The Expansion of Russian Geopolitics from Land to Sea: “the Russian Naval Doctrine”

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States that have ancient traditions and global goals, and ambitious try to hande their long-term projections and strategies independently of cyclical issues. At this point, The Moscow administration is trying to shape its foreign policy strategy based on the claim of being the leading actor in the international system, especially after Vladimir Putin became the President of Russia. The latest example of this situation is the “Naval Doctrine”, which was announced on July 31, 2022.

When Russia’s new naval doctrine is examined in outline, it is seen that the defense of the interests in the oceans has been decided through a naval concept in which the boundaries of national interests are determined and a line extending from the Arctic Region to the Kuril and Baltic straits to the Black Sea and Caspian, from the east of the Mediterranean to the coasts of Asia and Africa has been determined as a national security line.

In the document, where the areas of interests are clearly defined, the goals that military options will be used in these regions in question if necessary, increasing the military presence in the Caspian Sea, acquiring new bases in the Eastern Mediterranean are considered, and strengthening the geopolitical position of Russia in the regions where there are interests, especially in the Black Sea, are clearly stated.

The inclusion of the Arctic and Asia-Pacific regions in the new doctrine aimed at increasing the capability and capacity of the Russian Navy on a global scale, and the characterization of the activities of the United States of America (USA) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as the main threat to Russia’s national security, attract attention as an important issue that needs to be addressed.

In addition to Putin’s speech during the visit of Russian sailors to the warships off the coast of St. Petersburg to celebrate the Navy Day saying that he approved this doctrine and his clear statements that the borders and interests set out in the document will be protected by all means, the fact that the USA and NATO are also considered as threats should be considered as an indication that the doctrine was not established solely for the purpose of protecting the interests of the state. In this context, the doctrine in question can be interpreted as a declaration that the global competition with the United States has been carried from land to sea in the military dimension.

Considering the analysis of geopoliticians, who have been working intensively on the conditions of being the leading actor in the struggle for global dominance and examining the relationship between foreign policy and geography, it is understood that the document in question has been theoretically prepared within the framework of the understanding of global competition.

According to the American naval officer and historian Alfred Thayer Mahan, the importance of dominating the seas rather than the land has increased in the center of the strategy in modern times. According to the famous geopolitician, the seas provide much better mobility and transportation opportunities than the land. In other words, Mahan draws attention that in conjunction with most of the world’s reserves, the maritime power is as economically and politically important as the military forces.

In addition, the maritime power can dominate the world trade by controlling critical points such as Suez Canal, Gibraltar, Singapore, Babulmendep Strait, the Turkish Straits, Ceylon Canal, Taiwan Canal, Korean Canal, Strait of Hormuz, the Florida Strait and the Yukaton Strait. In this sense, no state whose land borders are not secure can successfully fight for maritime supremacy with a relatively powerful island state. Consequently, as Mahan points out, a state that dominates the seas dominates the entire world.

Although Mahan is an American and the theory he developed is used by American decision-makers in the formulation and implementation of the state’s foreign policy strategy, it also constitutes the theoretical plane of naval strategy in the context of security and foreign policy for Russia, which is among the global competitors of the United States today or is trying to take it. When Russia’s new doctrine is examined, it is seen that the critical points that Mahan states in his theoretical studies coincide with the points emphasized in the doctrine.

Moreover, the fact that the USA has shifted its foreign policy priority to Asia-Pacific since the Barack Obama era can be read through Mahan’s theory. Accordingly, Russia’s opening of a special title to Asia-Pacific in the context of the limits of its national interests and regions is a development that should not be ignored. The fact that the USA and NATO are considered as threats in the document in question and that there are no significant references to medium or small-sized states reveals that the issue is considered in the dimension of global competition.

Consequently, in this period when the geopolitics of the Black Sea has gained importance, the Arctic Region has been stimulated by the NATO membership process of Sweden and Finland, the Caspian has evolved into a central position with the Belt and Road Initiative, and global politics has become heated due to the USA focusing on the Asia-Pacific, the Moscow administration, on the occasion of the declaration of the doctrine in question, has moved the issue from regional competition to global competition and rejected the position of regional actor and is in the direction of becoming the dominant power with the claim of global actor has demonstrated that it has put forward a strategic vision.

Dr. Kadir Ertaç ÇELİK
Dr. Kadir Ertaç ÇELİK
ANKASAM International Relations Advisor Dr. Kadir Ertaç ÇELİK completed his bachelor's degree at Uludağ University, Department of International Relations, and his master's and PhD degrees at Gazi University, Institute of Social Sciences, Department of International Relations. Currently a faculty member at Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli University, Department of International Relations, Çelik's main research interests are theories of international relations, American foreign policy, the Turkic world, security and strategy.