On July 31st 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin published the Naval Doctrine, which is a strategic document including the country’s national maritime activities and policies. In his speech in St. Petersburg, where he introduced the new doctrine, Putin commemorated the founder of the city, Peter the Great, and praised the naval power he established. Moscow’s new Naval Doctrine is seen as a reflection of Russia’s increasing competition not only with the United States but also with its maritime neighbors, including China, in changing global geopolitics. It is believed that Russia’s main goal is to achieve and maintain the status of a global naval power.
From this point of view, Ankara Center for Crisis and Policy Studies (ANKASAM) presents the views it received from Troy J. Bouffard, the Director of the Center for Arctic Security and Resilience (CASR), the University of Alaska Fairbanks, in order to evaluate Russia’s new Naval Doctrine and its effects on global geopolitics.
- How do you analyze the New Naval Doctrine published by Russia while US-China tensions are rising?
Russia’s new doctrine reflects the role of the maritime domain and the growing importance of its competitive global interests as well as domestic priorities. While naming the United States as the top threat is somewhat novel, most of the doctrine is relatively not new – it is mostly a presentation of clarified and expanded items and issues that have been escalated in priority. The new doctrine also indicates that Russia is experiencing increased pressure and isolation as well as a need to secure its interests at home and abroad. China also has significant global maritime ambitions, including forward basing not unlike that of the U.S. Navy. Even as Russia’s best ‘frenemy’, China represents a more of a maritime competitor than ally to the Kremlin. For the United States, Western allies and alliances have more than enough ability to project significantly superior force while managing maritime norms and activities. However, the developing competitive circumstances add to tensions and the need to avoid adversarial opportunities to produce and exploit mistakes in that precarious ‘zone of miscalculation’.
- How will this Doctrine affect Russia’s relations with its maritime neighbors?
The new maritime doctrine also represents a response to Sweden and (especially) Finland pursuing NATO membership. The Baltics and eastern Europe remain the top geopolitical priority for Russia in terms of managing access and influence in the most key geography nears its own borders. The new doctrine elevates and supports the national security-related justifications involving Russian political and military developments. Just about any state with sovereign maritime territory near Russia can expect increased maritime-related posturing and provocation from the Kremlin in efforts to frustrate and challenge resolve.
- Do you think that; after this new doctrine, Russia’s threat especially on the Baltic Sea and the Arctic will increase even more?
Russia continues to link terrestrial and maritime peripheries with fabricated issues related to national security, including the Baltics. As a recent example, just prior to the doctrine release, Russia moved a Bastion coastal defense missile system to St. Petersburg which connects and multiplies with capabilities based in Kaliningrad and targets inland parts of Finland at the same time. For the Arctic, the doctrine further solidifies strategic development efforts and positions the Northern Fleet to secure the north flank while providing the hard-power component involving natural resource protection and development as well as shipping enterprise security and maritime defense. Additionally, the doctrine specifies support requirements involving pursuit of extended outer continental shelves in the Arctic, which might be initial indications that Russia is prepared to depart from UNCLOS and the oversight committee recommendations.
- Based on this doctrine, can you predict what Russia’s future goal is?
Russia’s current ability to conduct maritime force projection is largely limited to strategic subsurface capabilities and the North Atlantic surface waters. The Baltic and Northern waters might also see more Russian presence, if only to parallel NATO/Western levels of activity. Moscow will continue to pursue establishment of customary laws in order to defeat competing international norms, especially for the Northern Sea Route where it hopes to secure expansive control of surface waters. Russia will also increase aggressiveness in the Black Sea in a campaign to deter access and gain increased control of international waters that Russia defines as critical to its national security. Overall, Russia will continue to pursue expansion and control of any waters that can serve as a defensive buffer zone.