Tag Archives: europe

The Asia Pacific and Europe’s Maritime Security Strategy

European Maritime Security Topic Week

By Dave Andre

In the aftermath of the July 2016 ruling by the United Nation’s Permanent Court of Arbitration that broadly found China’s demarcation claims in the South China Sea to be without legal merit, it became apparent that legal decisions alone would do little to influence the status quo. Considering The Hague’s ruling against the strategic backdrop of power politics in the Asia Pacific, the need for a global maritime presence became clear. This presence connotes a significant maritime challenge for the European Union (EU), which remains a peripheral actor in the maritime security of the Asia-Pacific as several major powers oversee the geopolitical reordering of this critical region. The importance of the region for European trade and business, global economic stability, and international maritime security necessitates that the EU maintain more than just an economic and diplomatic presence in the region. Adding a dedicated maritime presence to the region will involve a balancing act between the competing interests of individual EU members while advancing a comprehensive and unified stance—this goes beyond simple matters of naval capability and capacity. As such, it is important that the international maritime community not treat this presence as a fait accompli, merely awaiting an executable maritime framework.

As the European Council on Foreign Relations summed up in 2013 in reference to Asia, the EU “does not have an automatic seat at the table and therefore must work all the harder to secure its own self-interests.”1 Since then little has changed, as China has increasingly expanded its territorial footprint, the EU has executed an uneven approach to maritime security in the Asia-Pacific region. This ineffectual response leaves Europe open to maritime security threats from afar.

The European Union’s Maritime Domain: A Unique Challenge

Given Europe’s long maritime history it is no surprise that the legal principle for freedom of the seas originated with a European—a Dutch lawyer to be specific—by the name of Hugo Grotius, who in the early seventeenth century wrote, ”Navigation was free to all and no one country could lay claim to the seas on the basis that their navigators were the first to sail on it.”2 Today, that principle exists within the United Nations Convention Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which details provisions for navigation, archipelagic status and transit regimes, EEZs, territorial waters, and settlement of disputes. Today, the European Union faces a dynamic maritime environment with challenges ranging from border security to renewable resources and combating piracy. Of the EUs 28 member states, 22 have a combined coastline that extends 65,993 km encompassing the Mediterranean Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean.3 The length and breadth of this dynamic maritime environment, when coupled with the competing priorities of member states and coordination with non-member states, makes the EU’s maritime security strategy a unique challenge amongst maritime powers.

The EU addresses this complexity in the European Union’s Maritime Security Strategy (EUMSS), which recognizes the importance of protecting maritime interests worldwide while simultaneously recognizing that success depends on the ability to collaborate across regional and national levels.4 However, since the 2014 adoption of EUMSS, the EU has struggled to balance the myriad regional maritime issues with international maritime issues, showing that a unified maritime strategy for the global maritime domain is still far off. The unfolding situation in the South China Sea is perhaps the best example of the fissures and shortfalls inherent with the EU’s maritime strategy. The EU has so far remained outside the fray, issuing a tepid statement after the UN tribunal ruling in favor of the Philippines in July 2016.5 While many see this strategy as a case of prioritizing domestic issues over international issues, the issue is far more complex. The ever-evolving transatlantic relationship between the United States and Europe, the economic influence of China on Europe via initiatives like the One-Belt-One Road framework, and the declining naval power of European navies, all factor into Europe’s support of the maritime order in the Asia-Pacific.

Europe and Asia: A Complex Relationship

As a region, the Asia-Pacific is as dynamic as they come. Militarily, disputed islands, paramilitary forces, and militarization characterize the operating environment. Politically, Chinese realpolitik clashes with liberalism, pitting international governance against the rise of a regional hegemon. Meanwhile, from an economic standpoint the region is home to three of the world’s biggest economies, while over $5 trillion in global trade passes through the seas each year. This geo-political environment, coupled with the complex maritime geography of straits, archipelagic waters, and overlapping maritime claims means that international law is critical to maintaining an orderly system.6 Within this complex milieu lays the maritime challenge—protecting the Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) critical to global economic prosperity.

This region holds significant interest for the European Union, but exactly what those interests are differs from member to member. These differences present difficulties for the EU’s development of a unified and actionable strategy in the South China Sea and the Southeast Asia region. China is the EU’s second largest trading partner, as a region ASEAN is the EU’s third largest trading partner, and South Korea, Japan, and India all place within the top ten. Collectively, this trade amounts to almost a trillion euros annually. Furthermore, there are more than 10,000 European companies operating within the Southeast Asia region.

The economic considerations are not solely defined by Europe looking east of the Suez; they are also largely influenced by China’s Eurasian ambitions. China’s One-Belt-One-Road initiative promises significant investment in Europe, especially the struggling economies of the South and East. Likewise, investments by companies such as the state-owned China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO), which is upgrading the port in Piraeus, Greece, illustrate that this economic influence extends past mere business ventures.7 While the One-Belt-One-Road initiative is unlikely to radically alter the geography of trade routes and investment in port upgrades will not alter Greece’s naval posture, these activities do have the potential of altering and influencing the economic interdependence of EU member states. This creates scenarios where Europe needs to tread lightly as they balance economic and diplomatic interests against security interests, while simultaneously recognizing that the preferred balance will be different depending on the individual country.

European Diplomatic Efforts in the Asia-Pacific Maritime Domain

The divisions are not limited to economics. Politically, the EU has struggled to speak with one voice regarding issues within the Asia-Pacific. The EU’s presence in the Asia-Pacific is a complex web of arrangements, policies, dialogues, and statements that seek to balance the competing interests of individual members while advancing a comprehensive and unified stance. Starting in 2007, there have been a number of policy developments pertaining to the EU’s development of a comprehensive maritime strategy. In 2007, the adoption of the Blue Book, an Integrated Maritime Policy laid the groundwork for operational cooperation among member states. While not specifically addressing security concerns, the focus on trade and fisheries provided a template for future maritime security initiatives.A series of initiatives followed—Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008) and the Limassol Declaration (2012)—that recognized the significance of dialogue and cooperation within the regional and international maritime realm as well as the importance of the legal framework laid out by UNCLOS. These policy trends expanded and in 2012, the EU’s Foreign and Security Policy in East Asia proffered guidelines for resolving disputes within the framework of UNCLOS and stresses the importance of freedom of navigation.9 The policy also notes the economic interdependence between the EU and East Asia, the potentially negative impact of competitive nationalism represented by the South China Sea issues, and the complexity of trans-Atlantic relations with the United States and extra-regional partners like Russia, Australia, New Zealand, and India.10 Furthermore, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), which the EU signed in July 2012, provides the framework for peaceful interactions in the region. Taken together these policies clearly articulate that EU interests are closely tied to those of the Asia-Pacific and the international maritime legal framework.

May 31, 2015 – 14th Asia Security Summit, Singapore– High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini gives a speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue. ( Frédérick Moulin 2015 – EU2015 – EEAS)

Beyond policies, the EU maintains a public dialogue—albeit uneven—that further emphasizes and recognizes the importance of the Asia-Pacific and an international maritime framework. It was at the 2013 Shangri-La dialogue in Singapore that the EU was represented as a whole for the first time by High Representative Catherine Ashton. During the dialogues, she referred to the EU’s long-term security plans and comprehensive approach in Asia. Missing from the 2014 dialogues, the EU’s message was one that prioritized concerns in Ukraine, the Middle East, and North Africa over those in far off Asia. While this prioritization of time and resources is notable, even wise, it did little to assuage Asian nations that may be looking to the EU as a model of multilateralism and an alternative to the United States. A notably different tone was struck in the 2015 dialogues, as EU High Representative Federica Mogherini discussed the EU’s, “strong interest in global security.”11 Representative Mogherini made specific mention of freedom of navigation, SLOCs, international law and the importance of promoting cooperation of confrontation and the need for “everyone to play by the same rules.”12

In addition to the Shangri-La dialogues, the EU, France, Germany, Italy, and U.K. signed the G-7 Foreign Ministers’ Declaration on Maritime Security which declares their commitment to “freedoms of navigation and over flight” and to an “international maritime order based upon the principles of international law, in particular as reflected in UNCLOS.”13 At the 2016 G7 Summit in Japan, members reiterated concern “about the situation in the East and South China Seas” and emphasized “the fundamental importance of peaceful management and settlement of disputes.”14 Unsurprisingly, the 2016 Shangri-La dialogues a month later discussed “China’s continued land reclamation and military build-up in the strategic maritime area” at length.i Within this context, the French Defense Minister made clear that joint EU patrols were forthcoming.15 However, a month later, the UN tribunal ruling in favor of the Philippines saw the EU struggle to issue a joint statement. And to say the resulting statement was benign is an understatement; among other things it failed to make any mention of sovereignty. Since then, the EU has been notably silent regarding the South China Sea despite growing evidence of China’s continued militarization of a number of islands.

European Presence in the Asia Pacific

Despite the attempts at providing a unified response under a common defense policy, the most active aspects of Europe’s involvement in the Asia Pacific come in bilateral terms. France has made numerous overtures toward supporting FONOPs in the South China Sea. The UK’s Royal Navy has perhaps the largest and most codified presence in the Asia-Pacific, though it is a shadow of the presence that it was until the waning years of the last century. The Five Power Defense Arrangement, the most notable European-Asian arrangement, is a multilateral agreement between the Commonwealth counties of U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia whereby all powers will consult one another in the event of an attack (actual or threatened) against Malaysia or Singapore. This consultation brings no promise of military action or support, but nonetheless is pertinent for its formal acknowledgement of European-Asian mutual interests. Furthermore, four European countries—Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, and the U.K.—are members of the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP).16 ReCAAP, a multilateral counter-piracy operation that stretches from the Gulf of Aden to the East China Sea illustrates the naval capability of some European powers.17 Additionally, in 2016 Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, and the U.K. participated in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) maritime warfare exercise, signaling their support for Asian maritime security.18 Additionally, there are multilateral examples of EU maritime involvement: the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in 2004, the Fukushima tsunami that occurred in 2010, and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2014 all saw EU involvement.

In Conclusion: It’s Time to Grab a Seat at the Table

Despite policies, dialogues, and statements, the EU lacks a consistent presence in the region, which undermines their ability to influence political and economic events as they unfold. Alongside the 2016 UN tribunal ruling and discussions for a South China Sea Code of Conduct, the EU is losing its seat at the table as the maritime picture takes shape. If the EU expects to maintain influence in the Asia-Pacific it must accept that the geopolitical instability that defines the South China Sea and Asia-Pacific region requires a naval presence to manage risk, promote international order, and decrease the chances of armed conflict.

Setting aside EU institutional politics, there are a number of EU members who have navies capable of global power projection—France, Germany, Italy, the U.K., and Spain. While some members may need to operate in a coalition due to refueling limitations, the capability remains. Overall, the European picture reveals a maritime mindset more focused on the near than the far. This is shortsighted in terms of politics, economics, and military capabilities. Not least because any significant rebalance toward Asia without a corresponding increase in shipbuilding would require a considerable shift in resource allocation. Reversing the current decline in shipbuilding across Europe will take significant and immediate initiative. The EU should take advantage of their long-standing relationship with the U.S. concerning maritime security and their experience working alongside global partners to engender a workable maritime strategy in the South China Sea and the Asia Pacific. With the U.S. increasing its presence in the Europe, there is opportunity for Europe to reinvigorate the Transatlantic Partnership that has defined U.S.-European relations for decades.

Politically, no entity is better poised than the EU to understand the power dynamics and challenges that a regional organization faces when countering the influence of a rising—or in the case of Russia—resurgent hegemonic power. There are relevant lessons to be drawn from the territorial aggression that Russia exhibited in the annexation of the Ukraine. Most notably, that a nation that feels compelled to assume power in a region that they historically view as theirs will not be thwarted by politics alone. Reactionary policies are no substitute for proactive plans. The European Union’s hodgepodge of arrangements, policies, dialogues, and statements regarding the South China Sea, coupled with Chinese economic influence, declining naval power, and an inability to speak and act with one voice are eroding European influence at a time when a new regional order is taking shape in the Asia-Pacific region. To counter this erosion of influence the EU needs a strategy that moves past mere statements that support international norms and the rules laid out in UNCLOS and establish a maritime presence that protects SLOCs throughout the Asia-Pacific.

LT David M. Andre is a former Intelligence Specialist, and has served as an Intelligence Officer and Liaison Officer assigned to AFRICOM. He is currently serving as N2 for COMDESRON SEVEN in Singapore. He can be reached at dma.usn@gmail.com.

The views expressed above are the authors’ alone and do not reflect the official views and are not endorsed by the United States Navy, the Department of the Navy, the Department of Defense, or any other body of the United States Government.


1. “What is Europe’s role in Asia-Pacific?” European Council on Foreign Relations, http://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_what_is_europes_role_in_asia_pacific

2. Bruce Farthing, Farthing on International Shipping, Business of Shipping Series, LLP, London Hong Kong, 1997, p. 7.

3. In comparison, the United States has 19,924 km of coastline, while Russia has 37,653 km.

4. European Commission, “European Union Maritime Security Strategy: Responding Together to Global Challenges,” https://ec.europa.eu/maritimeaffairs/policy/maritime-security_en

5. “Declaration by the High Representative on behalf of the EU on the Award rendered in the Arbitration between the Republic of the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China,” European Council, http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2016/07/15-south-china-sea-arbitration/

6. S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies Policy paper. Good Order at Sea. https://www.rsis.edu.sg/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/PR090427_Good_Order_at_Sea_in_SEA.pdf

7. Netherlands Institute of International Relations Clingendael Policy Paper. China’s Maritime Silk Roadhttps://www.clingendael.nl/sites/default/files/China_Maritime_Silk_Road.pdf.

8. Internaitonal Maritime Security Law by James Kraska, Raul Pedrozo, p. 62.

9. EU-Asia Centre, “South China Sea: Background Note,” http://www.eu-asiacentre.eu/documents/uploads/pub_112_south_china_sea_background_note.pdf.

10. “Guidelines on the EU’S Foreign and Security Policy in East Asia”, Council of European Unionhttp://eeas.europa.eu/archives/docs/asia/docs/guidelines_eu_foreign_sec_pol_east_asia_en.pdf

11. Speech by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue 2015 https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/6254_en

12. Ibid.

13. G7 Foreign Ministers’ Declaration on Maritime Security in Lübeck, 15 April 2015, Federal Foreign Office, http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/EN/Infoservice/Presse/Meldungen/2015/150415_G7_Maritime_Security.html?nn=479796.

14. Whitehouse, “G7 Ise-Shima Leaders’ Declaration,” https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/05/27/g7-ise-shima-leaders-declaration.

15. Kelvin Wong: Reflections on the 2016 Shangri-La Dialogue, https://www.iiss.org/en/shangri-la%20voices/blogsections/2016-588c/kelvin-wong—reflections-on-the-2016-shangri-la-dialogue-2789.

16. Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP), http://www.recaap.org/AboutReCAAPISC.aspx.

17. “Bridging Asia and Europe Through Maritime Connectivity China’s Maritime Silk Road and Indonesia’s Maritime Axis” European Institute for Asian Studies. March 2015. http://www.eias.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Bridging_Asia_Europe_2015.pdf

Featured Image: Members of the welcoming ceremony band play as British Royal Navy destroyer HMS Daring arrives at a port area of Huangpu River in Shanghai December 10, 2013. (Photo by Yang Yi/Asianewsphoto)

A Brief History of the Austro-Hungarian Navy

By Jason Lancaster

Most people would not think of modern land-locked, mountainous Austria as a maritime power, and many of those that have heard of the Austrian Navy wonder why the Nazis wanted an Austrian U-boat captain in the Sound of Music. From 1797 until 1918, the Kaiserlich und Königlich (K.u.K.) Austro-Hungarian Navy fought naval battles against the Danes, French, Italians, and British on European seas, and deployed as far as the South China Sea.

Geographically, Austria was a land power, with little maritime trade and many continental enemies. Following Napoleon’s victories in Italy, the Austrian Empire and France signed the Treaty of Campoformio in 1797. France received Belgium, Lombardy, and territory along the Rhine, while Austria received the Venetian Republic and their navy, a solid base to create a deterrent force.

However, caught in the maelstrom of the Napoleonic Wars, Austria did not have the finances to both fight Napoleon and build a powerful navy. Thus the navy played a minor role in the Napoleonic Wars, and in those early days Austria had little idea of naval strategy. The Austrian Navy’s fortunes ebbed and flowed as Napoleon’s forces marched too and fro across the European continent.

Following Napoleon’s abdication in 1814, Austria inherited the former fleet of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy, comprised of several newly built ships of the line and frigates, as well as the officers and crews of the vessels.1 It took Austria a long time to learn the advantages of sea power, and by the time she did, she had already lost Venice and its attendant dockyards to the newly unified Italy.

Austria’s ignorance of sea power’s benefits prevented her from expanding foreign trade, and caused her great diplomatic embarrassment during the early 19th century. In 1817, Austria sent a merchant ship to Canton, China, flying the new red and white ensign (the present Austrian National flag). However, the ship was refused entrance because the flag was not recognized by the Chinese.

“Distribution of Races in Austria-Hungary” from the Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd, 1911

During the Franco-Austrian War of 1859, the French fleet sailed into the Adriatic and dominated the sea. The Austrian fleet withdrew into their fortified harbors. The Adriatic Sea should have been an Austrian lake, but she lacked the strength to defend it in the face of the larger and more powerful French Navy. A notable incident from this humiliating affair was the return of the Austrian frigate Novarra, from a research-motivated circumnavigation of the globe. Napoleon III declared her a neutral vessel, “Because she was carrying the scientific treasures of value to the whole world.”2

In 1860, the Sardinian Prime Minister, Prince Cavour, sent the Sardinian fleet to blockade Ancona and support Garibaldi’s attacks on the Italian Marches. This caused a terrible fright along the Dalmatian coast, because of irredentist Italian claims to the region. The fears only ceased when Britain declared she would not recognize Italian claims to Dalmatia and Istria.3  This humiliation, in conjunction with Italian naval construction, drove the Austrians to rebuild their navy.

In 1854, a railroad from Vienna to Trieste was completed, which spurred regional commercial activity and rejuvenated foreign trade. Maritime activity fueled the creation of jobs and economic well-being, while naval construction spurred the economies of Istria and Trieste and gave rise to popularity in the Parliament. Advances in technology had rendered the previous generation of Nelsonian ships of the line obsolete; steam, armor, and the screw propeller, among other technologies, gave smaller ships a fighting chance against great ships of the line and allowed lesser powers to catch up and rapidly achieve a sort of parity with great naval powers.

Even without an indigenous shipbuilding industry, Italy had become the third largest naval power in the world. All of her ships came from British and American yards.4 Ferdinand Max, brother of Franz Josef, and Commander in Chief of the Austrian Navy, argued for increased construction and capabilities because, “a well-ordered propeller squadron only a few hours from Corfu or the Italian coast would make Austria a more attractive ally to Britain or France.”  Throughout this period, Ferdinand Max fought for every florin possible in the budget for construction of a capable, modern Austrian Navy. At the end of 1860, he ordered two screw-propeller frigates constructed at Trieste. 5

Archduke Ferdinand’s new navy fought the last fleet action with wooden ships in the Second Schleswig War against Denmark in 1864. Simply getting to the North Sea was a victory in itself. Captain Wilhelm von Tegetthoff sailed his squadron for Lisbon, Brest, and the Downs. The British were not fond of having foreign navies so close to home, and they looked unfavorably on the Austro-German attack on Denmark. “British public opinion was aroused to the point that talk of war with Austria was common. The British Channel Fleet was ordered to the Downs, and a training squadron recalled from Portugal.”6 When Lord John Russell learned of the Austrian deployment, he threatened to send a British squadron to the Adriatic. The government in Vienna called his bluff, but the British attitude to the war would cause Habsburg headaches.

Tegetthoff’s squadron was supposed to break the Danish blockade of Hamburg. On May 4, 1864, Tegetthoff’s squadron encountered a superior Danish squadron off Helgoland. They fought until the Schwarzenburg, Tegetthoff’s flagship, was on fire and compelled to withdraw. Once the flames were extinguished, Tegetthoff returned to find the Danish (who had also suffered heavy damage) gone. Although, tactically a draw, the Danish did not renew their blockade of Hamburg, allowing Austria to claim victory. After the war with Denmark ended, Austrian Foreign Minister Mennsdorf-Pouilly signed an agreement with General von Roon which agreed to let the armaments factory Krupp sell naval artillery to the Austrians, although Prussia declined to purchase any Austrian built ships.7

Danish painer Christian Mølsted’s (1862-1930) imagination of the gunners of the frigate “Niels Juel” celebrating their success against the “Schwarzenberg” called “Ombord på frigatten “Niels Juel” under slaget ved Helgoland 9. maj 1864” (1898)

Despite agreements to purchase Prussian naval artillery, Austro-Prussian military cooperation was short lived; Austria’s next war would pit her against Italy and Prussia, her erstwhile ally. On July 3, 1866, Prussia utterly defeated the Austrians in the north at Königgrätz, but in the south Austria was victorious on land and sea.

One week earlier, the Austrian army had routed the Italian army at Custoza. At sea, the Austrian Navy defeated an Italian invasion fleet at the battle of Lissa on July 20, 1866. Lissa was the first major armored fleet action in history. A superior Italian fleet was beaten and forced to withdrawal from the Dalmatian coast. According to estimates by John Hale, in Famous Sea Fights, “taking into account the number and weight of rifled artillery on ironclads, the Austrians had 1,776 pounds of shell to the Italians 20,392 pounds.” The victory over the Italian fleet was telling; the Italians lost 612 officers and men, along with two ironclads, while the Austrians lost 38 officers and men, two of whom were captains. In his book The Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Navy, Dr. Sokol argues that, “in their excitement, the Italians often failed to load their guns before firing them,” which might account for the slight number of casualties suffered by the Austrians.

Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, formerly Ferdinand Max, Commander in Chief of the Austrian Navy, sent his congratulations to now Admiral Tegetthoff. “The glorious victory which you have gained over a brave enemy, vastly superior in numbers and nurtured in grand old naval traditions, has filled my heart with unmixed joy. With the victory of Lissa your fleet becomes enrolled amongst those whose flag is the symbol of glory, and your name is added to the list of naval heroes of all time.”

Lissa was not only the first major ironclad fleet action, but the sinking of the Re D’Italia by Tegetthoff’s flagship the Erzherzog Ferdinand Max by ramming brought that weapon back into vogue among naval architects and tacticians. It was not until the Spanish-American War almost thirty years later, that the ram would again lose favor. Despite the Austro-Prussian-Italian War having the first ironclad fleet battle, there was a lack of naval warfare through most of the conflict. Theorists studied Lissa, but the rest of the naval war neglected commerce raiding and blockades. Dr. Sokol asserts that is because both navies “thought of naval warfare chiefly as guarding their own coasts.” 8

Admiral Tegetthoff threw a party aboard his flagship for his captains after the battle of Lissa and charged the expenses to the navy budget. Later, the Ministry of Finance “deducted a sum from his salary each month, until he had paid off the cost.” Heroes and celebrities the iron men might have been, but bureaucratic infighting was not going to be easier, simply because they had defeated the Italians in a war that was already lost.9

Over time, the Austrian government learned to wield their increasingly effective navy. By the time of the Great War, Austria managed to hold her own against a combined Franco-Italian fleet. Between August 1914 and February 1917, Austria sank three Italian battleships, two Italian cruisers and a French cruiser, at the cost of one cruiser, an exchange of 85,000 tons for 2,300.10

Austro-Hungarian dreadnought battleships (Tegetthoff class) at the roadstead in Pula, Croatia, which was then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. (Wikimedia Commons)

While the bulk of the Mediterranean submarine patrols were performed by the German Navy (because their submarines were bigger and had more endurance), the Germans had loaned three of their larger submarines to the Austrian Navy.11 The Austrian submarine force was so effective in the Adriatic that the British Royal Navy was forced to support the rest of the Entente powers in their anti-submarine barrier patrols and mine fields across the mouth of the Adriatic Sea called the “Otranto Barrage.” Unlike the Royal Navy that had minimized their planning for submarines during war, Austria had integrated submarines into her naval war plans from the start; these submarines preyed on Entente shipping in the Adriatic and Mediterranean.

Austria was also a pioneer of naval aviation. Austria was the first nation to develop naval aviation in 1913. Early adoption of this capability allowed Austria to control the skies over the Adriatic for the bulk of the war. At the start of the war Austria had 22 seaplanes, and by the time Italy entered the war, Austria had 47 seaplanes. These planes were used for scouting enemy fleet movements as well as attacks on naval bases and vessels at sea.12

Despite the early success of the Austrian Navy, Austria and her allies ultimately lost that war. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was dismembered and new nations based on nationality arose. In Hungary, Admiral Horthy rose to prominent political office during the post-war years, becoming a right wing dictator who was later assassinated by the Nazis. After the fall of the empire, Austria retained the naval ensign as her own national flag, a subtle reminder of a glorious past. Today, the old red and white Austrian ensign flies over Schönbrunn and the Hofburg.

LT Jason Lancaster is a US. Navy Surface Warfare Officer.  He has a Masters degree in History from the University of Tulsa.  His views are his alone and do not represent the stance of any U.S. government department or agency.


1. Lawrence Sondhaus, pg 35.

2. Anthony Sokol, pg 27.

3. Sondhaus, 209.

4. Sokol, pg 28.

5. Sondhaus, pg 208-09.

6. Sokol, pg 31.

7. Sondhaus, pg 240-243.

8. Sokol, pg 49-53.

9. Sokol, pg 52.

10. Sokol, pg 128.

11. Koburger, pg 89.

12. Koburger, pg 18.


Bridge, F.R, The Hapsburg Monarchy Among the Great Powers, 1815-1918, St Martins Press, New York, 1990.

Bush, John W. Venetia Redeemed: Franco-Italian Relation 1864 1866, Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, NY, 1967.

Jenks, William Alexander, Francis Joseph and the Italians, 1849-1859, University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, 1978.

Rauchensteiner, Manfred, Heeresgeschichtliches Museum Vienna, Verlag Styria, 2000.

Koburger, Charles W. The Central Powers in the Adriatic, 1914-1918, War in a Narrow Sea,  Praeger Books, Westport, CT, 2001.

Smith, Dennis Mack, Victorio Emanuel, Cavour, and the Risorgimento, Oxford University Press, London, 1971.

Sokol, Anthony Eugene, The Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Navy, United States Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, 1968.

Sondhaus, Lawrence, The Hapsburg Empire and the Sea: Austrian Naval Policy, 1797-1866, Purdue University Press, West Lafayette, Indianna, 1989.

Wawro, Geoffrey, The Austro-Prussian War: Austria’s War with Prussia and Italy in 1866, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1996.

Wawro, Geoffrey, Warfare and Society in Europe: 1792-1914, Routledge Press, New York, 2000.

Featured Image: Josef Carl Püttner; Seegefecht bei Helgoland 1864 (The Battle of Heligoland)

Putting it Back Together Again: European Undersea Warfare for the 21st Century

The following article is adapted from a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Undersea Warfare in Modern Europe.

By Andrew Metrick

Increasing Russian submarine operations over the past several years have caused considerable concern in capitals across Europe and in the United States. The resurgence of the Russian Navy in the undersea domain prompted a senior U.S. naval official to declare that we are now in the midst of the “Fourth Battle of the Atlantic.”1 Such pronouncements may overstate, to some degree, the extent of Russia’s reemergence,  however, they helpfully shine a light on the dramatic decline of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capabilities across NATO and key partner nations, including Sweden and Finland.As part of a recently released study on the challenges posed by Russian undersea capabilities across Northern Europe, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) analyzed the extent of the decline in U.S., allied, and partner capabilities,  and offered recommendations to reverse it in a timely, cost-effective, and strategic manner.

The CSIS report highlights two incidents that demonstrate how far NATO and partner capabilities have fallen. In a widely publicized 2014 episode, the Swedish Navy spent a week scouring the Stockholm archipelago for an alleged Russian submarine believed to be operating inside Swedish territorial waters.3 The intruder was never publicly identified, though the circumstantial evidence overwhelming suggests it was, in fact, a Russia submarine. In years past, Sweden arguably maintained the best shallow water anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability in the world. This incident, however, calls that status into question. The UK was likewise confronted with a similar incident in late 2014 when the Royal Navy (RN) suspected that Russia was operating a submarine in close proximity to Faslane, the home of the RN’s nuclear submarine force. Given the UK’s lack of fixed-wing ASW platforms, it was forced to request allied assistance to protect this vital military installation—a less than proud moment for the former maritime heavyweight.4 The UK has since announced that it will be investing in nine P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.  

How did once-capable ASW nations like Sweden and the UK find themselves in this position? In the mid-to-late 1990s, NATO shifted its focus from internal territorial defense to external conflict management and stability operations. We now see that this change was overly pronounced and negatively impacted investments in both platforms and skills needed for undersea warfare in and around NATO waters. For example, in 2000, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, the UK, and the United States operated 136 submarines, with the European nations accounting for roughly half of the force.5 By 2016, the combined fleet had shrunk to 109 vessels, with the United States accounting for 65 percent of the total.6 More worrisome, a good portion of the European submarine fleet may now not be effective against the most modern Russian subs. Similar trends emerge when comparing past and present totals related to ASW-capable surface vessels and aircraft. In this case, no platform better showcases the overly executed shift in NATO priorities than the new German frigates, the F125 Baden-Wurttemberg-class. These frigates, the largest surface combatants built by Germany in over 60 years, have little to no high-end naval warfighting capabilities, including ASW.7

Beyond capabilities and platforms, ASW warfighting skills have similarly atrophied. Given highly complex operating environments, many of these skills require consistent realistic training to build and subsequently maintain. There is now an entire generation of naval officers without a detailed know-how to counter and defend against Russian undersea activities in the North Atlantic and Baltic Seas. There are signs that navies across NATO are beginning to recognize these shortcomings and are taking steps to address them. The increased frequency of NATO’s Dynamic Mongoose ASW exercise is one such example. However, nations will have to commit to robust training beyond annual NATO exercises in order to create and maintain a culture of ASW excellence.8 Dynamic Mongoose and similar exercises should not be viewed as the panacea to current training shortfalls, but rather as the culminating event for separate national training programs.

Exercise DYNAMIC MONGOOSE - All participants ships in formation - 27 JUN 2016 - Photo by WO C. ARTIGUES (HQ MARCOM PHOTOGRAPHER)
Exercise DYNAMIC MONGOOSE – All participants ships in formation – 27 JUN 2016 – (WO C. ARTIGUES/ MARCOM)

In order to meet these challenges, NATO and partners will not only have to recommit to the platforms and people required for ASW and undersea warfare, but also to working together in an operationally effective manner. There are two tasks that NATO and its partners must complete as soon as possible. First, relevant nations must establish mechanisms to bridge the organizational gap that results from critical ASW partners Sweden and Finland not being in NATO. The creation of a framework that respects the sovereignty and neutrality of Sweden and Finland while enabling close tactical and operational collaboration is vital. The deepening security relationships between these nations and NATO provides an opportunity for greater collaboration on ASW issues, which could potentially be expanded within a NATO-NORDEFCO format. Second, and looking beyond the Baltic Sea region, NATO needs to create an operationally effective theater ASW framework that distributes roles and responsibilities in a way that best leverages differing national capabilities and commitments. Such a framework will likely require changes to one of the standing NATO maritime groups, improvements to information sharing across the alliance, and continued integration of ASW elements in NATO and regional exercises. The goals represent the first steps of a longer process of rebuilding ASW capabilities across Europe. What is clear is that effective integration of national capabilities is required if the current Russian challenge is to be met.

Read the full report here.

Andrew Metrick is a research associate with the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and one of the authors of Undersea Warfare in Northern Europe. His work has covered a broad range of issues, including amphibious warfare, maritime capabilities, and unmanned systems. 

1. James Foggo III and Alarik Fritz, “The Fourth Battle of the Atlantic,” Proceedings, June 2016, 142.6, http://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2016-06/fourth-battle-atlantic.

2. Dmitry Gorenburg, “Russian shipbuilding still in trouble,” Russian Military Reform, January 19, 2016, https://russiamil.wordpress.com/2016/01/19/russian-shipbuilding-still-in-trouble/.  

3. Peter Walker, “Sweden Searches for Suspected Russian Submarine off Stockholm,” The Guardian, October 19, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/19/sweden-search-russian-submarine-stockholm.

4. Ben Farmer, “Britain Forced to Ask NATO to Track ‘Russian Submarine’ in Scottish Waters,” Telegraph, December 9, 2015, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/11283926/Britain-forced-to-ask-Nato-to-track-Russian-submarine-in-Scottish-waters.html.

5. International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), The Military Balance 2000–2001 (London: IISS, 2000).

6. IISS, The Military Balance 2016 (London: IISS, 2016).

7. “F125 Baden-Wurttemberg Class Frigate, Germany,” naval-technology.com, accessed on: July 18, 2016, http://www.naval-technology.com/projects/f125-frigate/.

8. “NATO launches antisubmarine warfare exercise in Norwegian Sea,” North Atlantic Treaty Organization, June 20, 2016, http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news_132596.htm.

Featured Image: Norwegian submarine in the Fjord near Bergen (NATO/MARCOM)

Repositioning NATO after the Warsaw Summit

This article originally featured at the Conference for Defence Associations Institute and is republished with permission. Read it in its original form here

CDA Institute guest contributor Andrew Rasiulis, a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, examines the challenge posed by ISIL and a revanchist Russia in advance of the NATO Warsaw Summit.

The NATO Summit in Warsaw this July offers the Alliance the opportunity to reposition itself to address the security challenges on both its Eastern and Southern flanks. In the east, the war within Ukraine, while stagnant, remains politically unresolved. In the south, the scourge of terrorism, most notably manifest through the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), has wrecked violence within NATO itself as witnessed by the various terror attacks in Belgium, Canada, France, and Turkey. The impact of ISIL generated violence, and that of its allies in Africa and Asia, has been the creation of waves of refugee migration. This migration, in turn, is having a powerful impact on the politics of NATO member states.

The Alliance will therefore seek ways to reposition itself to enhance the defence of its member states along its borders with Russia, while at the same time examining ways and means of bringing forth a political resolution to the situation in Ukraine. To the south, the ongoing violence of terrorism will challenge NATO to take a long-term view of the reasons for the phenomenon of ISIL and its corresponding reaction.

Russia has emerged once again as a key player on the international stage. NATO must therefore reassess its relationship with Russia, which at times has both divergent and convergent interests. In Ukraine we find the divergence of interests being predominant, as NATO expansion after the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and Soviet Union is being rebuffed by a resurgent Russia not only in Ukraine, but in Georgia and Moldova as well. However, the ongoing terrorist actions of Muslim extremists threatens both Russia and NATO. In this latter threat context, NATO and Russia are both seen as the enemy by ISIL and its allies.

These security challenges are pushing NATO to strengthen its defence and deterrence posture along its Eastern flank with Russia. The NATO Wales Summit in 2014 also grappled with the resurgence of Russian military power and set out to craft a NATO response – a reassurance package, as it became known – for its more vulnerable members along the eastern and southeastern flanks. Essentially, this was characterized by a significant increase in NATO multinational exercises and a limited pre-positioning of armaments, such as one U.S. brigade’s worth of tanks.

The Warsaw Summit will need to take stock of the varied confluence of interests since 2014, such as the establishment of the Minsk 2 process in February of 2015 which put in place a precarious ceasefire in eastern Ukraine and, and as of yet, an unfulfilled roadmap for a political settlement. In the Middle East, developments such as the nuclear deal with Iran and the limited ceasefire in Syria were achieved with active diplomatic co-operation between the United States and Russia. The picture reflects both the divergence and convergence of NATO and Russian interests.

In tracking Summit preparations currently underway in Brussels and NATO capitals, one is able to discern that the outcome will lead to a further strengthening of the Wales reassurance package, with something akin to a deterrence/defence package. Speculation is that NATO will deploy “on a permanent rotational basis” approximately four multinational battalions within Poland and the Baltic states. The nuance on “permanent” and “rotational” is to conform to what is perceived to be the letter, if not the spirit, of the 1997 NATO-Russian Founding Act that prohibits the permanent stationing of non-indigenous NATO troops in NATO countries east of Germany. Some observers argue that the NATO pledge not to station permanent forces was, in fact, conditional on the security situation faced by the Alliance, and that under the current circumstances there is no valid prohibition.

The Russians recently reacted to this by stating that three new Russian divisions will be deployed in its Western and Southern Flanks by the end of 2016. The Russians are indicating they will respond to any NATO build-up with whatever means are deemed necessary to protect their perceived national interests. Add to this the issue of the level and type of military assistance for Ukraine in its stalemate with the Russian-supported rebel enclaves in the Donbass.

Within NATO, and particularly among its eastern member states, there is concern that should the Russians decide to use limited, non-nuclear, military force against NATO in an effort to undermine the cohesion of the Alliance, the Baltic states – vulnerable to a Russian incursion – would require reinforcement. This scenario in turn begs the question raised by Alain Enthoven in his 1971 Rand study “How Much is Enough?

A 2016 RAND Corporation study by David A. Shlapak and Micheal W. Johnson postulates an answer to that question in the context of a limited conventional Russian attack. The answer is seven brigades, three of which would need to be heavy. The Summit is unlikely to agree to such numbers for its deterrence/defence track, ergo the four battalion option.

While the threat of a limited attack against the Baltic states is a challenge that will be addressed by the Warsaw Summit, there is also the opportunity to seek a corroborating détente/dialogue ‘second track.’ There is a mutual political benefit in re-examining NATO’s 1967 Two-Track Approach, which was based on the Harmel Report. To avoid having NATO’s Eastern Flank turn into its “Eastern or Russian Front,” the second track of détente and dialogue must build on areas of political convergence between NATO and Russia.

This balance should also be reflected in the manner in which NATO continues to provide capacity-building training support to Ukraine in its standoff with the Russian backed rebel held Donbass. NATO will likely continue along the path of reform minded capacity-building with the aim of strengthening Ukrainian defence capabilities, while at the same time strongly encouraging badly required reforms along the entire spectrum of governance within Ukraine.

The goal of NATO in the context of its Eastern Flank should be to secure a stable order building on convergence of geo-political interests with Russia. The Southern Flank poses a more amorphous challenge for the respositioning of NATO. The nature of the threat from ISIL is multidimensional. It ranges from political to economic, social to military. Its geographic theatre of operations is virtually global. The Warsaw Summit should also recognize the opportunity for NATO and Russia to search for common ground in dealing with the ongoing threat of terrorism that seeks to undermine the political stability of both.

Andrew Rasiulis, retired from the public service, is now a freelance consultant with Andrew Rasiulis Associates Inc. He is also a fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

(Image courtesy of AFP Petras Malukas.)