All posts by viribus unitis

Nordic NATO Nominees

Until recently, it was hard to imagine Sweden joining NATO. With long traditions of neutrality, Sweden and Finland had distanced themselves from the main military centers of Europe. The reason for neutrality is succinctly explained in the introduction to the book Navies in Northern Waters 1721-2000: “The present situation is a further illustration of the long-standing conflict between the legal and power-oriented approaches to disputes in the region,” with the Swedes and Finns aligned with the former. In 1994 Sweden joined Partnership for Peace (PfP) as a framework to cooperate with NATO. Still insisting on its place as a militarily non-aligned country, the Swedish Mission to NATO states that “by participating in PfP, Sweden wishes to contribute to the construction of a Euro-Atlantic structure for a safer and more secure Europe.”

Public Swedish support for joining NATO remained limited, with about 50% against as of mid-April, but supporters of this idea increased their share from 17% to 29% last year alone. In the same article we find important opinion of Finland’s Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen who said “that both Finland and Sweden should consider joining Nato when the time is right.” A small Finnish step in this direction is that this year the nation agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding with NATO, while Sweden and Finland are increasing military cooperation with each other under a landmark pact. So what caused both Nordic countries to begin reevaluate their positions? Prof. Mearsheimer in his book The Tragedy of Great Power Politics wrote:

When a state surveys its environment to determine which states pose a threat to its survival, it focuses mainly on the offensive capabilities of potential rival, not their intentions.

Living near mighty military power means that one lives in a state of permanent insecurity, so what one hopes for are benign intentions. The war in Georgia ignited doubt about one particular neighbor, but Ukraine has forced caution to give way to fear. If one can’t hide by flying “under the radar” of a big power, then what remains is to ally with another power. Appeasement doesn’t have a good track record during Europe’s last 100 years. But as Jan Joel Andersson explains in the Foreign Affairs article “Nordic NATO,” both countries need public buy-in for the solution before joining the Alliance. Although skeptical, Scandinavians seem to slowly appreciate this path and support for the idea is growing. The article lists good arguments, both political and military, for Sweden and Finland to join NATO from the Alliance’s perspective. In fact, this would be a geostrategic loss for Russia, greater probably than the gain of Crimea. From a purely military point of view, the following excerpt is critical for understanding the regional stability the additions would aid:

Even more important, Sweden and Finland’s formal inclusion in the alliance would finally allow NATO to treat the entire Arctic-Nordic-Baltic region as one integrated military-strategic area for defense planning and logistical purposes, which would make the alliance much more able to defend Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania against Russia.

It’s worthwhile to take a look at a map, especially to highlight the maritime and naval aspects of this story.


In the current situation, the Baltics represent a relatively narrow strip of land, lightly defended and not offering defense-in-depth. Any sustained reinforcements could come only from sea, which would require sea control. The main NATO naval forces would likely operate from bases in Germany and Swinoujscie in western Poland, as Gdynia and Klajpeda could be put at risk by ground operations. Although it would be possible to organize a successful blockade of any opposing naval forces using the Alliance advantage in submarines, light surface forces would have tough time overcoming land-based air forces and coastal batteries. Using Adm. J.C. Wylie’s terminology, the geography of the region strongly favors sequential warfare on land instead of cumulative naval warfare for which there would be no time assuming the desire to defend the Baltics.

Swedish access to NATO would alter these considerations significantly, bringing a few additional benefits to the more-realistic defense of the Baltics:

  • Norway would no longer be an “isolated” NATO member, as its depth of defense increases.
  • Baltic Sea control could be achieved and maintained by local navies with limited support from the United States.

There are two other aspects to consider, however. For Finland, Sweden’s joining NATO would only increase its isolation as the only neutral country in the region. The preference for a sequential land warfare strategy would expose Finland for greater risk. The situation would not be so different from that of the Black Sea. Therefore the best would be a common decision of both Sweden and Finland, even if it complicates matters.It is difficult to imagine synchronization of political willingness in such sensitive area, but growing cooperation between Nordic countries could be helpful. Nordic Defence Cooperation initiative, including Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland, although mostly focused on military efficiency includes already mix of NATO and EU countries, and active participation of both Finland and Sweden with NATO lower technical barriers of access. The key point remains public support for such idea, but as it was mentioned already, such support and acceptance seems to slowly grow.

8643086211_cef286772e_zAnother issue is the opportunity to evaluate/reevaluate the concept of the U.S. Navy’s littoral combat ship (LCS) and/or its successor in the Baltic Sea security environment. Two different scenarios including Nordic countries offer very different operational possibilities. In today’s state of things, the LCS lacks offensive power of anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM). Meanwhile, pondering anti-air defense leads to the dilemma the best defined by Swedish designers of the Visby corvette – “invincible or invisible”. However, in the case of the Nordic countries belonging to NATO, LCS’s anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and mine counter-measure (MCM) capabilities would be very much appreciated. In the May issue of the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings, Adm. Walter E. Carter offers some remarks on future forces in his article “Sea Power in the Precision-Missile Age:”

Based on the preceding analysis, it appears that the most significant forces for future warfare at sea include:

  • Platforms employing standoff ordinance that penetrate high-end defenses;
  • Platforms with an emphasis on offensive firepower to prevail at sea;
  • Mobile and low-observable platforms and logistics, readily dispersed, and heavily protected or hidden by decoys, obscurants, RF jammers, and signature control; and
  • Forces minimally reliant on RF networks to be employed against high-end opponents using pre-planned responses and low-data-rate, secure, and sporadic communications.

Conversely, less relevant forces of the future will include:

  • Those dependent on fixed bases;
  • Platforms within enemy missile ranges that have large signatures and are thus readily targetable;
  • Systems dependent upon long-distance, high-data-rate RF networks;
  • Platforms that must penetrate high-end defenses to deliver ordnance; and
  • Platforms whose primary means of survival rests on active defense (i.e. shooting missiles with missiles).

While this analysis seems to be a perfect description of Pacific scenarios, a narrow sea like the Baltic invites further elaboration as this environment offers little room for stand-off or escape from inference from shore based-capabilities. Striking an enemy’s shore would incentivize small, stealthy, and unmanned platforms, but keeping sea lines of communications open in the same area would be difficult without classic surface forces. So the question remains open as to how survivable these light surface forces would be in restricted waters. And in the case of submarines the weak point in narrow waters is still the naval base from which they operate.

Przemek Krajewski alias Viribus Unitis is a blogger In Poland. His area of interest is the context, purpose, and structure of navies – and promoting discussion on these subjects in his country.

Ukraine: Sink or Swim

Ще не вмерла України і слава, і воля

Ukraine has not yet perished, nor her glory, nor her freedom
Upon us, fellow Ukrainians, fate shall smile once again.

These words of the Ukrainian National Anthem are full of passion, but they are a key to understanding the dynamics of the events and determination in Kiev. What pushed thousands of people to remain in Majdan Square for 3 winter months in spite of more than 70 victims? Clausewitz’s trinity of passion, chance, and reason is in some way applicable to today’s situation in Ukraine. There is clearly passion, and chance was evident in that this was the second opportunity for revolution – the first being the Orange revolution of 2004-2005. Now reason must govern a way forward full of compromises. For those in the U.S. public who would like to be more informed about these events, a series of questions arises:

– What Happened and Why?
– What Comes Next?
– What is the Larger Meaning for U.S. Interests and Strategy?

The direct cause of the protest was President Yanukovich’s rejection of the European Union Association Agreement. Aleksander Kwasniewski, former president of Poland, said that protests were predictable as one half of Ukraine wants to join the EU and the other half was persuaded by Yanukovich for three years that the agreement should be signed. So nearly everyone was surprised when the agreement was discarded.

Commenters often talk about two parts of Ukraine that are very different. This is true, there is a difference in culture, religion, and business preferences, which comes from history. But both parts want to live in independent Ukraine, without neighbors interfering in domestic matters, and they want to have a chance to realize their ambitions. For many of us this sounds natural, sentimental, or simply trivial. This is a very old nation but very young state. Ukraine gained independence for a brief period between 1918 and 1920 and most recently again in 1991. Not surprisingly they are very sensitive to problems of national independence. Nationalism is strong and could be equally constructive or destructive. The fact that Ukraine was and continues to be very important to Russia, doesn’t help. And it makes a difference. We speak about the vital interests of a former hegemon and a country that has the ambition to regain its status as a world-class power.

So what comes next? We should start with the simple statement that the situation is unpredictable and volatile. There are at least two reasons for that. One is the pace of change and dynamic course of action, full of unexpected turns. Using an analogy to Boyd’s OODA Loop, Majdan acts inside the decision loop of any potential opponent. The second reason is that given the history of the country and the very short period of independence, Ukraine needs time to work on the many soft elements constituting a state: well-crafted law and respect for the rule of it, transparency, accountability, democratic traditions, mature political elites, and so on. This alone is challenging without speaking of external circumstances. The biggest and most immediate threat to Ukraine’s stability is the legitimization of the new President and the economic situation. Such arguments have already been raised by Russian Federation officials, according to Reuters:

“We do not understand what is going on there. There is a real threat to our interests and to the lives of our citizens,” Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying.

“There are big doubts about the legitimacy of a whole series of organs of power that are now functioning there.”

Russian naval vessels in Sevastopol, Ukraine.
Russian naval vessels in Sevastopol, Ukraine.

Strong rhetoric is not a mere ghost from the past. It is a sign that other tools from the Soviet epoch could also find their way into the hands of state leaders. We could witness subtle diplomacy interweaving with hard politics. The references to Russian citizens are especially worrisome. It seems natural, but we shouldn’t forget that there is a strong ethnic Russian minority in Crimea [who reportedly “elected” a Russian citizen as mayor this week] and that Sevastopol is a major naval base for Black Sea Fleet. The situation seems to be serious enough to cause a series of public statements by officials from both the United States and Poland.

Bronisław Komorowski, President of Poland considers honest and transparent presidential elections, producing an undeniable outcome, as a top priority. This was quickly countered by Russian Federation Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, who stated, “We consider it premature to hold presidential elections in Ukraine in May, as it contradicts the agreement dated February 21.”

On Feb 23rd, the U.S. State Department on Twitter said “US expects Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, democratic freedom of choice to be respected by all states”.

Prof. Stanislaw Koziej, Chief of BBN (Poland’s National Security Counsel) expressed his concern more directly: “Intervention in Ukraine by foreign power would have significant consequences for international security”.

In order to facilitate strategy shaping for dealing with Ukraine, Prof. Zbigniew Brzezinski offers his long-term vision in an article titled “Ukraine Should Join EU, but No Military Alliance” and says “In brief, the Finnish model is the ideal example for Ukraine, and the EU, and Russia.”

From the geo-strategic point of view, the big problem is that any formal or institutional link of Ukraine with the EU drastically limits Russia’s options and potential to influence this country.

What does this mean for the United States? Even if it doesn’t seem to be a priority, Ukraine’s future could have many indirect and strategic consequences. If the United States really believes in its values, it needs to respect the sovereign decision of Ukrainians. However, any chance of a scenario in which a weak Ukraine becomes a satellite state to Russia, would certainly resonate in all of Central Europe. That means adapting strategy, military modernization programs, and priorities at the NATO Summit in Wales, UK. A Strong or stronger Russia in this region is also an argument in favor of the “Three-Hub Navy” proposed by Brian McGrath.

But even then the hub in the Mediterranean still wouldn’t be among the top strategic priorities until we will assume that a powerful Russian Federation is a link between Europe and Asia. Russia is absent from most discussions about the Rebalance to the Pacific or events in China’s Near Seas, perhaps because the focus is on South China Sea. The way the Russian Federation is going to protect their interests in the Far East and Arctic, and interact with major players there, is likely to impact perceptions of security at least in Central Europe if not in the whole of Europe.

Any discussion about the future of Ukraine is impossible without considering the broader context in which Russia plays a key role. It has been this way for centuries. Poland is ready to offer its own experiences with the transformation process, which was long and painful, but the U.S. is probably the only power capable to persuade an assertive Russia.

Przemek Krajewski alias Viribus Unitis is a blogger In Poland. His area of interest is the context, purpose, and structure of navies – and promoting discussion on these subjects in his country.

An International Guide to Drone Vocabulary

International Maritime Satire Week Warning: The following is a piece of fiction intended to elicit insight through the use of satire and written by those who do not make a living being funny – so it’s not serious and very well might not be funny. See the rest of our IntMarSatWeek offerings here

Drones have become a popular subject of discussion. And, like the previous spread of the non-technical term “tank,” usage of the term “drone” to describe unmanned aerial/surface/undersea vehicles is nowadays ubiquitous. Yet each nation confronts the technology with its own language inflections. Therefore we present the first International Guide to Drone Vocabulary.

Drone – (English) – an unmanned aircraft or ship guided by remote control. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary the first known usage was before the 12th century when they participated in the Crusades, or as known in Middle English, “Ye Olde Warre On Terrore”

Dronin – (Japanese) – A drone that loses communication with its master. Programmed to automatically search for a new master, preferably a stronger one like a cruiser, for example.

Dronone – (Italian, augmentative) – A big drone, equivalent to an American UCAV or UCLASS. Somehow the letter “C” makes a drone bigger even if a foreigner would expect the letter “B” to achieve such effect. Hint for visitors to Poland – UBAV pronounced in Polish means “fun.” Hint for visitors to France – don’t mistake Dronone with Danone.

Dronino – (Italian, diminutive) – A small drone. Used to familiarize kids with this new technology.

Dronik – (Polish, diminutive) – Same as Dronino. A baby drone.

Dronisko – (Polish) – A big friendly drone. Lacking an effective national air defense network, Poland took an alternative approach by switching from defensive drones to those facilitating accommodation. If you can’t beat an enemy, make it a friend.

Dronislav Droninovich Dronski – (Russian) – Name of a famous Russian drone designer from the 20th century. In recognition of his achievements, the Russian Navy named its latest unmanned SSBN after him. For those concerned with the ethical and legal aspects of unmanned technology, the question what to do with a genie freed from a bottle remains.

Dronenwehr – (German) – Operational concept advancing drones in anti-ballistic missile defense.

Dronentag – (German)The Day of Drones, a sci-fi thriller about an apocalyptic future in which drones take control over humans.

Dromazon – (Int’l) – Amazon delivery service replacing Prime and marketed with slogan “Faster than Internet”

The above list is far from complete, and readers are welcome to extend it in the comments section below. Its sole purpose is to acquaint the broader public with unmanned technology and make it friendlier 🙂

Przemek Krajewski alias Viribus Unitis is a blogger In Poland. His area of interest is the context, purpose, and structure of navies – and promoting discussion on these subjects in his country.

Poland’s New Year Defense Resolutions

800px-Polish_Navy_sailors_2Tomasz Siemoniak, Poland’s Minister of Defense, was asked by the Polish web site “All the Essentials” what he considers the key ideas for 2014. This made for a very short list, but there are some interesting details. The main points he raised are:

1. Still the United States! Despite many talking about the decline of American power and influence, Mr. Siemoniak believes this view premature and that Washington will remain a center for setting global security trends. He adds, however: “hopefully without further pivots and resets.” To be sure, U.S. presence in Europe remains crucial for Poland.

2. Cyber Defense. Siemoniak’s observations that effective cyberattacks can send victims directly to the Stone Age are not without a sense of humor. But that is perhaps the right tool in what he believes necessary-raising awareness among decision makers, the military, the press, and ordinary citizens. The storm caused by Snowden resulted in Sea State 1 in Poland. “Hard compromises between security and privacy are unavoidable.”

3. How Many Divisions? The message is that we need to diverge from the old paradigm of troop numbers, equipment, and the talents of commanders in determining the robustness of a state’s security. The economy, culture attractiveness, energy resources, and “even people ready to defend on Twitter our arguments in English or Russian” are important ingredients of a country potential.

4. Polish Fangs. This literary expression describes a shift in Poland’s security strategy that occurred last June. The elements of conventional deterrence form a basis for the armed forces modernization plan. The concept is a bit fluid and contains some elements of A2/AD, but despite modern acronyms the roots of the strategy can be traced to the classic book of B.H. Liddell Hart, Strategy:

The acquisitive state, inherently unsatisfied, needs to gain victory in order to gain its object – and must therefore court greater risk in the attempt. The conservative state can achieve its object by merely inducing the aggressor to drop his attempt at conquest – by convincing him that “the game is not worth the candle.”

2013 was not a bad year for the Polish Armed Forces, but this short list of ideas demonstrates how the concepts of national security and defense evolved and becomes ever broader.

Przemek Krajewski alias Viribus Unitis is a blogger In Poland.  His area of interest is the context, purpose, and structure of navies – and promoting discussion on these subjects in his country.