Russian Navy Reads the Art of War

CIMSEC content is and will always be free, consider donating!

Russia Resurgent Topic Week

By Vidya Sagar Reddy

The Russian Federation intends to restore prestige and territory lost with the fall of Soviet Union. The key military objectives associated with this geopolitical thrust are confronting the eastward expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) over the European continent and denying the United States free access and power projection in the global commons, specifically in the maritime domain. Vladimir Putin personally announced a new Russian maritime doctrine reflecting these objectives. In this process, the Russian Navy is showcasing characteristics reminiscent of Sun Tzu’s Art of War.

Referring to Sun Tzu is not a new phenomenon for traditionally Western navies. Germany’s emperor Wilhelm II wished he could have read Sun Tzu before World War I and General Douglas MacArthur was known to have referred to his teachings. An analysis of Russia’s way of warfighting in Ukraine, especially across Crimea, revealed the application of Gerasimov Doctrine that advocated targeting an adversary’s weaknesses while avoiding direct confrontations. This is one of the significant principles of asymmetric warfare preached by Sun Tzu.

Sun Tzu’s famous dictum is that all warfare is based on deception. He counselled that one should appear weak when strong and strong when weak. He advised showing presence at places where not expected by the adversary and striking at weak points. Denial and deception were the key tactics employed by Russia when annexing Crimea and gaining the warm water port of Sevastopol permanently. The Russian Navy played phantom games within the territorial waters of Baltic countries and buzzed US warships in the Black Sea and the Pacific Ocean.

By showcasing presence and performing unsafe activities in the maritime zones flanking its territory and other areas of interest, the Russian Navy intends to deter its adversaries from concentrating their resources on its current maritime zones of interest – Europe and the Middle East. For Putin, Ukraine and Syria are the proving grounds for Russia’s re-emergence in the international order. It is imperative to deny other navies from gaining an upper hand in these zones either for military strikes or for reinforcing diplomatic manoeuvring.

However, the negligence on the part of Russian administration towards the navy weakened its strength and technological sophistication to directly confront the navies of the US and NATO. This makes it imperative for the Russian Navy to adopt the asymmetric means of warfighting. Therefore, the Russian Navy is enumerating the art of sea denial by constructing an ‘arc of steel’ between the Arctic and the Mediterranean via the Baltic and Black Seas. This resembles, at least in conceptual terms, China’s Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2AD) strategy in the Western Pacific, which is itself influenced by Sun Tzu’s teachings.

The students of Mahan know that the raison d’être of a navy is to keep open the sea lines of communication and protect the trade passing through them. A strong navy is especially critical for the US, concerned as it is with its relative decline in the global order after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and concentrating on economic rebuilding. By operationalizing a local but strong sea denial construct, the Russian Navy is setting a limit on its competitors’ power projection capabilities.

Lacking unimpeded access to the maritime domain also curtails free movement of trade and affects the economy of the US as well as of its allies and partners in Europe. This is what primarily concerned the US Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral John Richardson, as he spoke about the adverse impact of Russian maritime activity on the trade transiting the Mediterranean. In essence, the Russian Navy is practicing a prominent dictum of Sun Tzu – winning without fighting.

Apart from securing trade, the US Navy also performs global power projection for deterring and defeating aggression against American interests. Such a task involves providing sufficient numbers of warships fitted with advanced sensors and weapons. The political administration directs these assets to be deployed in certain areas of responsibility, protecting interests and responding to threats. The Obama administration ordered deployment of sixty percent of US naval assets to the Asia-Pacific for maintaining peace and stability in this region, upon which the US economic build-up is dependent.

A significant portion of these assets are appropriated as a response to China’s naval build-up and its assertive maritime activities. The US Navy is expected to handle any military aggression in this region without serious operational concerns arising in other areas of responsibility. However, it would be hard-pressed to contain the rise of a serious threat in another region with the backdrop of the US’ declining capability to fight and win two major regional contingencies simultaneously.

To relieve this situation, the US Navy and its patrons in the US Congress have vehemently opposed imposition of “sequestration” on the force’s budget, but constraints remain. A fierce battle erupted in Congress regarding funds for new ballistic-missile submarines (the Ohio Replacement Program). The construction of Ford-class carriers and Littoral Combat Ships is advancing but with criticism and budget shortfalls.

On the operational front, the US Marines are contemplating plans to hitchhike on private vessels to reach forward positions. And the US Navy is now operating in the Middle East without a carrier for the first time in recent years while the region is experiencing renewed conflicts. These issues point to the fact that the US Navy is indeed overstretched and short-funded.

This is the weak point Sun Tzu would strike at. Thus the Russian Navy has opened another contested maritime zone. To confront destabilizing Russian naval activity, the chief of the US Sixth Fleet is pressing for deployment of additional warships in his area of responsibility while Admiral Richardson contemplates enhanced presence in Europe.

If carried out, it might require transferring a few platforms intended for the Asia-Pacific before the US shipbuilding activity reaches a level to satisfy the emerging requirements. Attempting to convince the present White House administration of such a transfer would be in vain. Therefore the dilemma persists within the US Navy and the White House which maritime zone should be accorded primary focus.

By aggressively parading the navy and establishing its sea denial construct, Russia is aiming to incapacitate the navies of the US and NATO from performing their fundamental roles of protecting trade, safeguarding global commons and power projection. The Russian naval threat has driven the logic of numbers and maritime strategy of the US Navy to ground, forcing an overhaul. Without the American naval support, the NATO forces would also experience serious constraints. Thus the navy is emerging the spearhead of Russia’s re-emergence and offence against its adversaries by simply referring to Sun Tzu.

Vidya Sagar Reddy is a Research Assistant at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.

Read other contributions to Russia Resurgent Topic Week.

Shipbuilding constraints drive downsized but potent Russian Navy

CIMSEC content is and will always be free, consider donating!

Russia Resurgent Topic Week

By Dmitry Gorenburg

Official announcements related to naval shipbuilding give the appearance of a Russian Navy that is undergoing a rapid revival. However, the reality is that many projects have faced lengthy delays and cost overruns. As a result, some of the most prominent naval procurement projects have been scaled back, while others have been postponed for years at a time. The delays and cost overruns are the result of a long-term decline in naval research and development, an inability to modernize the shipbuilding industry made worse by Western sanctions, and pre-existing budgetary constraints that have been exacerbated in recent years by Russia’s economic downturn. However, the Russian Navy has developed a strategy that compensates for these gaps by utilizing its strength in submarines and cruise missile technology to fulfill key maritime missions such as homeland defense and power projection in the face of a failure to build an adequate number of large combat ships.

An obsolete industry

Russia’s current shipbuilding industry was primarily formed in the 1960s and 1970s, and its ship design capabilities have changed little since the early 1980s. As a result, Russian naval R&D has fallen several decades behind both Western and Asian capabilities in this sphere. Most Russian ship designs are less energy-efficient and more difficult to operate and maintain than comparable Western designs. Because of the lack of investment in modern technology, Russian design bureaus have been unable to transition to three-dimensional digital design, a process that was largely completed in Western shipbuilding in the 1990s. Lack of investment has also delayed the transition to assembly of hulls from large sections, a process that took place in the early 2000s in other countries’ shipyards.

Russian leaders recognized these problems in the late 2000s and sought to absorb Western knowledge through joint projects in both military and civilian shipbuilding. However, the freezing of military cooperation with NATO states in 2014 as a result of the Ukraine crisis has largely foreclosed the possibility of catching up by borrowing Western know-how. Russian naval R&D is therefore likely to remain significantly behind when compared to the Western state of the art.

Although it has improved somewhat in recent years, Russia’s shipbuilding industry is considered to be particularly outdated and poorly structured when compared to other sectors of Russian defense industry. United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) is the least effective of all state corporations in Russia’s defense industry as a result of its excessive size, bloated management structures, and misguided efforts to combine military and civilian shipbuilding under a single corporate roof. Unlike the majority of shipyards in other countries, Russian shipyards function not just as assembly sites for ships but also manufacture many components and even machine tools used in shipbuilding. This makes the industry less efficient than its foreign counterparts. According to reports by Russian government officials in 2013, more than 70 percent of equipment at Russian shipyards was outdated and in need of replacement. Aged equipment has resulted in delays and cost overruns in the construction of naval ships designed along modern lines.

The impact of sanctions

Russian shipbuilding has suffered more than other defense industry sectors from the introduction of Western sanctions. The German company MTU has stopped supplying diesel engines for Project 20385 corvettes, leading the Russian Navy to delay production of the several ships model and revert to the older Project 20380 version, which uses less reliable domestically produced engines.

Ukraine has stopped supplying gas turbines for Russian ships, leading to significant delays in the production of Admiral Gorshkov and Admiral Grigorovich class frigates. According to the head of USC, efforts to substitute domestic gas turbines are currently under way, with a domestically produced sample turbine expected to be ready for testing no earlier than 2017. As a result of this shift to domestic production, only two Admiral Gorshkov and three Admiral Grigorovich class frigates will be commissioned before 2020. Other ships in both classes will be delayed by a minimum of three years.

Western sanctions have also resulted in major problems with the production of ship components, including electronics, sensors, pumps, and electric motors. Russian manufactured components are particularly lacking in the areas of navigation and communication equipment. Most of these components are not produced domestically in Russia, and the industry has long been dependent on imports from Europe for high quality components. Efforts to start domestic production are underway, but prices for domestic variants are relatively high while quality is relatively low. This situation has caused tension between USC and the Russian Navy. One option that is being actively considered is shifting to imports from China for some components.

Financial constraints

The State Armament Program (SAP) for 2011-2020 assigned five trillion rubles, a quarter of the total program expenditure, to military shipbuilding. This amount was almost double the amount allocated to the ground forces and airborne forces combined. At the same time, it has been shown that this level of expenditure was beyond the means of the Russian government even prior to the budget crisis that began in 2014. While the percentage of Russian GDP devoted to military spending increased from 1.5 percent in 2010 to 3.4 percent in 2014, that level of spending was still sustainable for the Russian economy. However, SAP-2020 was backloaded, so that 70 percent of the expenditures were scheduled for the second half of the ten-year program. In the context of slowing economic growth even prior to the crisis that began in 2014, fulfilling these plans would have required Russian military spending to increase to levels of eight percent of GDP under the most realistic economic growth scenario, something that the economy could not support.

The economic crisis may result in further cuts to naval procurement. According to Russian analysts, fulfilling all currently announced naval procurement plans would require the amount of spending on military shipbuilding to increase to 6-7 trillion rubles for the next SAP. Initially, the military requested a total of 56 trillion rubles for new procurement for 2015-2025, though recognition of limits on the government’s financial resources resulted in cuts and a final request of 30 trillion rubles. Some reports suggested that even further cuts might be made, with the total program being potentially limited to only 14-15 trillion rubles. Furthermore, Russian media indicated that as a result of the unfavorable budget situation the next program may be postponed altogether.

The Russian Navy in a constrained resource environment

These financial constraints will result in Russia not being able to fulfill its goal of recapitalizing its navy with a new generation of large combat ships. Russia is unlikely to complete any new destroyers in the next ten years and will be able to complete only a small number of new frigates. At the same time, its legacy Soviet-era large combat ships will become less reliable as they age. The extent to which the Russian Navy can successfully modernize these ships will determine its ability to continue out-of-area deployments in numbers and frequency comparable to present-day rates – i.e. task groups of 2-5 ships – until the next generation of destroyers is ready in the late 2020s. If modernization programs are fulfilled only partially or not at all, by 2025 the Russian Navy will have few if any large combat ships capable of deploying regularly outside their bases’ immediate vicinity.

The Russian Navy will seek to ameliorate these limitations by focusing on developing its already formidable cruise missile strike capability. Post-Soviet innovations in precision-guided munitions, specifically tactical missile systems, are at the heart of Russia’s naval modernization. Moscow regards these systems – universal VLS armed with the latest anti-ship and land-attack cruise missiles – as potent force multipliers capable of offsetting Russian shortfalls in both the numbers and quality of ships in its fleets.

Their advent has allowed the Russian Navy to create true multi-mission platforms, capable of providing combat-credible force across several warfare areas. This innovation will allow Russia to substitute its diminishing number of large combatants with smaller ships that have limited suitability for expeditionary, blue water operations, but can nonetheless support defense and deterrence goals from seas adjacent to Russia’s littoral spaces. This focus will be combined with limited power projection based primarily on submarine that will be armed with similar cruise missiles.

Together, the combination of 30-40 small combat ships (frigates and corvettes) and 15-20 nuclear and diesel powered submarines – all armed with cruise missiles – will allow the Russian Navy to maintain its ability to protect its coastline and to threaten neighboring states. While it will not be able to project power globally, Russia’s naval capabilities will be sufficient to achieve its main maritime goals.

Dmitry Gorenburg is a senior research scientist in the Strategic Studies division of CNA, a not-for-profit research and analysis organization, where he has worked since 2000. He holds a Ph.D in political science from Harvard University and a B.A. in international relations from Princeton University. He blogs on issues related to the Russian military at

Read other contributions to Russia Resurgent Topic Week.

The Development of Russian Naval Capabilities after the Cold War

CIMSEC content is and will always be free, consider donating!

Russia Resurgent Topic Week

By Patrick Truffer

The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union led to a weakening of the former Soviet Armed Forces. It was not until after the turn of the millennium that Russia directed its efforts towards qualitative rearmament and simultaneously shifted its focus to strategic systems with the associated lowering of the threshold regarding the use of nuclear weapons.[i] This new focus concentrated on land and air forces, and was necessarily not applied in full to the Russian Federation Navy (RFN), even if an article by Ben Hernandez warned that the RFN would be similarly developed.[ii] This essay poses questions based on these findings: to what extent have the capabilities of the RFN changed since the end of the Cold War? Can a trend towards a weakening of conventional and a strengthening of the strategic components be identified?

When the Russian armed forces were officially established on 7 May 1992, the RFN was in quantitative terms a navy of rank II (see “Notes: Classification of the capabilities of marine power” further below). The economic problems of Russia, which lasted until the early years of the 21st century, resulted in the maintenance and modernization of the ex-Soviet military systems playing only a subordinate role. Financial spending for the Red Army had previously accounted for at least 15% of GDP, but between 1992 and 1997 expenditure fell to no more than 5%, despite the 50% drop in GDP during the same period. Spending was further reduced to 2.9% in 1998 during the Ruble crisis, increasing only from 1999. The financial resources available to the Russian armed forces until 1999 barely sufficed for operating costs. Important new acquisitions were not possible, as can be seen in the development of the armed forces during the consolidation period which lasted until after 1999, when out-dated, surplus Soviet systems were scrapped.[iii] The consolidation phase was particularly punishing for the RFN which lost four of its original five aircraft carriers within the four year period – only the conventionally powered Admiral Kuznetsov is still operational today.[iv] By the turn of the millennium, the strategic and tactical submarines, minelayers and minesweepers as well as amphibious capabilities had been drastically reduced in number.[v] In addition, Russia withdrew from almost all its foreign bases – Tartus in Syria remained as the last Russian naval base outside of Russian territory.[vi]

The potential of the RFN and its suppliers of defence technology deteriorated not only in terms of quantity but also of quality. At present, only about a quarter of the fleet has ocean-going capacity, and the abandonment of armaments projects as well as a shortage of new vessels since the turn of the millennium have reduced the RFN to a navy of rank III.[vii] The RFN is capable, although with considerable effort, of projecting power at a global level. However, a major operation would only be possible within a limited arena and for a limited period.[viii] The problems the RFN has in maintaining its Mediterranean task force, which consist of between 10 and 12 vessels, indicate that a sustained operation would have less success.[ix]

Financial constraints in the defence industry have led to the unravelling of the production chain and to a loss of know-how, complicated by the fact that former Soviet production sites were often located outside of Russia. Russian aircraft carriers, for example, were built in Mykolaiv in Ukraine.[x] Due to these factors and combined with a lack of investment in new industrial capabilities and technologies, Russia must in part rebuild its industrial military technology from the ground up.[xi] The modernisation of the Russian armaments industry made only slow progress till 2010, due for the most part to inefficient and corrupt state-funded structures. In spite of this, three new strategic nuclear-powered submarines of the Borei-class have successfully been put into service since 2008. Together with a further five, they will replace Russia’s remaining strategic Delta- and Typhoon-class submarines by 2020 and compose the future maritime component of the nuclear triad. The strategic submarines serve as a carrier system for up to 16 of the currently not yet fully operational Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).[xii] The Borei-class is in part Soviet technology because the relevant planning phase began during the Cold War.[xiii] After successful implementation, this will reduce the strategic submarine fleet from the Cold War levels of 55 units (covering six classes) and 832 nuclear-capable ICBMs (five types) to 8-10 Borei-class submarines with altogether 128-160 nuclear-capable ICBMs of a single type armed with one nuclear warhead each. The strategic maritime component of Russia will thereby be quantitatively modest compared to that of the USA which, from 2018 and taking into account the New START agreement, will have 12 Ohio-class submarines, each with 20 Trident D-5 ICBMs, each of which theoretically capable of carrying up to 14 nuclear warheads.[xiv] Regarding the quantity of the carrier systems, Russia is still superior to those of the UK (four Vanguard-class submarines, each with 16 Trident D-5 ICBMs, capable of carrying three nuclear warheads each) and France (four Le Triomphant-class submarines, each with 16 ICBMs equipped with six nuclear warheads per missile).[xv] Despite significant quantitative disarmament, which in turn has reduced pressure on the military budget, Russia has been able to ensure the capabilities of the maritime component of its nuclear triad.

Military Statistics – Russian Armed Forces – Nov 2015 

Optimistic estimates of the development periods for new, possibly nuclear-powered aircraft carriers arrive at 15-20 years.[xvi] This is the most fundamental of several preconditions required for a return to the rank of a Major Global Force Projection navy (if only “partial”). In addition, every deployed aircraft carrier requires further vessels. When the Admiral Kuznetsov passed through the English Channel in January 2014, the Russian carrier battle group consisted of a further five cruisers, destroyers and frigates as escort vessels.[xvii] Thus to an aircraft carrier, enough suitable escorts and the necessary logistics required for sustained operations must be available for deployment. The Russian shipbuilding industry currently seems almost incapable of successfully implementing this mammoth project within the prescribed time, because the problems, massive cost overruns and time delays in the conversion commissioned by the Indian Navy of the Kiev-class aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov into the INS Vikramaditya generate little confidence in the capabilities of Russian shipyards.[xviii]

Despite these changes required, the conventional sector appears to have made progress. For example, modernisation work began in 2007 on the Oscar-class submarines (each with 24 P-700 Granit anti-ship cruise missiles) which are still in operation and for the most part date back to the 1980s. In addition, at the end of 2013 a new tactical, nuclear-powered Yasen-class submarine entered service.[xix] However, this was not a new development; as with the Borei-class, the planning phase dates back to the Soviet era. Construction was delayed by years, partly due to financial restrictions and partly due to the priority given to the Borei-class. Four more Yasen-class submarines are to follow in the medium- to long-term. With Russias diesel-electric powered attack submarines, the Kilo-class fleet has been partly modernised and increased to 20 units. The first submarine in the subsequent Lada-class, whose drive system possibly will be air-independent and significantly quieter, has been operational since 2010 and two more are to follow by 2020.[xx] Two heavy nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser (Kirov-class) from the Soviet era are also being modernised.[xxi] There seems otherwise to be no new development in the field of cruisers. The outlook is more positive with frigates: The multi-role Admiral Gorshkov-class (1 being tested, 3 under construction and a total of 5-6 operational by 2020) and the guided-missile Admiral Grigorovich-class (5 in construction, 6 planned) are new Russian developments.[xxii] The Buyan-class (5 operational, 1 undergoing testing, 5 in construction and 1 planned) and the Steregushchy-class corvette[xxiii] (4 operational, 4 under construction and 18 planned by 2020) are also new Russian developments. Both corvette classes are primarily for the protection of coastal waters and, in the case of the Steregushchy-class with its operational flexibility, the 200-mile economic zone. Two of the successor model, Project 22160, which will have a greater level of self-sufficiency[xxiv], are already in production.[xxv]

The 20 obsolete landing craft which still exist on paper mean that the amphibious capabilities of the RFN are virtually non-existent. In the long term, Russia is planning to bridge this gap with the Ivan Gren-class, but although begun in 2004, the project is not yet fully functional. It was announced in July 2015 that only two of the six ships planned would be completed. In addition, the purchase of two French Mistral-class amphibious assault ships was cancelled by France because of tensions resulting from the annexation of the Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine. Russia is now planning to create a modern replacement with a project of its own (Avalanche), but as with all major maritime projects in Russia, doubts about its successful implementation pervade.[xxvi]


After the Cold War, the quantitative and qualitative potential of the RFN declined considerably. It is presently in the same league as the UK and the France Navy and could at the most carry out one major operation for a closely defined period in a specific location. This capability gap in global power projection will continue to exist in the long-term. In addition, the amphibious capabilities of the RFN are virtually non-existent, and here no long-term closing of the gap can be detected. The RFN is currently capable of policing the 200-mile economic zone and the coastal waters of the Russian regional space. At the strategic level, maritime component of the Russian nuclear triad with its Burei-class submarines and the Bulava ICBMs is capable of ensuring a presence, even after 2020. The number of simultaneously usable nuclear warheads, low in comparison to that of the USA, UK and France, is not the most significant factor. Despite the existing capability gaps and the efforts to continue to maintain the nuclear triad, the present analysis of the RFN capabilities does not reveal the kind of unilateral shift in focus towards the strategic component which can be detected in Russia’s land and air forces.

Patrick Truffer publishes the Swiss security policy blog He graduated from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs and is completing a Master of Arts program in International Relations at the Freien Universität Berlin.

Read other contributions to Russia Resurgent Topic Week.

[i]               Patrick Truffer, “Strategic rearmament of the Russian armed forces after end of the Cold War”,, February 01, 2015, part 1:, part 2:

[ii]              Ben Hernandez, “Is Russia’s Maritime Strategy Adrift?”, Medium, August 14, 2015,

[iii]             Mike Bowker and Cameron Ross, Russia After the Cold War, 1st edition (New York: Routledge, 2000), 230ff; Patrick Truffer, “Statistics – Russian Armed Forces”, November 2015,

[iv]             This craft class is not defined in Russia as a full-fledged aircraft carrier, but as a heavy-aircraft carrying cruiser. “New Russian ‘Storm’ Supercarrier Design Wows Chinese Media”, Sputnik, July, 11, 2015,

[v]              Truffer, “Statistics – Russian Armed Forces”.

[vi]             Felix F. Seidler, Maritime Herausforderungen der NATO, Analysen zur Sicherheitspolitik, Bd. 8 (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang GmbH, Internationaler Verlag der Wissenschaften, 2015), 62.

[vii]            Sean MacCormac, “The New Russian Naval Doctrine”, CIMSEC, September 3, 2015,

[viii]           Seidler, Maritime Herausforderungen der NATO, 61.

[ix]             Paul Pryce, “Russia’s Rusting Task Force”, CIMSEC, September 16, 2013,

[x]              Peter Dunai and Guy Anderson, “Russia commits to building Black Sea naval shipyards”, Jane’s Navy International 118:2 (March 2013): 49.

[xi]             Seidler, Maritime Herausforderungen der NATO, 63.

[xii]            “Chapter Five: Russia and Eurasia”, The Military Balance 113 (2013): 204.

[xiii]           Construction began in 1996. The test phase planned for 2002 and the planned completion in 2006 were delayed by several years. “Russia”, The Military Balance 108 (2008): 223, “Russia”, The Military Balance 106 (2006): 164.

[xiv]           Under the New START, the number of nuclear warheads for all delivery systems altogether is restricted to 1,550. U.S. Departement of Defense, “Fact Sheet on US Nuclear Force Structure under the New START Treaty”, April 08, 2014.

[xv]            UK Government, “Fact Sheet 10: Trident Value for Money Review”, October 19, 2010; “Chapter Four: Europe”, The Military Balance 115, (2015): 91.

[xvi]           “New Russian ‘Storm’ Supercarrier Design Wows Chinese Media”.

[xvii]          “Russian Carrier Battle Group on its Way to the Mediterranean”, RIA Novosti, January 10, 2014,

[xviii]         “INS Vikramaditya: Indias New Carrier”, Defense Industry Daily, July 16, 2015,; Dmitry Gorenburg, “Russian naval capabilities and procurement plans”, Russian Military Reform, January 14, 2015,

[xix]           “Russia Commissions New Attack Submarine”, Sputnik, Dezember 13, 2013,

[xx]            “Chapter Five: Russia and Eurasia”, The Military Balance 115 (2015): 187, 205.

[xxi]           “Russian Shipyard Sevmash Ordered New Equipment for Overhaul of Kirov Class Cruiser Nakhimov”, Navy Recognition,  January 06, 2015,

[xxii]          Gorenburg, “Russian naval capabilities and procurement plans”; “Baltic Shipyard Starts Work on New Fregatten for Russian Navy”, Sputnik, November 15, 2013,

[xxiii]         The Corvette appears in the “Military Balance” statistics only from 2009, and from 2011 it is classed among the frigates
(accordingly considered in Truffer, “Statistics – Russian Armed Forces”).

[xxiv]         An operational range of 6,000 miles and a continuous operating time of 60 days instead of 3,500 miles and 15 days for the Steregushchy class. John Pike, “Project 22160 Vasily Bykov Patrol Ship”,, May 02, 2014,

[xxv]          Gorenburg, “Russian naval capabilities and procurement plans”.

[xxvi]         “Russia Reduces Procurement of Ivan Gren Class Landing Ship to Focus on Mistral Analog Lavina”, Navy Recognition, July 10, 2015,

Notes: Classification of the capabilities of marine power[i]


Rank Designation Description These include:
I Major Global Force Projection Navy – Complete Can carry out all naval tasks globally, implementing several operations at the same time and establishing military supremacy worldwide. Includes aircraft carrier battle groups, nuclear-powered attack and strategic missile submarines, amphibious assault ships and a corresponding three-digit number of surface warships. USA
II Major Global Force Projection Navy – Partial Can participate globally in several locations simultaneously with sea denial forces of oceanic range, but only with limitations when it comes to creating military superiority distant from the national territory and for an extended period of time. Has limited access to aircraft carriers and/or amphibious assault ships, but remains dependent on on-shore bases for air support. Includes nuclear-powered attack and strategic missile submarines. The main burden is carried by a significant number of surface warships, in three-digit or high double-digit numbers. Currently no State
III Medium Global Force Projection Navy Can project power globally in multiple simultaneous operations, but can only successfully implement one major operation in one location at any specific time. Has few/individual aircraft carriers and/or amphibious assault vessels, nuclear-powered attack and strategic missile submarines and a two-digit number of surface warships capable of geographically limited naval patrols. Russia



Great Britain (almost)



IV Medium Regional Force Projection Navy Can project power on its own shores, but without being able to establish military superiority on a large scale. Compared to Ranks I to III has a smaller number of surface warships, and may have individual small aircraft carriers or amphibious assault vessels; rarely nuclear, usually conventionally powered attack submarines and land-based aircraft to support operations at sea. Germany








V Adjunct Force Projection Navies Can exert military power along their own coastline with surface vessels and possibly conventionally powered submarines. Sweden


VI Offshore Territorial Defence Navies With surface vessels and possibly conventionally powered submarines they have a credible capability to defend their territorial waters and exclusive economic zones. Chile
VII Inshore Territorial Defence Navies Can defend their coasts with surface vessels. Tunisia


VIII Constabulary Navies Can patrol their coastal waters with weakly armed surface vessels. Bangladesh
IX Token Navies These are navies operated by small states with minimal operational capacity, for example in the form of small patrol boats. Pacific island states

[i]               Classification according to Eric Grove, The Future of Sea Power (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press US, 1990), 236-240. From: Seidler, Maritime Herausforderungen der NATO, 49f, 349-355. I also wish to thank Felix for his additional explanations, suggestions and tips as well as for country examples.


“Baltic Shipyard Starts Work on New Frigate for Russian Navy”. Sputnik, November 15, 2013,

Bowker, Mike, und Cameron Ross. Russia After the Cold War. 1st edition. New York: Routledge, 2000.

“Chapter Five: Russia and Eurasia”. The Military Balance 113, (2013): 199–244.

“Chapter Five: Russia and Eurasia”. The Military Balance 115, (2015): 159–206.

“Chapter Four: Europe”. The Military Balance 115, (2015): 57–158.

Dunai, Peter, and Guy Anderson. “Russia commits to building Black Sea naval shipyards”. Jane’s Navy International 118:2 (March 2013): 49.

Gorenburg, Dmitry. “Russian naval capabilities and procurement plans”. Russian Military Reform, January 14, 2015,

Grove, Eric. The Future of Sea Power. Annapolis, Md: US Naval Institute Press, 1990.

Hernandez, Ben. “Is Russia’s Maritime Strategy Adrift?” Medium, August 14, 2015,

“INS Vikramaditya: Indias New Carrier”. Defense Industry Daily, July 16, 2015,

MacCormac, Sean. “The New Russian Naval Doctrine”. CIMSEC, September 03, 2015,

“New Russian ‘Storm’ Supercarrier Design Wows Chinese Media”. Sputnik, July 11, 2015,

Pike, John. “Project 22160 Vasily Bykov Patrol Ship”., May 02, 2014,

Pryce, Paul. “Russia’s Rusting Task Force”. CIMSEC, September 16, 2013,

“Russia”. The Military Balance 106, (2006): 147–64.

“Russia”. The Military Balance 108, (2008): 205–24.

“Russia Commissions New Attack Submarine”. Sputnik, Dezember 30, 2013,

“Russia Reduces Procurement of Ivan Gren Class Landing Ship to Focus on Mistral Analog Lavina”. Navy Recognition, July 10, 2015.

“Russian Carrier Battle Group on its Way to the Mediterranean”. RIA Novosti, January 10, 2014,

“Russian Shipyard Sevmash Ordered New Equipment for Overhaul of Kirov Class Cruiser Nakhimov”. Navy Recognition, January 06, 2015,

Seidler, Felix F.. Maritime Herausforderungen der NATO. Analysen zur Sicherheitspolitik. Bd. 8. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang GmbH, Internationaler Verlag der Wissenschaften, 2015.

Truffer, Patrick. “Statistics – Russian Armed Forces”, November 2015,

Truffer, Patrick. “Strategic rearmament of the Russian armed forces after end of the Cold War”, February 01, 2015, part 1:, part 2:

UK Government. “Fact Sheet 10: Trident Value for Money Review”, October 19, 2010.

U.S. Department of Defense. “Fact Sheet on US Nuclear Force Structure under the New START Treaty”, April 08, 2014.

The New Russian Naval Doctrine

CIMSEC content is and always will be free; consider donating!

This article originally featured on CIMSEC on Sep. 3, 2015 and has been updated for inclusion into the Russia Resurgent Topic Week

By Sean MacCormac

To inaugurate the Russian Navy’s new doctrine, President Vladimir Putin met with Deputy Prime Minister Dimitrij Rozogin, Defense Minister Sergej Šojgu, Commander of the Navy Viktor Čirkov, and Commander of the Western Military District Anatolyj Sidorov aboard the frigate Admiral Gorškov on July 26th to discuss the latest draft of the Maritime Doctrine. The doctrine itself is a comprehensive look and revision of Russian naval goals and strategy, from improving living standards of sailors to expanding Russian naval reach in the North Atlantic and Arctic regions. The ultimate goal is to restore the Russian Navy as a blue water force.

With Russian concerns over NATO once again coming to the forefront, the document outlines a plan to have a permanent naval presence in the Mediterranean as well as increasing the existing Russian naval presence in the Black Sea, Atlantic, and Arctic oceans. The Arctic is seen as key to the Russian Navy strategy due to the abundant natural resources in the region, as well its position as a strategic link between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Control of the Arctic would give the Russian Navy an easy passageway connecting the North Atlantic and North Pacific.

The new strategy calls for the construction of new nuclear-powered icebreakers to allow access to the Arctic. Shipbuilding was largely abandoned after the fall of the Soviet Union. Recently, Russia has begun a program of naval vessel building to supplement a program of naval vessel building to supplement and replace its aging Cold War era fleet. Since the 1990s, however, only submarines and smaller vessels such as corvettes and frigates have been built. Exacerbated by Russia’s current economic troubles, the Federation currently lacks the shipbuilding expertise and facilities required to construct large modern warships. Only a quarter of Russia’s current fleet is capable of conducting blue water operations.

According to Deputy Prime Minister Rozogin, Russia’s new naval doctrine was decided as a result of NATO’s eastward expansion. Former Russian Navy Commander Maxim Šepovalenko, a military expert at the Russian think tank Center for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, suggests that the new doctrine is built on a strategy preparing for an imminent confrontation with the US and its allies.

With a sustained presence in the Crimea, Russia now has greater access to the Black Sea and possibly the Mediterranean, especially if Russian attempts to improve relations with Turkey and Greece 9025993203_c4ef2dd5c9_bare successful. The annexation of Crimea in 2014 was primarily to ensure Russian control of the naval base at Sevastopol, which had been heretofore leased to Russia by the Ukrainian government. To this end, the document notes improving the infrastructure at the Sevastopol base as a priority, as well as the completion of further strategic infrastructure in the Black Sea region.

As for the Pacific and Indian Oceans, the document urges further cooperation with India and China. Shen Shishun, director of Center for South Pacific Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, stated that he believes that cooperation between Russia and China on naval issues would be beneficial, citing China’s expansion in the Pacific Ocean as an example of like strategy. Both Russia and China plan on continuing a series of joint naval exercises in the Sea of Japan after Joint Sea 2015 in the Mediterranean, and Russia and India have plans for joint “Indra Navy 2015” exercises as well.

Though Russia is desperately seeking re-entry into the blue-water navy club, it remains an open question whether or not they will meet their goals anytime soon. Economic difficulties, clashes with European nations previously willing to sell technology to Russia, and a lack of expertise in capital shipbuilding threaten to sink Russia’s naval revival. Perhaps Russia will be able to piggy back off China’s attempt to create a first-rate navy and use their finds to aid their old ally India. What is clear, however, is that Russia intends to create a navy capable of deterring the United States and NATO, as well as China should push come to shove in the Pacific (albeit for now Russia seems to be content with cooperation with the rival Asian power). What is of greatest concern to American strategic planners is Russia’s interest in control of the Arctic and the natural resources in the waters there. Russian control of the Arctic is a possibility that should not be dismissed lightly.

Sean MacCormac is a 2008 graduate of the University of Virginia and a 2013 MA graduate of Austin Peay State University.  He can be reached at

The featured image from this post is from the AP.

Read other contributions to Russia Resurgent Topic Week.

Fostering the Discussion on Securing the Seas. Home of the NextWar Blog