Revitalizing its fleet and making political inroads in the region, the Kremlin hopes to reassert its strategic influence—putting U.S. interests in potential jeopardy.
Recent geopolitical events in Ukraine and the Caucasus region illuminate the strategic importance of the Black Sea to Russia and re-energized its efforts to creatively transform the Black Sea Fleet (BSF) from a moribund flotilla into a viable force capable of conducting a wide array of maritime operations. Although Russian leaders are calling for the timely modernization and rearmament of the BSF, defense budget shortfalls and higher military priorities will remain two obstacles undermining Ministry of Defense (MOD) efforts to achieve that goal. Given those realities, Russia is pursuing a dual-track approach that should bolster the BSF’s operational capabilities in the short term. At the forefront is an updated modernization plan that leverages assets in the navy’s other fleets and relies on the purchase of foreign-produced warships to compensate for shortcomings in Russia’s domestic shipbuilding industry. In concert with those efforts, Kremlin leaders also have significantly increased political and military engagement with neighboring countries seeking stronger bilateral ties with Russia.