Content

Jeremy Stöhs, Bastion, Backwater, or Battlefront? Changing Strategic Views Along Europe’s Northern Shores in:

Sebastian Bruns, Sarandis Papadopoulos (Ed.)

Conceptualizing Maritime & Naval Strategy, page 321 - 344

Festschrift for Captain Peter M. Swartz, United States Navy (ret.)

1. Edition 2020, ISBN print: 978-3-8487-5753-4, ISBN online: 978-3-8452-9915-0, https://doi.org/10.5771/9783845299150-321

Series: ISPK Seapower Series, vol. 3

Bibliographic information
Bastion, Backwater, or Battlefront? Changing Strategic Views Along Europe’s Northern Shores1 Jeremy Stöhs Introduction In June 2016, a quarter century after the end of the Cold War, an article co-authored by Vice Admiral James Foggo III, then Commander of the US 6th Fleet, gained significant attention within the defense community. Titled “The Fourth battle for the Atlantic,” in bold letters the admiral warned that “Russia is claiming maritime battlespace across Europe and is deploying forces outside Russian borders […] A fourth battle is not looming, but is being waged now, across and underneath the oceans and seas that border Europe.”2 In their piece, Foggo and co-author Alarik Fritz recalled that up until end of the twentieth century, the geostrategic relevance attributed to the waters connecting North America and Europe had seen little change. The ability to send reinforcement from the United States by winning the ‘Battles for the Atlantic’ had been vital to the survival of European democracies during both World Wars.3 Throughout the Cold War, U.S. and NATO contingency planning drew from a similar premise, namely that the North Atlantic and its littorals would be highly contested:4 “[A] 1 This article is based on the paper presented by the author at the McMullen Naval History Symposium held at the U.S. Naval Academy in September 2017. Some of its findings have been further developed in a German article published as: Jeremy Stöhs and Julian Pawlak, “Strategische Herausforderungen und Handlungsoptionen westlicher Politik im nördlichen Atlantik,” in SIRIUS - Zeitschrift für Strategische Analysen 3, no. 3 (2019), 242-254. The author wants to thank the latter, as well as Sebastian Bruns and Sarandis “Randy” Papadopoulos, for their helpful remarks. Nevertheless, the conclusions and recommendations of this article, as well as any errors of fact or judgement, are those of the author alone. 2 James Foggo, III and Fritz Alarik, “The Fourth Battle of the Atlantic,” in U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings vol. 142/6/1,360 (June 2016), 18-22. 3 Ibid., 19. 4 Steven Wills, “NATO Maritime Strategy for a New Era: ‘These Aren’t the SLOCs You’re Looking For’,” Presentation at the Kiel International Seapower Symposium 2018, 19 June 2018; Central Intelligence Agency, “The Soviet Attack Submarine 321 war might be won in the Fulda Gap but it might be lost at the [Greenland- Island-United Kingdom] gap.”5 Once the Cold War ended, the former battlefront gradually transformed into a geopolitical backwater. The demise of the Soviet Union led many observers in Washington, Brussels, and Berlin to believe that the strategic rivalry with Russia had ended.6 However, the illegal annexation of Crimea and the following events since March 2014, have provided ample evidence that this rivalry has returned. Russia’s military modernization – hand in hand with a more assertive foreign policy – and Western reactions to it have again transformed the North Atlantic, the Norwegian Sea, the North Sea and the Baltic Sea into an area of strategic competition. This chapter outlines the corresponding development of European defense policies and naval forces along Europe’s northern shores since the end of the Cold War. It discusses the challenges their navies have faced in the light of significant changes to the global security environment as well as the effects of the previous defense downscaling. The study argues that European defense polices have undergone a twofold ‘strategic paradigm shift’ over the course of less than three decades:7 The first took place between 1991 and 2014, as instability and crises beyond Europe’s southern borders and military interventions as part of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) caused latent tension across the North and East to be marginalized and ignored.8 Correspondingly, the majority of European navies shifted their focus as well; from preparing to conduct naval operations in high-intensity conflicts against peer competitors to deploying low-intensity missions within relatively permissive environments. Rather than stalking Russian submarines in the blue waters of the Norwegian Sea and in the High North, warships found themselves chasing Force and Western Sea Lines of Communication,” SR79-10038, National Foreign Assessment Center (April 1979), declassified 2017, https://www.cia.gov/library/ readingroom/docs/DOC_0005499486.pdf. 5 John A. Olsen, “Introduction: The Quest for Maritime Supremacy,” in NATO and the North Atlantic: Revitalising Collective Defence, ed. by John A. Olsen, Whitehall Papers vol. 87 (Abingdon: Taylor & Francis Ltd., 2017), 4. 6 Foggo, III and Alarik (2016), 19. 7 Rainer Meyer zum Felde, “Abschreckung und Dialogbereitschaft – der Paradigmenwechsel der NATO seit 2014,” in SIRIUS – Zeitschrift für Strategische Analysen vol. 2, no. 1 (2018), 101-117. 8 Rolf Tamnes, “The Significance of the North Atlantic and the Norwegian Contribution,” in NATO and the North Atlantic: Revitalising Collective Defence, ed. by John A. Olsen, Whitehall Papers vol. 87 (Abingdon: Taylor & Francis Ltd., 2017), 8-31. Jeremy Stöhs 322 pirates off the Horn of Africa and supporting counterinsurgency campaigns across the greater Middle East. Since Moscow’s successful attempt to reshape the established security order on the European continent, Russia has reemerged as a political and military competitor in the global arena. Consequently, from 2014 onwards, the defense strategies and postures of Western states have undergone a second strategic paradigm shift; this time focused on reinvigorating the concept of collective security and territorial defense. Based on observations of nearly three decades of European naval evolution, the study will conclude with several recommendations. It will suggest measures how their military and naval services ought to address the growing range of maritime security challenges along the northern frontier without resorting to similar myopic thinking that led to Europe’s lopsided naval policy and posture in the first place. The First Paradigm Shift: Uncertainties along the Southern Flank The period between 1991 and 2001 is characterized by the emergence of novel threats and a new understanding of how military force was to be applied.9 With the threat of the Soviet Union relegated to the pages of history, the United States and its European allies felt compelled to shift their focus from the Central European front, the Baltic littorals, and the waters of the North Atlantic, to the South, the Middle East, and well beyond the traditional sphere of the NATO alliance.10 Meanwhile, governments throughout the Western World were eager to capitalize on the financial opportunities the ‘peace dividend’ promised. They willingly reduced defense spending over the course of the decade. Still, many militaries retained sufficient means to deal with the widening scope of commitments. The U.S. Navy, “well suited to address this new complex security environment given its practice as a forward present, combat-ready, and credible force,” was committed to actively join European 9 NATO, “The Alliance's Strategic Concept 1999,” 24 April 1999, https:// www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_27433.htm; Henning-A. Frantzen, NA- TO and Peace Support Operations 1991-1999: Policies and Doctrines, The Cass Series on Peacekeeping 20 (London, New York: Frank Cass, 2005). 10 Ian O. Lesser, NATO Looks South: New Challenges and New Strategies in the Mediterranean (Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corporation, 2000). Bastion, Backwater, or Battlefront? 323 naval forces in shaping events in regions of crisis.11 The overwhelming U.S. naval superiority relative to any other actor of the time also served as a backstop for the incremental decline of European power at sea.12 In a period of significant instability along Europe’s southern shores, European naval forces remained in high demand. Considerable troop contingents were deployed to the Middle East before, during, and after Operation Desert Storm and the liberation of Kuwait. Some navies even found themselves operating outside their ‘traditional’ area of operations for the first time.13 In accord with key tenets of the first paradigm shift, multilateralism, cooperative security, crisis management, and conflict resolution, the naval forces of many European states began to increasingly conduct power projection operations in regions farther from home and together with likeminded states.14 Western military interventions in the Balkans throughout the 1990s vindicated the idea that, in future, navies would largely be required to effectively operate in the littoral regions of the world. From there they could project power from the sea onto land.15 Europe’s most powerful sea service, the British Royal Navy, led the charge by opting to strengthen its expeditionary capabilities at the expense of its sea-control proficiency. Consequently, long-range strike assets such as the Tomahawk cruise missile were procured whereas the conventional leg of its underwater force and a sizable portion of its escort fleet were disbanded. Meanwhile, Britain’s small 11 Sebastian Bruns, “Moving East and South: U.S. Navy and German Navy Strategy in the Eurasian Theater 1991-2014, A View from Germany,” in Fletcher Security Review vol. 3 (2017), 33-41. 12 Jeremy Stöhs, “Into the Abyss? European Naval Power in the Post-Cold War Era,” in Naval War College Review vol. 71, no. 3 (2018), 13-41. 13 Germany provided support for the standing NATO forces in the Mediterranean, which were thinned out due to deployments to the Persian Gulf. Christian Jentzsch, “Von der Escort-Navy zur Expeditionary-Navy?,” 16. Maritimes Sicherheitskolloquium, Rostock, 20 October 2016, https://dmkn.de/escort-navy-expeditionary-navy/. 14 Basil Germond, The Maritime Dimension of European Security: Seapower and the European Union (Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). 15 Tellingly the U.S. Naval Strategy at the time was titled “Forward… From the Sea” (1994). Discussed in Sebastian Bruns, US Naval Strategy and National Security: The Evolution of American Maritime Power (London, New York: Routledge, 2018) and Peter D. Haynes, Toward a New Maritime Strategy: American Naval Thinking in the Post-Cold War Era (Annapolis, MD: The Naval Institute Press, 2015). Jeremy Stöhs 324 carriers and fleet air arm proved their worth during the wars in the Balkans and contributed to remaining a relevant tool of foreign policy.16 The new-look Royal Navy was to be structured around carrier task groups designed to project power into areas of strategic interest. The hunter-killer submarine force, originally designed to search for and attack its Russian counterpart in the North Atlantic and Arctic, was rerolled for land attack [and] the force rarely forayed into the northern waters of the Atlantic.17 Early post-Cold War naval missions revealed various shortcomings among the naval forces under discussion. For one, even the newest platforms had been designed – and their crews trained – for waging war against a similarly capable opponent, mostly in the cold waters along and beyond Europe’s northern shores. Many of these platforms (mine warfare vessels, fast patrol craft, fixed and rotary wing aviation) suffered from limitations while operating for extended periods in sub-tropical conditions.18 With maritime security operations, crisis management, law-enforcement, and humanitarian-assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) roles receiving greater attention, substantial changes to the systems and operational procedures were inevitable. Consequently, the ability to use naval forces to shape events over great distance and for long periods of time was enshrined in the defense and maritime strategies of several states (Great Britain, France, Italy, Spain, and 16 One reason for the Royal Navy initially not suffering as severe budget cuts as its sister services was the RN’s importance as a key enabler in Britain’s effort to “prevent or shape crisis further away [from home] and [its ability] to deploy military forces rapidly before they get out of hand”, as the “Strategic Defense Review,” published in 1998, emphasized; Ministry of Defence, “Strategic Defence Review” (London: Ministry of Defence, 1998), Chapter Five. 17 Peter Hudson and Peter Roberts, “The UK and the North Atlantic: A British Military Perspective,” in NATO and the North Atlantic: Revitalising Collective Defence, ed. by John A. Olsen, Whitehall Papers vol. 87 (Abingdon: Taylor & Francis Ltd., 2017), 81. 18 Christian Jentzsch, “‘Southern Cross’ 1994. Die Evakuierung von UNOSOM II,” in Zeitschrift für historische Bildung no. 2 (2018), 14-17; Rüdiger Schiel, “Operation 'Sharp Guard': Die Deutsche Marine auf dem Weg von der Escort Navy zur Expeditionary Navy,” in Auftrag Auslandseinsatz: Neueste Militärgeschichte an der Schnittstelle von Geschichtswissenschaft, Politik, Öffentlichkeit und Streitkräften, ed. by Bernhard Chiari, Neueste Militärgeschichte Analysen und Studien 1 (Freiburg i. Br.: Rombach, 2012), 161-174. Bastion, Backwater, or Battlefront? 325 the Netherlands)19 while their fleets became increasingly expeditionary-oriented (Germany, Denmark, and Portugal). Initially, several smaller Northern European navies (Finland, Sweden, and Norway) continued to adhere to more traditional interpretations of naval power, i.e. for territorial defense. All of them, however, had to stomach cuts to their forces as they underwent far-reaching structural and organizational streamlining. By the beginning of the new millennium, defense appropriations had shrunk considerably and navies were finding it increasingly challenging to modernize their fleets with the available budgets. Out of sight – Out of mind: Navies and sea blindness in the 21st century As cooperation between Europe and Russia expanded throughout the 1990s and the early 2000s, so did the widespread lack of appreciation for the maritime environment and for the value of naval forces in providing security and prosperity for a state; a phenomenon also referred to as ‘sea blindness.’20 Political leaders and their constituents seemed convinced that the gravest threat to Europe’s security was no longer to be found above, on, and under the waves of the North Atlantic. If at all, it came at a great distance from home. Russia’s military remained in a poor state with its fleet rusting away in its once formidable sea-bastions. Meanwhile, intergovernmental forums and initiatives, such as the North Atlantic Cooperation Council, the Partnership for Peace program, the Arctic Council, the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea, and the NATO-Russia Council paved the way for peaceful resolution of maritime disputes and greater cooperation among the various stakeholders in this region of the world.21 The attacks of 11 September 2001 appeared to vindicate the idea that the biggest threat to the liberal world order no longer emanated from Rus- 19 This is described in the following documents: Bundesministerium der Verteidigung, Weißbuch zur Sicherheit der Bundesrepublik Deutschland und zur Lage und Zukunft der Bundeswehr (Berlin: Bundesministerium der Verteidigung, 1994), 120f; Ministerio de Defensa, “Strategic Defence Review” (Madrid: Imprenta Ministerio de Defensa, 2003), 107; Ministry of Defence (1998), np. 20 For discussion on sea-blindness in Britain see Nick Childs, Britain’s Future Navy, reprinted edition (Barnsley, S. Yorkshire: Pen & Sword Maritime, 2014), xv, 26. 21 Christian Åtland, “East-West Relations in the High North: Challenges and Opportunities,” in Focus on the Baltic Sea: Proceedings from the Kiel Conference 2015, ed. by Adrian J. Neumann and Sebastian Bruns (Kiel: Institute for Security Policy Kiel University, 2015), 13-23. Jeremy Stöhs 326 sia but was posed by terrorists determined to commit atrocities among the civilian population and, thus, strike the heart of western democracies. The string of terrorist attacks across the globe and the ensuing GWOT made conventional warfare against a peer competitor seem anachronistic. Proponents of conventional deterrence were quickly criticized for committing to the ‘least-likely war fallacy.’22 Constabulary operations, counter-terrorism raids, and state-building were the buzz-words of the time. Naval power proved relevant in degrading and destroying enemy infrastructure, inserting large troop contingents into the theaters of operation, and providing logistical and fire support for troops on the ground. Nevertheless, these were land wars with land and air forces receiving the lion’s share of attention and funding. The military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq heavily influenced military modernization and structural reform. “Readiness and maintenance were adjusted to meet the requirement of the next rotation of force in the theater of operations, and logistics focused on the current mission. Training and exercises were designed to prepare the force for the challenges they could expect to encounter in action”, one analyst noted.23 With NATO forces heavily engaged in overseas contingency operations, funding for naval modernization, however, was difficult to secure. The ongoing shift towards “crisis management operations anywhere in the world,” as the Dutch defense white paper spelled out in 2005, resulted in navies acquiring larger, more capable platforms, with greater range and endurance.24 Expeditionary capable ships, such as the Spanish Juan Carlos I carrier, the Dutch/Spanish Enforcer design landing platform docks, or the Danish Absalon-class support ship were the visible result of changes in military strategy and naval policy after the end of the Cold War. An array of new surface combatants, specialized in anti-air warfare, provided fleet air defense for expeditionary task groups and allowed ground forces to conduct operations on foreign soil under a protective umbrella deployed from the sea. Being both larger and more powerful than their predecessors, these vessels (German F-124 Sachsen, British Type 45 Daring, Dutch De Zeven Provinciën, Norwegian Nansen classes, the last equipped with AEGIS, 22 Robert S. Dudney, “Conventional Un-Wisdom,” Air Force Magazine, 28 August 2008, https://www.airforcemag.com/article/0908edit/. 23 Svein Efjestad, “Norway and the North Atlantic: Defence of the Northern Flank,” in NATO and the North Atlantic: Revitalising Collective Defence, ed. by John A. Olsen, Whitehall Papers vol. 87 (Abingdon: Taylor & Francis Ltd., 2017), 61. 24 Ministry of Defence, “Netherlands Defence Doctrine” (The Hague: Defense Staff, 2005), 5. Bastion, Backwater, or Battlefront? 327 as were the Spanish Álvaro de Bazán) came with substantially higher price tags, resulting in far fewer units to be acquired.25 Inevitably, a smaller number of platforms was tasked with a growing range of maritime missions. While budget restraints led militaries to curtail and cancel procurement plans, some navies abandoned specific capabilities altogether. Denmark, for example, phased out its submarines by the end of 2004, in an effort to transform its navy from a littoral defense force and gatekeeper of the Baltic Sea to a small blue water navy. Following in Denmark’s footsteps, Norway and Sweden disbanded parts of their coastal artillery networks and, together with Finland, began to tailor their shrinking naval forces to multinational naval operations in the Mediterranean and beyond the Horn of Africa.26 “Our security cannot be maintained through a one-sided focus on the conventional defence of Norwegian territory,” is how a defense white paper summed up this remarkable strategic evolution.27 From a platformcentric view, both Norway and Sweden struggled to effectively modernize their naval forces. Despite the investments in state-of-the-art technologies and network-centric warfare, declining defense allocations proved insufficient to maintain forces of both high quality as well as significant quantity. The Netherlands meanwhile, equally unwilling to provide sufficient funding to modernize its military, were unable to reach the defense goals they had set themselves.28 “Once one of the more significant European maritime forces, the Royal Netherlands Navy has been progressively reduced in size and stature since the end of the Cold War until it barely ranks amongst Europe’s second-tier fleet,” an analyst lamented.29 The decline of the British Royal Navy was particularly pronounced. If governments accustomed themselves to cutting defense spending year after 25 Jeremy Stöhs, The Decline of European Naval Forces: Challenges to Sea Power in an Age of Fiscal Austerity and Political Uncertainty (Annapolis MD: The Naval Institute Press, 2018). 26 Niklas Granholm, “A Small Navy in a Changing World: The Case of the Royal Swedish Navy,” in Small Navies: Strategy and Policy for Small Navies in War and Peace, ed. by Michael Mulqueen, Deborah Sanders and Ian Speller, Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies series (Farnham, Surrey, UK: Ashgate, 2014), 167-184. 27 Norwegian Ministry of Defence, “Norwegian Defence” (Oslo, 2004), 7. 28 Marcial Hernandez, “Dutch hard power: Choosing decline,” American Enterprise Institute, 2013, www.jstor.org/stable/resrep03146. 29 Conrad Waters, “Regional Review – Europe and Russia,” in Seaforth World Naval Review 2010, ed. by Conrad Waters, (South Yorkshire: Seaforth Publishing, 2009), 98. Jeremy Stöhs 328 year, the financial crisis in 2009 and the ensuing economic downturn brought significant hardship upon the Royal Navy. Draconian budget cuts saw Britain forfeit its carrier strike capability for over a decade (until the commissioning of the Queen Elisabeth and Prince of Wales) along with its fixed-wing maritime patrol capacity (MPA). The escort fleet was further reduced to 19 ships (down from 49 at the end of the Cold War). Long-standing recruitment and retention problems exacerbated the already dire situation. Even filling the ranks of Britain’s depleted naval force proved difficult.30 Elsewhere along the shores of the North Atlantic, the situation was no less challenging. France maintained its single nuclear-powered aircraft carrier but cancelled the development of a second ship of the Charles-de- Gaulle-class while an order for new surface combatants was curtailed, bringing the escort fleet down to a mere 15 vessels. Spain, meanwhile, accepted shortfalls in training and readiness to maintain its balanced fleet.31 Germany might have been less severely affected by the crisis, owing to its economic prowess. Nevertheless, the ill-fated defense reform in 2010 was the result of austerity measures rather than prudent defense planning. It caused the German armed forces to shrink in lockstep with those of its neighbors.32 Germany’s capabilities in the naval sector, particularly its submarine force, had played a role in Denmark’s decision to readily disband its own subsurface flotilla mid-decade. However, faced with substantial budgetary restrictions, the German submarines force was effectively cut in half between 1991 and 2014. In the end, the navy was barely able to put more than two units to sea in a time of emergency.33 30 Militaries have found themselves competing with the often better paying private sector. Consequently, higher wages and greater amenities (such as housing and medical care) consume a large chunk of each navy’s budgets. Exact numbers are always difficult to come by, but militaries across Europe have been known to spend more than two-thirds of their entire budgets on personnel. 31 Stephan F. Larrabee, Stuart Johnson, John Gordon IV, Peter A. Wilson, Caroline Baxter, Deborah Lai and Calin Trenkov-Wermuth, NATO and the Challenges of Austerity (Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corporation, 2012), 28. 32 Christian Mölling, “Bundeswehrreform: Ausgangspunkt, Zwischenbilanz und 10 Punke für eine Reform der Reform,” Arbeitspapier Forschungsgruppe Sicherheitspolitik, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, FG3-AP Nr 02 (April 2011), https:// www.swp-berlin.org/fileadmin/contents/products/arbeitspapiere/ Moelling_Bundeswehrreform_April_2011_ks.pdf. 33 While German officials claim that four units could be deployed in case of emergency; sources tell the author that the German navy would hard pressed to man and deploy more than two submarines at any given point in time. Bastion, Backwater, or Battlefront? 329 National and allied command structures underwent equally extensive re-organization. Although many streamlining efforts had already been made during the 1990s, further consolidation measures were undertaken and many military bases across northern Europe were closed (e.g. MPA surveillance flights from the naval air station in Keflavik, Iceland, ended in 2006). For NATO, the land wars throughout the greater Middle East and reduced tension with Russia led to the transfer of responsibility from the Supreme Allied Command Atlantic in Norfolk (SACLANT was disbanded in 2003), to Allied Command Transformation (ACT), which was henceforth responsible for “training and exercises as well as for force planning in the NATO structure. . . . [During this period, ACT’s] priority was to assist in the development of deployable forces for counterinsurgency operations,” Svein Efjestad explained.34 Throughout most of the decade, large-scale naval exercises, designed to hone the alliance’s ability to conduct high-intensity warfare and defend NATO territory against a capable aggressor, lay dormant. Unlike during the 1980s, when American carrier battle groups, alongside their allies, regularly tested operational procedures and probed their enemy’s defenses, “traditional defence exercises were expensive and no longer received [adequate] support from NATO’s common funding.”35 Frankly, regional crisis in other parts of the world required most attention. In this context, NA- TO and its partners can be criticized for not recognizing and addressing the subliminal tension that persisted in the High North and the Baltic Region. Despite Russia’s military intervention against Georgia in 2008 and its comprehensive military modernization efforts, relations with the West remained largely unchanged. The mainstay of NATO’s naval forces continued to be tied down in out-of-area operations where they were appointed with a range of tasks. In light of standing commitments towards the alliance’s collective security, anti-piracy missions off the Horn of Africa, ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, civil wars in Libya and Syria, and, finally, the rise of the Islamic State, European navies were barely able to sustain the increasing tempo of deployment.36 The campaign to oust Libya’s long-time ruler, Muammar Gaddafi, in 2011, painfully revealed the shortfalls and incongruity two decades of aus- 34 Efjestad (2017), 61. 35 Ibid., 62. 36 “Dutch naval ships will not take part in Atalanta in 2018,” navaltoday.com, 9 March 2018, https://navaltoday.com/2018/03/09/dutch-naval-ships-will-not-takepart-in-atalanta-in-2018/. Jeremy Stöhs 330 terity measures had caused among European navies. For the first time since the inception of the carrier-weapon, Britain was unable to deploy a ‘flat top’ to an area of crisis, having to make do with the landing platform dock HMS Ocean.37 Italy, under considerable financial and political pressure, withdrew its own carrier while some of France’s stocks of precision ammunitions were close to depletion. The Second Paradigm Shift: Recommitting to the High-End In light of ongoing counterinsurgency efforts and tanking economies during the first decade of the 21st century, Western responses towards Russia’s war against Georgia and increasingly competitive foreign policy proved largely haphazard. Russia’s forceful annexation of Crimea and military actions in Eastern Ukraine in 2014, on the other hand, ushered in a period of renewed strategic competition. For the first time since end of the Cold War, European states have politically re-committed themselves to defense spending and revitalizing collective defense. Importantly, within this context of NATO’s “360-degree approach,” i.e. addressing challenges in all strategic directions, Europe’s eastern and northern frontiers have again received far greater attention. As part of this “second strategic paradigm shift,” the Atlantic has, once again, become the fulcrum of strategic competition between East and West. As mentioned above, Russia has also significantly improved the state of its armed forces. Although air and land forces, as well as its strategic nuclear force, have received most attention, the navy has regained some of its capabilities.38 Substantial investments have been made to add new warships to the fleet, to reorganize and streamline command structures, and improve training and readiness. Both the number of snap drills and actual deployments has spiked in past years.39 Today, Russia’s military activities across the maritime domain have reached a level not witnessed in several 37 Apache helicopters and other rotary aviation deployed from the amphibious assault ship HMS Ocean. 38 Dmitry Gorenburg, “Russia’s State Armaments Program 2020: Is the third time the charm for military modernization?,” PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo No. 125, http://www.ponarseurasia.org/sites/default/files/policy-memos-pdf/pepm_125.pdf. 39 Keir Giles, “Assessing Russias’s Reorganized and Rearmed Military,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Task Force White Paper, 3 May 2017, https:// carnegieendowment.org/2017/05/03/assessing-russia-s-reorganized-and-rearmedmilitary-pub-69853. Bastion, Backwater, or Battlefront? 331 decades.40 In a sense, then-Vice Admiral Clive Johnston’s warning that NATO is witnessing “more activity from Russian submarines than we’ve seen since the days of the Cold War,” is accurate.41 However, one might add the caveat that the same could have been claimed every single year since the navy’s nadir during the late 1990s. Nevertheless, the United States and its allies and partners in Europe (Sweden and Finland) are actively engaged in adjusting their strategies and force postures to counter this perceived threat. The measures range from filling capability gaps, establishing a greater presence, investing in highend capabilities, strengthening territorial defense, signing off for largescale procurement programs, conducting more comprehensive exercises, and improving command and control and decision-making processes. Any comparison of naval capabilities between Russia and NATO is prone to generalizations and misjudgment; more so because land, air, space, and cyber capabilities also weigh in on the equation. Nonetheless, an argument can be made that, at sea, NATO and its partners still enjoy advantages over their Russian counterparts in both numerical as well as qualitative terms. There are, however, indications that Russia has been able to narrow and close these gaps in certain areas whilst establishing a lead in other sectors, notably low-yield nuclear weapons and doctrine, anti-ship and land-attack missiles, deep-diving (auxiliary) submarines, electronic warfare, and covert operations. Moreover, unlike NATO, an organization comprised of 29 democratic states, Russia enjoys advantages in the speed at which it can make political decisions, despite lacking some of the military capabilities necessary to quickly and decisively react to events globally. NATO territory and cohesion is considered particularly threatened in the Baltic region, where Moscow already applies hybrid strategies and elements of grey-zone warfare to advance its political goals.42 These activities below the threshold of armed conflict are backed by a conventional and nuclear arsenal of such size that it has led Western experts to warn the 40 At the same time, it is important to note that they are neither qualitatively nor quantitatively of the same order as during the Cold War. John A. Olsen, “Introduction: The Quest for Maritime Supremacy,” in NATO and the North Atlantic: Revitalising Collective Defence, ed. by John A. Olsen, Whitehall Papers vol. 87 (Abingdon: Taylor & Francis Ltd., 2017), 7. 41 Vice Admiral Clive Johnstone quoted in Foggo, III, and Alarik (2016), 19. 42 Frank Hoffman, “Examining Complex Forms of Conflict: Gray Zone and Hybrid Challenges,” in PRISM vol. 7, no. 4 (8 November 2018), 30, https://cco.ndu.edu/P ortals/96/Documents/prism/prism7_4/181204_Hoffman_PDF.pdf?ver=2018-12-04- 161237-307. Jeremy Stöhs 332 Baltic states could be overrun within days.43 Nevertheless, under close scrutiny it becomes evident that, in terms of naval capabilities, NATO and its partners still enjoy significant advantages in this area of operations.44 In addition, shorter lines of communication and land-based aviation can, in theory, compensate for some of NATO’s weakness when it comes to conventional deterrence. Across the North Atlantic, the Norwegian Sea, and beyond the Arctic Circle, the lack of readily available platforms is more pronounced and has called NATO’s ability to naval superiority into question. Here, the decline of the British Royal Navy has been felt most drastically. British surface combatants and nuclear attack submarines are charged with keeping watch over the mainstay of Russia’s naval forces as they transit into the open waters of the North Atlantic. Norwegian, Dutch, Belgian, and German surface warfare assets are equally stretched, conducting duties of an expanding naval portfolio. What is more, the conventionally powered submarines in service with some of the latter states are designed to defend northern shorelines and are less well-suited for operations in deep, blue waters. France maintains some credible anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capabilities in the Arsenal de Brest but its SSNs are homeported in the Mediterranean and need days to transit north of the GIUK gap. Clearly, the U.S. Navy has kept a close eye on the re-emergence of Russia’s sea bastion. However, as significant American forces are tied down in the Indo-Pacific region, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean, less than a handful of units can be expected to be assigned to duties in northern waters. These circumstances, paired with Europe’s shortage of surface combatants tailored to ASW and a shortfall of designated MPA – neither the Netherlands nor Britain currently operate them – place limits on what the allies can do to gain maritime domain awareness.45 This also undercuts NATO’s deterrent posture, the alliance’s ability to deploy credible forces in 43 David Shlapak and Michael Johnson, “Reinforcing Deterrence on NATO’s Eastern Flank: Wargaming the Defense of the Baltics” (Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corporation, 2016), https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1253.html. 44 Robert E. Hamilton, “NATO in the Baltics: Deterring Phanton Threats?,” Russia Foreign Policy Papers (Philadelphia, PA: Foreign Policy Research Institute, 2018); Peter Roberts, “Disruptive technologies and operations in confined water,” in Focus on the Baltic Sea: Proceedings from the Kiel Conference 2015, ed. by Adrian J. Neumann and Sebastian Bruns (Kiel: Institute for Security Policy Kiel University, 2015), 36-43. 45 German P-3Cs Orion MPAs have recently received comprehensive upgrades while Britain and Norway are scheduled to receive the P-8A Poseidon. Since 2018, the U.S. Navy episodically operates its MPAs from Keflavik, Iceland. This might be Bastion, Backwater, or Battlefront? 333 the case of emergency, and its ability to establish a high degree of sea control. The decision of August 2018 to reestablish the U.S. Navy’s 2nd Fleet, is a clear indicator that the problem has been recognized in Washington. Tellingly, in fall of that year, 2nd Fleet participated in exercise Trident Juncture and led the multinational Baltic Operations 2019 (BALTOPS), as large-scale practices conducted by NATO and its partners, to prepare for complex military scenarios and operations in highly contested environments. Recommendations What does all of this mean for European defense planners? Without underestimating the threat that hybrid warfare and new forms of subversive actions pose,46 the security environment along Europe’s northern shores allows for relatively traditional responses to a rather traditional set of challenges. The much-discussed anti-access/area-denial networks in the Baltics and the High North are but modern-day iterations of the bastion concept dating back to the 1970s and 1980s. In other words, the notion that Russia could wage a U-Boat-style tonnage war against shipping on the high seas, or that NATO needs to prepare for a repeat of the World War ‘Battles for the Atlantic,’ as Foggo, Fritz, and other pundits have recently implied, is a highly doubtful proposition.47 From a naval perspective, clear centers of gravity can be identified, namely Russia’s land, air, and sea-based forces on the Kola Peninsula in the High North and Kaliningrad Oblast and St. Petersburg in the Baltic. Under this premise, the following (maritime) measures will likely leave an impression on Russia’s political and military leaders in Moscow and St. Petersburg: the necessary impetus for the Netherlands to again acquire maritime patrol aircraft (either used P-3Cs from Norway or a small number of P-8s). 46 Niklas Granholm, “Small navies and naval warfare in the Baltic Sea region,” in McCabe; Sanders; Speller, Europe, Small Navies and Maritime Security: Balancing Traditional Roles and Emergent Threats in the 21st Century, 71-88. 47 Rolf Tamnes, “The Significance of the North Atlantic and the Norwegian Contribution,” in NATO and the North Atlantic: Revitalising Collective Defence, ed. by John A. Olsen, Whitehall Papers vol. 87 (Abingdon: Taylor & Francis Ltd., 2017), 20. Magnus Nordenman, The New Battle for the Atlantic: Emerging Naval Competition with Russia in the Far North (Annapolis, MD: The Naval Institute Press, 15 June 2019). Jeremy Stöhs 334 • Regularly deploying capable naval units, such as destroyers, frigates, and submarines, across the North Atlantic and beyond the GIUK Gap into the Norwegian Sea and the High North. This should chiefly be done by European navies due to Russia’s aversion towards U.S. operations on its doorstep and to signal to all parties that European countries are capable and willing to assume greater responsibility in their own neighborhood. • Conducting maritime exercises (including land and air elements) with a focus on multidimensional operations in high-intensity conflicts (Saxon Warrior, BALTOPS, Dynamic Mongoose). These need to be accompanied by comprehensive public diplomacy efforts in order to reassure alliance members and partners, deter Russia, and to avoid being interpreted as escalatory. • Forward basing further defensive-oriented NATO units (air and land) as well as appropriate logistics and materiel in Norway and Iceland. • Forward basing U.S. naval forces in Germany or Denmark (preferably Littoral Combat Ships). Due to their offensive capabilities, forward basing American destroyers (akin to Rota, Spain) should not be considered.48 • Strengthening the armed forces of the Baltic States, particularly their naval forces, thereby utilizing the strategic depth that the Baltic littoral offers. Obtaining asymmetric capabilities (such as modern sea and shore-based anti-ship missiles) in order to compensate for numerical disadvantages would constitute and effective deterrent. More pressure must also be placed on the Baltic governments to develop common solutions, for example, in the area of procurement and shared maritime domain awareness.49 • Improving information sharing between the various civilian and military agencies as well as the private sector (multinational and cross-sectorial cooperation).50 48 Sebastian Bruns and Jeremy Stöhs, “Your Allies Have the Littorals – Send the LC- Ss!,” in U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings vol. 144/4/1,382 (April 2018). 49 Thomas-Durell Young, “NATO’s Selective Sea Blindness – Assessing the Alliance’s New Navies,” in Naval War College Review vol. 72, no. 3 (2019), 21f. 50 Niklas Granholm, “Small navies and naval warfare in the Baltic Sea region,” in Europe, Small Navies and Maritime Security. Balancing Traditional Roles and Emergent Threats in the 21st Century, ed. by Robert McCabe with Deborah Sanders and Ian Speller, Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies series (Abingdon: Routledge, 2019), 82. Bastion, Backwater, or Battlefront? 335 • Further enhancing maritime (aerial) reconnaissance capabilities across the North Atlantic. • Complementing information networks with corresponding command and control procedures and infrastructure in order to establish a recognized maritime picture and guarantee comprehensive maritime awareness in peace, crisis, and war. In the area of maritime domain awareness and SAR, the maritime domain also offers potential for low-level cooperation with Russia. • Strengthening and protecting critical infrastructure such as C2 or C4ISR facilities, airfields, and communication routes and nodes from (kinetic) attacks.51 • In addition to these military aspects, strengthening the civilian, economic, and intellectual defense of European states to counter hybrid and subliminal threats. • At the same time, (re-)establishing diplomatic channels with Russia. Intergovernmental forums that can help promote cooperation and the peaceful resolution of disputes are in no short supply. Institutions such as the Arctic Council allow both the West and Russia to conduct a multi-facetted foreign policy. Therefore, one the one hand, the show of force implicit in these political ideas is understood as a strategic signal of capability and intent. On the other hand, there are viable channels for dialogue and cooperation given the political will to do so. Responses to the perceived threat posed by Russia have been tried and tested time and again throughout the Cold War. They rested upon the concept of credible nuclear and conventional deterrence and are supported by “meaningful dialogue” and political cooperation in areas of mutual interest.52 Beyond that, it will be particularly important for European states to spend more money, more wisely, on defense. Substantial investments will be necessary so that these military forces can operate more effectively both in joint and multinational settings. While it will be difficult for some, such as the Baltic States, to comprehensively expand their naval postures (main- 51 Magnus Nordenman, “How Russia’s Sub-Launched Missiles Threaten NATO’s Wartime Strategy,” Defense One, 9 October 2018, https://www.defenseone.com/ ideas/2018/10/how-russias-sub-launched-missiles-threaten-natos-wartime-strategy/ 151803/?oref=d-river. 52 Meyer zum Felde (2018), 104. Jeremy Stöhs 336 ly for fiscal reasons),53 it is well within the reach of rich nations, such as Britain, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany, and even Poland to do so.54 However, it is likely that several NATO members will fall well short of spending two percent of their gross domestic product on defense – the agreed minimum target figure. Despite positive signals in the recent past, there are serious doubts whether post-‘Brexit’ Britain, the fiscally self-constrained Netherlands, the strategically land-oriented Poland, or the Zivilmacht Germany will make continued and sizable investments towards their naval forces. As one study warned, there is “no hard evidence that the upward trend [among European navies is] going to endure [or that states will] spend their money better or with more intra-European cooperation than before.”55 In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic will likely have a significant negative impact on national economies, thus creating new challenges for European defense investments in the future. Conclusion For roughly five hundred years, world affairs hinged upon the waters that linked the New World with the Old. Throughout the twentieth century, until the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Atlantic Ocean represented the lifelines of a beleaguered European continent. However, after 1991, in a period of profound changes to the global security order, the Atlantic and its adjacent northern waters slowly lost their importance. Western naval forces shifted their attention towards peace-time duties and crisis management along southern shores and deployed to the littorals of far-off regions. Defense spending was cut, procurement processes curtailed, and force-levels reduced. In absence of a peer-competitor, many politicians and defense planners were preoccupied with the struggle against instability and violent extremism, rather than preparing for worst-case scenarios. Militaries were 53 William Combes, “Maritime security strategies for very small states: The Baltic states,” in Europe, Small Navies and Maritime Security. Balancing Traditional Roles and Emergent Threats in the 21st Century, ed. by Robert McCabe with Deborah Sanders and Ian Speller, Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies series (Abingdon: Routledge, 2019), 120f. 54 Young (2019), 13-39. 55 Alessandro Marrone, Olivier de France and Daniele Fattibene, “Defence Budgets and Cooperation in Europe: Developments, Trends and Drivers,” Istituto Affari Internazionali (Januar 2016), 3, https://www.iai.it/sites/default/files/pma_report.p df. Bastion, Backwater, or Battlefront? 337 shaped to deal with the most-likely events, such as the counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. As part of a first strategic paradigm change, crisis response, combating piracy, and supporting the fight against terrorists and insurgencies became principal tasks of twenty-first century navies. Two decades later, Russia’s aspirations to regain position as a great power and its concomitant military buildup along Europe’s borders have once again called the strategic importance of the Atlantic Ocean to attention. NATO and the West responded to Russia’s more assertive behavior by undergoing a second strategic paradigm shift and returning to core principles: supporting collective defense among its members and partners, raising defense expenditure, and strengthening the overall military posture. However, over the coming decades it will be important not to commit similar strategic errors as in the past. Clearly, today European states are compelled to find more balanced approaches towards national and collective defense. The broad range of naval tasks and the mounting threat posed by state and non-state actors need to be appropriately reflected in defense strategies and operational doctrine. Navies must do everything. Big and small, they will need to be shaped with both low-intensity peacekeeping operations and high-intensity forceon-force engagements in mind. “Where the balance point regarding structure, volume [of forces] cooperate efforts and readiness” lies, as Niklas Granholm rightly queries, varies from state to state and will remain a topic of constant debate.56 At the same time, Europe’s southern waters and shores will continue to demand attention and draw upon a significant portion of resources within the proclaimed 360-degree approach. Fleets will therefore need to operate both capable platforms designed to tackle Russian submarines in the North Atlantic as well as a range of less heavily armed assets for constabulary duties in more permissive environments. Current procurement projects are underway to fill the gaps which twenty-five years of fiscal austerity measures have caused. In the future, Russia’s military activities have to be closely monitored and Western responses constantly adjusted to the varying threat levels. Russia must be opposed where it acts aggressively and threatens established norms and international law but must be supported where its actions promote peace and cooperation. In the North Atlantic, Russia needs to be both deterred by credible military capabilities and engaged through 56 Granholm (2019), 85. Jeremy Stöhs 338 established forums and channels. A return to close study Russia’s history and strategic culture – largely ignored in the previous two decades, is of paramount importance. If the aforementioned goals are pursued over the coming decade, European navies will be in a more comfortable position to deal with future challenges both along its northern borders, its southern shores, as well as globally. Their governments will be positioned to answer great-power challenges, as well as crises ranging across the intensity spectrum. With greater capabilities in place and as part of a reinvigorated military alliance and partnerships it can be hoped that for the foreseeable future the “fourth battle of the Atlantic” will remain what it is today, namely a somewhat misplaced figure of speech. North Atlantic, Stöhs 2020 Bastion, Backwater, or Battlefront? 339 Despite declining numbers and readiness over the last three decades, the naval forces of NATO and its partners continue to constitute the first response to a host of potential challenges across and beyond Europe’s northern waters.57. 57 U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Justin Stumberg, https://www.navy.mil/view_image.asp?id=262323. Jeremy Stöhs 340 Works Cited Åtland, Christian, “East-West Relations in the High North: Challenges and Opportunities,” in Focus on the Baltic Sea: Proceedings from the Kiel Conference 2015, ed. by Adrian J. 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References

Abstract

The 21st century is witnessing renewed tension as conflicts between major powers, serious concerns about future security alliances and global, even generational, security policy challenges arise. In the light of this, naval forces and maritime security, and understanding their underlying strategic rationale, are gaining momentum and importance. What are the roles and missions of naval forces, and how have states and the institutions themselves sought to frame their goals and methods? This book brings together experts from the United States, Europe, and Asia to reflect on how maritime and naval strategy is conceptualised and how it has been used. It celebrates the life and work of Peter M. Swartz, Captain (US Navy) ret., who since contributing to ‘The Maritime Strategy’ of the 1980s as a young Pentagon officer, has been a mentor, friend, intellectual beacon and the foremost purveyor of maritime expertise to the global naval community. With contributions by James Bergeron, Sebastian Bruns, Seth Cropsey, Larissa Forster, Michael Haas, John Hattendorf, Peter Haynes, Andrzej Makowski, Amund Lundesgaard, Narushige Michishita, Martin Murphy, Sarandis Papadopoulos, Nilanthi Samaranayake, Jeremy Stöhs, Eric Thompson, Geoffrey Till, Sarah Vogler, Steve Wills.

Zusammenfassung

Großmachtkonflikte, die Zukunft von sicherheitspolitischen Institutionen sowie transnationalen Generationenherausforderungen bergen eine neue globale Unsicherheit. Vor diesem Hintergrund bekommen maritime Sicherheit und Seestreitkräfte sowie deren Einordnung im außenpolitischen Werkzeugkasten eine zunehmende Bedeutung. Was sind die Rollen und Einsatzaufgaben von Seemacht, und wie haben Staaten und ihre Institutionen maritime Ziele, Mittel und Wege konzeptualisiert? Dieser Sammelband bringt ausgewiesene Experten aus den USA, Europa und Asien zusammen, die ihre Perspektive auf maritime Strategie teilen. Das Buch dient gleichzeitig die Festschrift für Peter M. Swartz, Kapitän zur See a.D. der US-Marine, der seit seiner Arbeit als einer der Autoren der „Maritime Strategy“ (1980er) als Mentor, Freund, intellektueller Leuchtturm und vor allen Dingen als Spiritus Rektor wesentlich zur Schärfung des Verständnisses von Seestrategie in den globalen Beziehungen beigetragen hat. Mit Beiträgen von James Bergeron, Sebastian Bruns, Seth Cropsey, Larissa Forster, Michael Haas, John Hattendorf, Peter Haynes, Andrzej Makowski, Amund Lundesgaard, Narushige Michishita, Martin Murphy, Sarandis Papadopoulos, Nilanthi Samaranayake, Jeremy Stöhs, Eric Thompson, Geoffrey Till, Sarah Vogler, Steve Wills.