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A pair of Kanin class guided missile destroyers, the Boykiy (foreground in the photo opposite) and the Zhguchiy (astern) visited Boston in May 1975. They are part of the modern Soviet fleet which for years has been impressing us with its new ships. But, aside from ballistic missile submarines, in recent years Soviet naval shipbuilding has fallen behind that of the United States. And their well-publicized distant sea deployments have also fallen off. In light of these facts, and others, we must ask ourselves again, “What are the purposes for which this very large and intensely interesting fleet has been built?”
^JL en years ago this month the U. S. Naval Institute published Commander Robert W. Herrick’s provocative Soviet Naval Strategy. , ,
Herrick’s thesis was that Soviet naval strategy is defensive, tna the Soviets view their naval forces as inferior to those of the West—especially that of the United States—and that the Soviets fear invasion and conquest, spearheaded by a NATO naval force, aS the principal threat.
It is probably an understatement to call Herrick’s book controversial. It was hard to find anyone who did not have an opinion on the subject, whether or not he had read the book or Herricks earlier work, “A View of Soviet Naval Strategy,” which had been published in Naval Review 1967.2
In 1968 the Soviet Union’s foreign policy was not regarded as especially complicated and, to most of Herrick’s critics, it was not plausible that any aspect of Soviet military strategy could be defensive. The essential problem seemed to be, if one conceded that the Soviet Navy’s raison d’etre was defense of the Motherland, then one faced a discontinuity in accepted thinking, which was that the Soviets were aggressive and offensive all around. It was easy to agree with Herrick that in World War II, Soviet naval operations were defensive, but it seemed obvious that, in twenty years, Soviet ambitions had changed, and anything the Soviets said for public hearing was either a ruse or mere rhetoric.
At the time Herrick wrote, the West’s knowledge about the Soviet Navy was small, and its interest was even smaller. What thought Westerners gave to the subject was based on Anglo- American experience and Mahanian theory.
Herrick had become convinced that “the Soviet Union, with a weak Navy, has been forced to adopt a strategically defensive maritime strategy, one designed primarily for deterrence, but failing that to ward off, as best it can, the seaborne attacks of a ‘NATO Navy’ which can exercise command of the sea at the times and places of its own choosing.”3 He must have known that Western naval and political leaders would have severe difficulties in dealing with such an assertion. In the Pacific the United States was engaged in a war against communism in Indochina (1968 was the year of the startling Tet Offensive) and few of its leaders were likely to accept a statement that any element of Communist policy was defensive.
As to evidence, it was clear by 1968 that the Soviet Navy was building rapidly in numbers and in remarkable new types of warships, while expanding its operations around the world.
For footnotes, please turn to page 127-
116 U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, Naval Review 1978
For these reasons, it was clear to many that Commander Herrick had misinterpreted Soviet motives.
Now, with ten years behind us, it is time to see if Soviet naval trends and developments substantiate, modify, or refute Herrick’s findings.
We are all familiar with the mass of impressive new ships the Soviet Navy has sent to sea during the past ten years, as well as the tempo and span of Soviet naval operations during those years. Most recently, the appearance at sea of the first of the Kiev class aircraft cruisers has added impetus to interest in Soviet naval strategy.
In the two decades before the appearance of Herrick’s book, the United States saw communism, with the Soviet Union at its center, as the chief threat to U. S. interests. Those were the years of the Cold War. Two years after Herrick’s book appeared, American foreign policy was changed by a brief statement called the Nixon Doctrine. That doctrine said that the Cold War was over, and that a new period of searching for ways to ease tensions between the super powers had begun. In light of this, if Herrick was right, developments since 1968 should have eased Soviet fears; if he was wrong, the West is in the Soviets’ trap.
While international political affairs have been undergoing these changes, the Soviet Navy has staged world-wide naval exercises. They have launched and operated many new classes of warships, including the Kara CG, Krivak DDG, Kresta II CG, Ropucha LST, Moskva CHG, the Mod-Sverd/ov CLC, the Kiev CVSG and, of course, the Yankee and Delta SSBNs. New classes of nuclear-powered attack submarines and new combat aircraft, prominently the Backfire bomber and the ship-borne Forger V/STOL bomber, have appeared. The Soviet Navy has expanded its presence in sensitive or troubled areas, particularly in the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. It has shown a decided interest in antisubmarine and antisurface warfare and has armed a wide assortment of combat ships and aircraft with SSMs, ASMS, and ASW missiles. It is widely accepted that the Soviet Navy seeks to deny the West free use of the seas, and that Soviet policy is to keep the pressure on while, at every opportunity, exploiting existing opportunities or fomenting new ones. The Soviet Union’s procurement and employment of its naval forces appears to indicate that it does not recognize the Nixon Doctrine’s statement on the Cold War.
Other parallel developments inside the Soviet Union have been less emphatic: (1) Since 1965 the Soviet Navy has taken delivery of about twenty-five percent fewer surface combatants than have the Western navies, especially in large ships.4 (2)
Whereas, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Soviet ships generally were newer than their U. S. counterparts, this phenomenon is now in reversal. During the last ten years Soviet naval costs, including those for ship procurement, appear to have risen sharply* probably in pursuit of the Kiev air cruiser capability’ Noting the immense difficulties in comparing Soviet and U. S. defense costs,5 it can be shown that the GNP of the Soviet Union is approximately half that of the United States, but that the Soviets devote two to three times the percentage of that GNP to military expenditures as does the United States.
More indicative of contemplated strategy than acquisition and growth are the uses to which naval forces are put. Since 1971-72, there has been a leveling-off, followed by a down-turn in Soviet naval operations, world-wide. The rapid expansion of the 1960s did not continue through the 1970s. In all the years since World War II, the only Soviet combat forces operating permanently outside the immediate Soviet sphere of influence have been naval and state security forces, and the naval operations did not begin until the mid-1960s. It has been shown that Soviet naval expansion in the 1960s may have been a reaction to U. S. and NATO strategic initiatives taken in 1960-61.
This brings us to the present difficulty: A military strategy can be perceived as defensive or it can be perceived as offensive. One can see how immediately it gets wrapped up in ideology and moral commitments and becomes difficult to discuss aside from other issues. It is a difficulty which blurs otherwise essential distinctions between war and peace- Whether a military strategy is perceived as being offensive or defensive is conditioned by which side 's arguing the question and to what end. A herculean effort is required to afford the other fellow his own interests. The policy of “strategic deterrence, foremost in both U.S.-NATO and U.S.S.R.-Warsaw Pact force posturing, erases distinctions between peacetime and wartime naval missions, though it *s apparent that naval ships, including SSBNs, are buifi and operated to respond to both peacetime and wartime tasking, depending on national objectives.
The issue of whether Soviet naval strategy is offensive or defensive is going to be troublesome unless we first accept that strategy has as its basis policy and, accordingly, can be offensive with defensive aspects or the other way around. We are going to continue to have difficulty with the offensive-defensive idea so long as we continue to make mutually exclusive distinctions, i.e., zero-summing. It is likely that the Soviets are similarly tempted to believe that whar is their loss is the West’s gain.
This problem of concept and language is eased if We wove outside the strictly military realm. A na- tl0n s policies have their basis in so-called “national lnterests,” of which the most vital is simply national Beyond this interest, and certain other fun- ones, like sovereignty, “national interests” are inconstant. They have underlying themes but, at ajiy one time, they are whatever the ruling elites say ney afe. Military and defense policies arise out of the Core interest of survival, but are often altered by Political or economic circumstances. Today’s big- Power defense policies are conditioned on the premise at war is always possible and that, owing to an e Se or a lead in capability, the potential enemy is in ao advanced state of preparedness. So the expression policy as strategy takes on reactive and competi- tlVe Properties: perennially finding one’s own capabil-
It is a widespread misconception that if a nation s naval strategy is defensive and aims to make the seas safe for its own peaceful uses, then ipso facto adversary naval missions are to deny one’s access to and safe use of the seas. This is another example of zerosumming, or of mutually-exclusive ideas.
Though the deterrent role of the SSBN appears separate and distinct from that of general-purpose naval forces, it is not. That is because its operational independence and effectiveness depends on an ability to control the seas in which it operates, a circumstance that is enjoying a new level of appreciation in the Soviet Union in the 1970s.
The projection of force across the sea and onto the land is a leading mission of major navies. It is one thing to project power, by which we mean naval suasion and presence, and quite another thing to project
/y insufficient and reacting to all the other side’s nitiatives naturally is going to make one’s strategy Ppear to the opponent as offensive. This is not a ecent feature of international affairs.
^ is important to realize that naval forces do not Petate in isolation. What happens at sea is directly to operations and objectives on the land. A nan secures seas to its advantages ashore. This is a ndarnental condition of which sight is often lost, *s especially relevant to the Russians’ experience.
force, enough force to affect or alter the outcome of events. The United States Navy is the world s foremost practitioner of force projection. In the last decade, the Soviet Navy has improved its capability for naval force projection, though not greatly. To project force, sufficient air and amphibious elements to hold an objective area are required at the end of ao adequate and dependable logistics train. The occasional forward-deployed landing ship, with a com' pany or even a battalion of naval infantry embarked, constitutes naval presence rather than force. The active use of the embarked troops would quickly diminish the creditability that the Soviets have worked hard to build up in the so-called “Third World, Rather, their purpose is to provide local security ashore for a brief period, if it is needed. Historically’ the naval infantry has secured and defended coastal and port areas within the Soviet Union. Since 19^ the Soviet Navy has increased its amphibious lhc capability, but not to the extent required by an of' fensive strategy, especially in the absence of the othet factors necessary to force projection over a long distance. This is true even for contiguous objectives, f°r there is neither lift nor naval infantry manpower sufficient to seize and hold important areas. Instead, the Soviets have developed missile-armed submarines, surface combatants armed with antisubmarine an^ antiair weapons, and land-based aircraft armed f°f engaging surface ships and submarines. Even though the Soviets eventually may have as many as four Kt^ class CVSGs, similar in size to the Tarawa class LHAS of the U. S. Navy, such ships will not be very good for amphibious warfare.
In several places in Soviet naval literature of the 1968-1978 period, including Admiral Gorshkov i Seapower of the State,6 it is emphasized that sub'
Naval forces are the results of the conscious deci- S|°ns of rational men to meet the peculiar needs of che state within constraints that cannot be altered, or at least not in the short term. Nevertheless, words like ‘strike” and “surprise” can be unconsciously pejorative to analytical reasoning. Reduced to essentials Surprise” is one of the few practical options open to a force which perceives itself to be inferior, while a strike” is an aggressive act that looks the same whether part of an offensive or a defensive strategy, I,e-> it is a strategically “neutral” concept.
Furthermore, it is persuasively easy to label Soviet trulitary strategy “offensive” in a Cold War ideologiCal climate. Commentators point to examples like the 195(5 Hungarian Uprising and the 1968 Czechoslovakian “Democratization” as examples of Soviet Egression and surprise, offensive attacks. This view fails to consider Soviet state interests and basic Policies: These are not complicated: The postwar his- [0ry of major Communist aggression is that it has 1een determined and decisive, even ruthless, within Its area of clear control or immediate, uncontested 'nfluence. Outside that sphere, it has been cautious
Marines and aircraft are the main strike units of the Soviet Navy. In view of that navy’s lead in surface combatants, with about 1,000 major and minor surface warships, this seems an incongruity. So many surface warships might make it difficult to understand what it is that conditions the emphasis on submarines and aircraft. In fact, since 1968 we find that Soviet naval attack training operations center around their submarines and aircraft, particularly for chat unique form of anti-surface warfare wherein the Very small number of aircraft carriers are the target. Interestingly, attack submarines and aircraft have certain common key features: individual units of both kinds, compared to the destructive power they hear, are inexpensive, both are fast, and both can be hard to find. These qualities can be retitled econ- 0rny, mobility, and surprise. Commonly, we believe chat surprise is a highly offensive element until we cecall that from time immemorial it has been that °ne element of warfare relied on by an inferior force Perceiving itself placed in a defensive position. If the ’nferiority” owes in part to resource constraints, it is 'mportant that the strike units with surprise poten- Cial be relatively cheap and that their losses have rrunirnal impact on trained manpower. It is impor- Cant that they have the speed to get from the interior 0r from recessed bases to engage an inbound enemy force as far away from home soil as possible. It is 'rnportant that they be heavily armed. It is impor- Cant that such a force gets the maximum “bang’ for *ts “buck.”
and circumspect. Like all great powers across modern history, the Soviet Union has much to lose from taking the offensive, or from any high risk-taking activity, and has, under all administrations, preferred to maintain a basic status quo in those areas where power has been balanced or relatively stabilized. In the Third World, where power is uncertain and Western influence light, the Soviets have enjoyed short-term advantages, but even there, Soviet commitment has not been overwhelming and has suffered numerous reversals. It is in such regions that the Soviet Navy continues to be an important factor in providing an overseas presence and a display of interest and influence. These are areas where revolutions, rebellions, and sociopolitical unrest have a possibility of bringing into power governments and ideologies that could be compatible to the furtherance of Soviet policy and to the furtherance of brands of communism possibly corresponding to the Kremlin model.
Navies large enough to deploy forces regularly at great distances are alone in being able to provide this kind of representation, and the Soviet Navy is no exception. This use of a navy is not offensive in the sense of challenging established values and political structures. Rather, it supports existing regimes or exploits change already in progress. In the special case of the 1960-1975 war in Southeast Asia, where the opponent did not attempt to exercise sea control, primary Soviet support to the side they were backing was transported by sea. When the Americans mined Haiphong Harbor in 1972, it was the Soviets’ turn to leave undemonstrated their sea control capabilities. Nevertheless, North Vietnamese and other Communist efforts in that theater could never have succeeded without the constant support of the Soviets, and that support depended, in large measure, on the sea routes connecting the Soviet Union and North Vietnam. The extent to which the security of those sea routes was contingent on the Soviet Navy has not been evaluated, but the author knows of no instance in those fifteen years in which that navy went on the offensive to protect the sea lines of communication supporting a foreign Communist movement.
Do the Soviet Union’s other allies wonder whether the Soviet Navy would protect their sea lines of communication? Perhaps. But it is reasonable and likely that the Soviet Navy’s role in this respect is limited to protecting the Soviet Union’s own routes, of which none are more important than those passing through the southern seas by means of which their wholly remote eastern interests must be supported, or else surrendered.
U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, Naval Review 1978
Two conditions are necessary to a realistic antishipping mission: (1) a protracted war and (2) a surplus of naval forces, allowing some of the ships and aircraft to be spared from other combat duties to engage in anti-shipping operations. If Herrick’s understanding of Soviet naval strategy is correct, the defense of the Norwegian and Barents seas and of the approaches to their Pacific bases would seem not to leave enough submarines remaining to be truly effective against protected convoys, especially as the number of Soviet attack submarines has decreased since 1968 with little real improvement in availability.
Analysis of Three Factors
Thus far, the discussion has dealt, necessarily, in a framework of generalities about which there is divided opinion. To arrive at conclusions about how the events of the last decade bear on Commander Herrick’s original thesis, it will be useful to subject the Soviet Navy of that period to identification and
analysis of three factors common to assessing any respectable navy. These are:
1. Resource commitment.
2. Types of ships and their employment.
3. Fleet-wide strengths and weaknesses.
Resource commitments are a direct reflection an measurement of rational plans and serious, policy' level decisions. As in the Dow theory of securities markets, so also in shipbuilding: the future casts ics shadow on the present. Ships coming off the ways today reflect judgments, analyses, and decisions o perhaps two to eight or ten years ago with respect to forecast naval requirements. In turn, the types o ships produced and the manner in which they are operated are surely one of the best indicators, if n0t the best, of what the collective leadership has (°r had) in mind—indicators of the practicalities o workaday naval strategy.
In treating this aspect, it seems important not to examine the Soviet Navy and its strategy in isolation inasmuch as ten years is not a span sufficient to ide°'
tify trends, primarily because of the significant lead times. Accordingly, to achieve a measure of perspective, much of the following involves comparisons, usually of the navies of the United States and the Soviet Union, but also of the navies of NATO and the Warsaw Pact.
Interestingly, in all likelihood the Soviets do not know how much they spend on defense, either absolutely or relative to anyone else. Soviet lumping ° defense costs under a single heading occurs not so
1974 1975 1976
USA/USSR USA/USSR USA/USSR
^°tal number, major surface combatants ar,d attack submarines (plus difference) Total number naval combat aircraft 'plus difference)
Table 1 Net Assessment with Trend USA/USSR General Purpose Naval Forces
Table 2 Net Assessment With Trend USA/USSR Naval Strategic Weapons
1974 1975 1976 1977
USA/USSR USA/USSR __ USA/USSR USA/USSR
Number of 656/720-41/70 656/784-41/75 656/845-41/78 656/909-41/82
SLBfy[/SSB-SSBN plus difference 64/29 128/34 189/37 253/41
rtlUch out of an attempt to conceal details as it does °ut of the nature of resource allocation and ^jPenditure-accounting in a wholly state-owned, arxist economy. In such a non-capitalist, non- rnarket system where profits in a private sector and ®xPenses in a public sector are not involved, detailed nancial accounting is not germane, and accounting 7 Weight and measure of raw and finished materials ls Preferred, indeed imperative. Accordingly, Soviet e er>se planners perform expenditure accounting and j0st~benefit analysis in terms of, for example, ship lsplacement tons per weapon system rather than in terms of rubles per weapon system. Until a method ls articulated and accepted which will correlate di- ectly the differing Marxist and capitalist accounting atld financial analysis systems, reasonably accurate net assessments cannot be made.
Nevertheless, we know that Soviet military expenditures, including naval expenditures, did in- jfease yearly from before 1968 through at least 1973.
^act, naval procurement from about 1964 seems to ave tisen sharply until then. However, it is less cer- ta'n that Soviet military costs have continued to go UP- While probably there was no decline, the period ot 1972-77 was marked by new initiatives in the ^eas of detente that include the SALT, the MBFR, the lsmki Agreement, the Indian Ocean talks, and ^her efforts to reduce military competitiveness. It is °ubtful that Soviet leaders would have decreased the ,ate °f growth of military expenditure had they not ,‘eved that they had achieved something at least ,, ln t0 parity by the early-to-mid seventies. These achievements,” the subject of much Western an- Uuish an(j debate, have allowed the Soviets to feel relatively more secure than at any other time in this century. Importantly, it allows them increased effectiveness in international bargaining. Even more interesting is that as the so-called Soviet arms buildup has occurred, especially during the last decade, the Soviets have become more—not less—tractable. There are substantial indications that, in the last five or six years, the Soviet Union has been less bellicose than previously, contrary to Western predictions from the sixties and early seventies.
An important study of the Soviet Navy’s ship procurement costs has been worked out over the period 1966-1976 by Lieutenant John W. Skipper, U. S. Navy (Retired). Skipper attacks this difficult problem by averaging procurement costs of like ships of other navies to determine comparative per-unit procurement costs of Soviet ships expressed in U. S. dollars. His extensive analysis lends itself to interesting insights: Over the last decade, the Soviet Navy appears to have spent about 60 percent of its procurement costs on submarines, and 40 percent on surface ships. It appears that less than fifteen percent of the total “budget” was spent on non-combatants. From 1970 through 1977, expenditures for major surface ships increased significantly as a percentage of the total cost of all surface ships.
The 60-40 ratio merely means that in Soviet eyes the submarine (along with strike aircraft) continues to be regarded as the principal combatant. This antedates Herrick’s copyright by something like a decade and is comprehensively treated in Soviet Naval Strategy. Among surface ships, the rise in the share taken by major combatants is to be accounted for by the procurement of three or four Kiev class large ASW
cruisers. Of chief importance, however, is the fact that total costs devoted to naval construction appear not to have increased significantly in real terms, especially during the last four or five years.
It is important to examine numbers and tonnages because such considerations reflect Soviet-style resource management and because, commonly, comparisons are examined quantitatively. Here, the author is indebted to the work of a number of analysts, including Michael MccGwire at Dalhousie University, Halifax; Alva Bowen of the Congressional Research Service, U. S. Library of Congress, and John Moore of Jane’s, among others.
In Jane’s Fighting Ships, 1976-77,7 Moore comments that “so far as strength of the fleet is concerned it has become apparent that the Soviet Navy has reached a plateau of numbers.” For instance, while the Soviet Navy has long had more submarines than any other naval power, and continues to produce them in sizable numbers, neither the rate of production nor the size of the total inventory has increased in the last five or ten years. In fact, their numbers have decreased. MccGwire’s piece in the September-October 1976 issue of Survival J is based, in part, on Bowen’s Library of Congress research. Bowen, in turn, consults Jane’s over the period 1958-1976. MccGwire notes:
“Major naval combatants are costly items of equipment, and warship construction is an assembly industry which reaches throughout the economy, competing for skills and materiel. The output of naval building programmes is therefore an indicator of past decisions on the allocation of scarce resources and it will also, to varying extents, reflect contemporary policy preferences.”
The results of Bowen’s analysis is important to the subject at hand. He compares the last two decades of naval shipbuilding in the United States and the Sovifet Union in both numbers and in standard displacement. He examines both the whole period, 1958-1976, and then the second half of it, 19691976. Bowen’s analysis is summarized as follows:9
1. The number of ships delivered to the Soviet Navy exceeded the number delivered to the U. S. Navy during 1958-1976, but the United States received more total tonnage. However, during the last seven years of that period, the U. S. Navy completed more than did the Soviet Navy in both numbers and tonnage.
2. During 1958-1976, the Soviet Navy took delivery of more nuclear-powered ships of greater aggregate tonnage than did the U. S. Navy-
The Soviet Navy has also maintained (and continues to produce) a large diesel-electric- powered submarine force, which the U. S. Navy does not.
The U. S. Navy replaced its World War II amphibious ships with a modern force of faster ships, while the Soviet Navy produced only a modest, slow increase in the numbers and aggregate tonnage of its amphibious force. During 1958-1976, the rate of new ship deliveries in the United States averaged 20 ships per year. That for the Soviet Union during the same period averaged 34 ships per year. But in the last seven years of that period, the Soviet fate was only 17 ships per year.
other data covering the last ten years,
it is apparent that the U. S. Navy’s serv- force is significantly larger than that of the Soviet avy in number, total tonnage, and average tonnage Per ship. Implicit in this comparison is a statement ^ t0 the relative expected effectiveness of the two eets over time under sustained commitments.
. ^0 interesting derivative of Bowen’s data is a rela- tlVe rate-of-change comparison. The following figUres express the 1969-1976 numbers/tonnages as a f^rcentage of the 1958-1976 numbers/tonnages:
USSR nrsltons USA nrsltons
th^S°’ ^ur*n& t^e ^ast ten years’ the average age of e ships of the Soviet Navy has become greater than at of the U. S. Navy, and Bowen’s evidence sug- ^sts that this is a continuing trend. By 1977, on e average, Soviet ships were about three years older an U. S. ships.
^ During the last ten years, U. S. naval attention as focused on: (1) Southeast Asia operations, (2) per- k°nnel administration, (3) shipbuilding, and (4) u4geting. In this same period the Soviet Navy acquired mewhat more sophisticated, and generally larger
ships (fleet-wide average tonnage nearly doubling) than before; but at the cost of building significantly fewer ships than before. This is the classic trade-off where resource allocation remains nearly constant.
Types of Ships and Their Employment
All the Soviet Navy’s recently built surface combatants, as well as many auxiliaries, are armed against air attack. Beyond that, a decisive trend toward antisubmarine armaments and sensors may be seen, with an overall lessened emphasis on antisurface warfare, a task now shared with aircraft. Nonetheless, Soviet ships have a substantial capability to fight surface ships through the use of missiles (SSMs and SAMs depressed), torpedoes, and some guns. Their ability to reload and refire has been improved through the straightforward means of making their new missiles smaller than the old ones. This has meant that the missiles’ range has been shortened. It does not mean that the Soviet Navy has forsaken over-the-horizon or long-range weaponry, for they appear to retain a significant capability for long- range shooting in each of the major naval weapon categories except for anti-air. In the main, Soviet naval weapons of the last decade can fire out to the horizon. Hardly any are “trans-horizonal,” i.e., with ranges of from 30 to 80 nautical miles. New over- the-horizon weapons probably are also capable of minimum ranges to 30 nautical miles or less.
Among surface combatants, the new Kiev class ASW cruisers are of particular interest. These ships appear to have high endurance which permits them to operate at a distance (perhaps 3,000 to 5,000 nautical miles from friendly ports, according to contemporary Soviet thinking), and a considerable ability to protect themselves. The primary target of the Kievs would appear to be Western SSBNs, including the forthcoming Trident class, with their great missile ranges. To achieve these purposes, one squadron of YAK-36s and two squadrons of KA-25S appear reasonable. (Conceptually, the Kievs have some interesting progenitors, notably the World War II conver-
U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, Naval Review 1978
sions of the old Japanese battleships, Hyuga and Ise. These elderly dreadnoughts were converted after the Battle of Midway so that their after-sections consisted of flight and hanger decks and a control superstructure. They could have carried up to 22 seaplanes, launched by a pair of catapults. They retained eight 14" guns forward, and displaced 35,200 tons. They would have made excellent sea-control ships in the contemporary sense.) The Kievs are double-size Moskvas. The Soviet decision to build the Moskva class seems to coincide closely with the appearance of Polaris; the decision to change over to the Kiev coincides with the appearance of Poseiden and the announcement of Trident. Both classes were built in the same yard (Nikolayev) and the building cycles have an interesting pattern of continuity.
It is highly unlikely that the resource commitment to build four to six CHGs and CVSGs would have proceeded with such certainty had serious international legal difficulties been anticipated. It is widely believed that the Montreux Conventions expressly forbids or prohibits the passage of aircraft carriers through the Turkish Straits. It does not. It merely excludes aircraft carriers from the definition of warships which are allowed, conditionally, to pass through those waterways. Furthermore, it defines “aircraft carriers” in a way advantagous to current Soviet naval interests. Moreover, since the Kiev's, are designed for broad-ocean ASW, they only have to pass through the Turkish Straits once.
Only since 1968 has the Soviet Navy acquired “strategic” submarines with weapons of intercontinental range. The objective in building them provides the Soviet Union with an “ultimate deterrent” similar to that developed by the West. With respect to a time line, as Poseiden and Trident came onto the scene, behind Polaris, the Soviet SSN-6 and SSN-8 and SLBMs started to appear. Meanwhile, the “tactical” submarines of the Soviet Navy continued to proliferate in numbers and classes, far outstripping U. S. rates of submarine production. Unlike the United States, the Soviet Navy has continued to build diesel-electric-powered attack submarines, but this is not surprising in view of the advantages of these ships in terms of technology, cost, and tactics. In combatting hostile nuclear submarines, whether SSN or SSBN, nuclear power is essential. In any event, to the Soviets, the chief advantage of attack submarines lies in their effectiveness against enemy warships, especially submarines.
In recent years, the West has concentrated a great deal of attention on watching the “teeth” (combatant ships and aircraft) while generally paying too little attention to the “tail” (service forces), and a thorough, balanced study of the service forces and shore logistics facilities is in order for what it may imply about Soviet naval policies, trends, and strategy- Soviet attention has been, like that in the West, focused on combatants, and their detection and weapon systems. Consequently, a good logistical service was not developed until recently. It was 1971 before the first large fleet support ship (AOR) came off the ways- This was the Boris Cbilikin at some 16,000 to 17,000 tons. In the last five or six years half a dozen AORs have joined the operational forces, a rate of one a year. Still, with about 250 cruisers, destroyers, and frigates now in the Soviet Navy, there is only about one AOR for every 42 such combatants. A similar ratio in the U. S. Navy is 1:15. It seems reasonable that a great power navy cannot be expected to entertain an offensive strategy and a power projecton role unless its service force capability is commensurate with its combatant capability. Moreover, a nation-state which sees the overriding threat as an attack and invasion by hostile states will first expend resources on combatants and only thereafter expand or improve service forces that will be useful mainly to sustain combat at a distance. This may not be what the Soviets have in mind, but it seems reasonable in terms of the developments of the Soviet Navy since the fifties.
Recent developments in the Soviet maritime forces and auxiliary fleets seem important. Significant improvements in the capabilities and numbers of oceanographic research ships, reconnaissance ships, icebreakers, repair ships, and transports, as well as in fishing ships and merchant ships, indicate increasing Soviet interest in meeting competition and in realizing the full range of the potential of the world s oceans and seas. This is a more remarkable development than that of the Soviet combatant Navy, and n is a subject well documented, indeed emphasized, m Admiral Gorshkov’s writings during the last decade. It deserves much more attention than it has thus fof gotten. In 1976-77, about one-seventh of all merchant ships of over 1,000 deadweight tons underway on any one day were registered in the Soviet Union- Soviet maritime developments of the last ten years allow that country the highly important option ol competing and gaining on a broad economic plane that would never have been possible had they continued to concentrate only on warfare. As the nineteenth century Karl Marx and the eighteenth century Adam Smith understood the integral relationship of power and wealth and the interrelationship of economics and politics, so do the twentieth century Soviets, in this oceanic context, appear to understand those relationships and their
centrality in human affairs.
Developments in Soviet seapower in recent years continue in the tradition of Marxist autarky that economic development must be preceded by, and con- tnnued under, political and military protection to fend off the threats, real or imagined, which would otherwise disrupt development. The American expe- t'ence, on the other hand, is that both proceed together. The rationale is the same in both cases, but fhe method is different, and therefore the naval strat- eg<es important to each country’s goal realizations are different. Naval strategists on both sides have difficulty understanding the other side’s values and viewpoints. The pace and order, or priorities, of development are different. This difference was articulated >n the December 1976 Naval Institute Proceedings by ^*ce Admiral Gerald Miller, U. S. Navy (Retired): “The contrasts in geography create dissimilarities In need, and the dissimilarities in need create asymmetries in the forces designed to meet the need. And chese asymmetries deny simplistic answers as to who ls number one’.
The United States has an offensive navy designed f°r controlling sea lanes around the world on a sus- ta*ned basis. It is first in that class and . . . expensive.
The Soviets have a defensive navy, designed to deny access to certain bodies of water contiguous to their homeland. ... It is ‘number one’ in its class and ■ . . relatively cheap.”10
Admiral Miller’s view leads one to consider where and how the Soviet Navy has operated over the last
Soviet worldwide naval operations increased steadily and sharply from 1962 to 1970; then until 1974, the rate of increase slowed. Since then, operational ship days on deployments have decreased, and in 1975 and 1976 were from 9 to 11 percent under the 1974 high mark. This decreased operational tempo follows naturally in the wake of decreased new ship completions mentioned above. The expansion in production and operations of the sixties has not continued through the seventies. What has occurred in the seventies is an emphasis on improvements in training, in tactical diversification and techniques, and in weapon, sensor, propulsion, and navigation systems. The Soviets evidently first found it necessary to enhance themselves quantitatively prior to seeking qualitative improvements. In 1975 the U. S. Secretary of the Navy, William Middendorf, noted that the Soviet Navy operated about 20,000 deployed ship days, whereas the U. S. Navy operated some 33,000 ship days. This is significant as to strategies, because that year the U. S. Navy had fewer ocean-going ships than did the Soviet Navy. It is only most recently that the Soviet Union may have acquired the balance sought by all naval powers: That which facilitates using a Navy sufficient to discharge the differing missions of peace and of war. Not until perhaps that time was the Soviet Navy reasonably sufficient to both ends—and, with respect to qualified manpower—it may still be deficient.
Over the last 20 years or so, the Soviet Navy gradually has operated farther and farther away from the Soviet Union. Even so, the bulk of operations continued to be in nearby regions, and it is in those regions that the perception of the Soviet threat usually has been most intense. Where the Soviet maritime scope has expanded significantly is in oceanography, surveillance, and reconnaissance; in support to third world countries; and in “strategic” deterrence. This illustrates the increased tempo of essentially peacetime missions that are grand strategic in nature rather than merely militarily strategic.
Perhaps even more important than the Soviet Union's fighting navy is that country's modem merchant fleet which permits the U.S.S.R. to compete and gain “on a broad economic plane that would never have been possible had they continued to concentrate only on warfare.” An example of that is the new 14,000-ton passenger liner Odessa, shown here, which sails every week, winter and spring, from New Orleans to Mexico and Central America.
126 U.S. Naval Institute Proceeding's, Naval Review 1978
For wartime training, the Soviet Navy in the last decade seems to have improved itself in antisubmarine, anti-surface, and anti-air warfare. Only marginal improvements have been made in amphibious warfare, logistics support operations, mine warfare, and interdiction of shipping. Command and control improvements have been necessary, both to reduce the possibilities of inadvertent or ill-timed hostilities or opportunism, and to improve the effectiveness of the fleet in a naval engagement. The Soviet Navy would like to be able both to advance and protect national interests at sea and to wage war with the expectation of an initial, quick success.
Fleet-wide Strengths and Weaknesses
Over the last generation and culminating in the last decade, the Soviet Union has developed a modern navy sufficient, but not more than that, for selfdefense. Initially, in 1961, this required permanent forward deployments (an essentially wartime mission), followed by a decade-long expansion. The strategy remains essentially defensive. The expansion of the navy shows expected characteristics given the Soviet Union's values, constraints* and relative priorities. Today the Soviet Navy can do what it should be expected to do. It can defend in depth the maritime approaches and the contiguous seas, denying an enemy unreinforced access. It can protect its own national sea lines of communications, though not at great distances over an extended time. It can perform “strategic” deterrence and counter, to some extent, hostile “strategic” forces. It can function in a maritime flanking or a limited assault role in conjunction with, and in support of, ground and air forces. As long as it is uncontested, it can establish and maintain a presence in distance areas.
It is a very effective fighting force on the first strike. It is strategically integrated with certain other forces, particularly the deterrent and reconnaissance forces. In keeping with Soviet national interests and policy, it is a low risk-taker which will fight to the death if sufficiently threatened. It can do great damage in a short time. Like most navies, it is incapable of large-scale surprise—a sudden lashing out—or of fleet-wide full readiness on short notice. The exceptions are its first-line aircraft and certain submarines. These are numerous and powerful enough to achieve local surprise and to do great damage in the early stages of war.
Owing to an as yet underdeveloped service force and very few overseas bases, the Soviet Navy cannot, at this time, sustain deployed combat operations outside the contiguous seas of the Baltic, Barents, and Black seas, and the Sea of Japan. Throughout the whole Soviet Navy, the ratio of service and auxiliary ships to combatants, surface and submarines, is roughly 1 to 75, too low a proportion of support ships to sustain large deployments at a distance, but about right given the Soviet Navy’s roles. In a counter naval strategy, it would be necessary either to draw the Soviet Navy out or go in after it in its home bases. The latter move, in most cases, would be ill-advised because the resistance would be massive.
Until the early 1970s, Soviet ocean reconnaissance was relatively weak; the Soviets are still capable of being surprised and obviously are very sensitive to that possibility. In this connection, long-range planning and force structuring is a continual problem for the Soviet Navy, as it is for many navies, because it has almost always been in the unfortunate position of having to react to and alter priorities for weapon systems and tactics in response to Western initiatives. Making long-range predictions of future naval needs is an uncertain and controverted process, and it *s much easier for Admiral Gorshkov to discuss the overall implications of sea power than it is for him to be specific about his near and mid-term needs for scarce resources.
The Soviet Navy has one especially severe limitation: Human resources. Since at least I960, the manpower of the U. S. Navy has exceeded that of the Soviet Navy, most markedly during the last decade, when at one time the differences may have been as great as 150,000. This gap has narrowed in the last few years, but only by very heavy commitment by the Soviets. In the next ten years, it is expected to widen again. What happens as a general rule is that the same few officers keep the same few ships operational over a relatively long number of years. Contingency alert ships probably are sufficiently manned, but almost certainly at the expense of nearterm or immediate manning readiness in the majority of ships in the Soviet Navy.
Modern U. S. Navy personnel policies and management have been very expensive, consuming more than half the naval budget, but they provide opportunities and capabilities not found in the Soviet Navy. The Soviet experience has gone the other way, the larger share of expense having been devoted to hardware. This does not mean that Soviet naval personnel will not be fit adversaries in wartime. As a whole, they are excellent seamen, prudent tacticians, and rigorously trained for combat operations. We acquire excellence at great cost, but in view of the alternative—defeat, or the evident likelihood of defeat—have always contended that the cost is justified.
At the outset, the problem with the conception of offense” and “defense” in regard to naval strategies Was noted. However, whether a nation’s naval strat- e8y is essentially defensive or offensive, it will display characteristics of both. Among great navies, the tools and techniques maintained in peacetime for one purpose can be put over to the other should circumstances dictate; in either case, the probable opponent ls going to have to be well prepared. In the Decem- *3er 1969 Slavic Review, Raymond L. Garthoff’s re- Vlew of Herrick’s Soviet Naval Strategy illustrated this Point:
The author marshals evidence for the conclusion that Soviet naval doctrine continues to be strategically defensive. Perhaps some of the critics of this Vlew have not recognized that it is quite consistent 0r the Soviet Union to broaden naval capabilities and give the navy an increasing role in serving a toad range of Soviet offensive political objectives Without necessarily shifting the position that the navy should serve an essentially defensive role in the case of major war.”11
Western interests in sea power are different from . se of the Soviet Union, but both have vested 'uterests. The evidence of the last ten years is that the Soviet Union is not necessarily consumed by a etermined desire to achieve worldwide naval supre- uiaey basic Soviet naval mission has been and
continues to be the defense of the Soviet Union and ue Warsaw Pact. Evidence suggests that the expan- |*°n of the Soviet Navy since the early sixties has een mainly motivated by a perception, however inaccurate and unimaginable, of the distinct probabil- lcy of Western-initiated hostilities. Fundamentally, and aside from other issues, Herrick was right when e wrote, and what he wrote then is correct now.
during the next ten years the Soviet Union should not be expected to decrease its naval power signifi- Ca°tly because that power is, among other things, a ^condition for the increasing exercise of other Decries that depend on the seas and on sea power.
•storically, the Russian Navy has expanded and c°ntracted, usually in response to foreign initiatives, p'8-> those of Sweden, Turkey, Japan, Great Britain, fance, Germany, and lately, the United States. But ^Uce 1957 the total Soviet naval allocation seems to ave remained constant in real terms. Additionally, COrnpetition inside the Soviet government for re- ^°urces cannot be expected to decrease or even to Vel off— and there are clearly other avenues than e fighting navy for maritime-based expansion. By at least one part of the issue of whether the
navy must expand or be cut back will have to be decided. That is the question of whether to concentrate more resources on ocean-wide ASW, or to revert to off-shore ASW. If the latter, it is likely that the Soviet Navy will then concentrate on strategic deterrence and attempt not to lose ground for flexible response.
Withal, beginning as early as 1969, the Soviet Navy has forsaken quantitative improvements in favor of qualitative, and this trend continues, at least, as keyed to the Soviet’s tenth Five Year Plan, to 1980. In this vein, however, that Navy faces a systemic resource and management problem: Qualitative improvements on a broad front are inexorably far more costly than quantitative increases of relatively simple units in series production. Qualitative improvements in naval warfare quickly become highly intensive in manpower, skills, training, and technology. Unless the Soviet Navy can simultaneously get a larger share of the Soviets’ resources, and achieve significant manpower-related and high technology “break-throughs,” continuing qualitative improvements will not be possible. Soviet naval strategy, in time, will be affected, for without those political and technological changes, the navy will be unable to approach the competition of the West as well as it now does.
‘Robert W. Herrick, Soviet Naval Strategy (Annapolis: The Naval lnsti- tute Press, 1968).
2Naval Review 1967 (Annapolis: U. S. Naval Institute, 1966) pp. 14-41. •‘Herrick, op. cit., p. 92.
4Michael MccGwire, "Western and Soviet Naval Building Programmes, 1965-1976,” Survival (Sept./Oct. 1976).
*The Military Balance (London: The International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1970) p. 109.
6Sergei G. Gorshkov, Morskaya moshch' gosudarstva (Moscow: Voyenizdat, 1976). To be published in translation in the United States by the Naval Institute Press.
7John Moore, edJane's Fighting Ships 1976-77 (London: Macdonald and Jane’s, 1976) p. .
KMccGwire, op. cit.
9Alva M. Bowen, Comparison of U. S. and U.S.S.R. Naval Shipbuilding (Washington: Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, 1976).
10Gerald G. Miller, U. S. Naval Institute Proceedings, December 1976,
‘‘Raymond L. Garthoff, Slavic Review, December 1969, p. 650.