confrontation. Neither the Black Sea nor the Mediterranean are a theater of operations for our current navy. With the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles blocking the entire fleet, one can assume the Atlantic is that neutral zone which separates the warring sides. Therefore it’s fundamentally important to master the Atlantic, to grow our forces there, to establish conditions for military successes.
We have already mastered the Pacific and have both allies and bases there. The Atlantic, of course, is not new to us either, but we have less presence there. Therefore we need to give our sailors the opportunity to make themselves feel at home in the Atlantic as they do in the Black Sea.
Q: To what extent will the Northern naval passages (including the Northern Parallel Route illustrated below) become, judging by the doctrine, military institutions, not only economic?
A: That depends to the level of threat these territories face. If the threat increases, so will the preparations to meet it. Everything depends on the scale of the problem.
Q: Does the doctrine have an Achilles heel?
A: The doctrine itself does not. The problem is that we have lost out technical and training base. That’s our Achilles heel. We don’t have the sufficient technical personnel. We have good heads, but not enough hands. We have only started to right things and it will take a great deal of time. But at the moment we don’t have a technical training system, we don’t have the level of education we had during the Soviet time. We’ll have to restore much of what was destroyed, and it will take time.
Q: Maritime medicine, improving the sailors’ health, those are new items. Why not earlier?
A. Earlier it was assumed to exist by default. It was part of the entire system of technical, material and social support. Everything that was simply assumed to exist during the Soviet era. But there was a discontinuity. The commercialization of the entire society separated those technical, material, and social support activities which should not have been separated. But then people realized that we can’t go on like that. So they became priorities. Which means that we have really fallen behind on that score. Or lost control.
Q: How often should our military doctrine change?
A: New doctrines appear in response to new threats, to serious, global changes. Time will tell how they evolve. It’s a very dynamic process. The most important thing right now is for our politicians not to sleep through the emergence of new threats.