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Denmark was the dominant Baltic power when it built this castle to control traffic through the Sound. The Nanuchka-III-class guided missile corvette steaming past Kronborg Castle symbolizes the Soviets’ dominance today. The continuing Soviet threat eventually caused Denmark to end its long tradition of neutrality and become a member of NATO.
The past ten years have seen two remarkable changes in the balance of global power. First, the Soviet Union has added an intermediate-range nuclear force stronger than the West’s to its superior land power. Second, the Soviet Union has built a navy capable of projecting power and supporting communist governments worldwide. However, Moscow still lacks a geostrategic position that allows the unrestricted use of its naval power under wartime conditions—particularly for the battle of the Atlantic.
The two Soviet fleets which have direct access to the Atlantic—the Northern and the Baltic fleets—are restricted by two geographical key positions under NATO’s control: Northern Norway and the Baltic Approaches. While Northern Norway poses a flank threat to the Soviet Northern Fleet’s long transit into the Norwegian Sea, the Baltic Approaches deny the Baltic Fleet access to the North Sea. Therefore, the Soviets would have to take possession of the Baltic Approaches before they could employ the Baltic Fleet outside of the Baltic Sea.
The area known as the Baltic Approaches includes Denmark, the German states Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg and the surrounding waters, the Baltic Sea, the Kattegat, parts of the Skagerrak, and the North Sea. Between the Baltic and the Kattegat are the Baltic Straits: the Sound, the Fehmam Belt, the Great Belt, and the Little Belt. This area contains a great number of islands, most of which are rather small. Of the many harbors in the area, only Copenhagen and Arhus in Denmark and Hamburg, Kiel, and Lubeck in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) can be considered major ports.
Of the eight countries bordering the Baltic and its approaches, three are NATO countries (Norway, Denmark, and the Federal Republic of Germany), three belong to the
Warsaw Pact (the Soviet Union, Poland, and the German Democratic Republic [GDR]), and two are neutral (Sweden and Finland).
Historically, the Baltic Approaches have been of great strategic importance as the geographic link between Central Europe and the Scandinavian Peninsula, and as a barrier between the high seas and the Baltic Sea. The comp®' tition has been between the dominant power in the Baltin region and the largest external naval power for control o the Baltic and its approaches. For many centuries, Den' mark was the dominant Baltic power. In 1429, it f°rce the introduction of the Sound Dues—levied on ships an cargoes on their way in and out of the Baltic—from whin*1 the Danish financed construction of a strong fleet.
In the 17th century, Sweden took over as the dominant power in the Baltic region. When it tried to establish the Baltic as a “closed sea” for the first time, the Netherlands sent its navy into the Baltic to keep it open. Between 189 and 1813, Great Britain projected its sea power into the Baltic and influenced the outcome of the Napoleonic Wars. In 1857, the United States announced that U- ^ ships would no longer pay any dues. This led to the abo ' ishment of the Sound and Belt dues, thus ending one of thL major sources funding Denmark’s naval strength.
With the advent of German naval power at the beg>n ning of this century, the Baltic Approaches’ importance’ diminished. Germany enjoyed the strategic advantage o having ports in the Baltic and North seas, connected by Kiel Canal across the Jutland Peninsula. The canal en abled the German High Seas Fleet to shift even its largeS units from one sea to the other within eight hours. Durmr World War II, German forces invaded Denmark and Not way, not so much for their geostrategic positions, but b cause of Germany’s dependence on iron ore from Scan
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p3via. Throughout both world wars, the Baltic remained a ^■man-dominated sea—a valuable training area and a faceless pipeline for steel, timber, and other resources.
After World War II, the Soviet Union became the domi- ?ant military power in the Baltic region. The continued 0vtet threat to European countries caused Denmark to end its long tradition of neutrality in 1949 and become a niember of NATO. After the Federal Republic of Ger- ^any joined NATO, a combined command for the Baltic rea was established in 1962. Located in Karup, Den- park, Allied Forces Baltic Approaches is under NATO’s omrnander-in-Chief Allied Forces Northern Europe North) in Kolsas, Norway.
„ '’°r the Soviets, who currently have the most powerful eet ever in the Baltic, this means that NATO controls l^sit in and out of the Baltic. In times of crisis or war, ATO could close the Baltic Straits, thereby bottling up ^saw Pact ships.
two years ago, approximately 4,400 Eastern-Bloc mer- ant ships left or entered the Baltic through the straits ery year; nearly the same number transit the Kiel Canal, titong the many kinds of Warsaw Pact warships which asSs through the straits are newly constructed ships, such r ^e missile cruiser Frunze, and new Udaloy- and Sov- ^""W-class destroyers en route from Baltic shipyards J°m the Northern Fleet; submarines en route to their antic, Norwegian, and North Sea patrols; a Soviet task °Up on jts way to participate in the large-scale Soviet p lng exercise in the Norwegian Sea; a combined Warsaw a ^ task group en route to carry out exercises in the North Norwegian seas and to pay a visit to the Murmansk and combatants on their way to demonstrate and Ject Soviet power abroad.
116 ability to control Warsaw Pact traffic in the Baltic
Approaches is especially important in times of crisis. An outstanding example is the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, when Baltic approach surveillance reported Soviet vessels reversing course in the Skagerrak. This vital information was Washington’s earliest and best indication that Soviet attempts to escalate the crisis had ended.
Soviet naval power in the Baltic Sea has fluctuated. In this century alone, the Russians have had to build up their navy three times: 80 years ago, after the Russo-Japanese War when 53 ships of the Baltic Fleet en route to reinforce Vladivostok were decisively defeated in the Battle of the Tsushima Straits; after the Communist revolution in 1917 and the defeat in World War I; and after World War II, when only a few surviving ships formed the basis of today’s Soviet Baltic Fleet.
The most important factors influencing the maritime situation in the Baltic Approaches are geography, the Soviet threat, and NATO’s capabilities. Geography offers NATO some definite advantages. The Baltic is a long, narrow sea with a water depth of up to 130 fathoms in the eastern part. Many temperature layers and variances in salinity favor submarine operations in this area. The shallow western parts, the Straits and the Kattegat, however, are unsuitable for submarine operations but are ideal for mining. Along the nearly 1,000-nautical-mile southern coast, the Warsaw Pact countries have many good harbors, including the important naval ports of Warnemiinde, Peenemunde, Swinoucie, Gdynia, Baltiysk, Liepaya, Tallin, and Leningrad. More than 25 shipyards provide a large capacity for building and repair. The good harbor facilities and a number of ferry connections make this sea an important traffic artery, especially for bringing follow-on forces and resupply forward, bypassing the vulnerable road and rail transport systems of Poland and the German Democratic Re-
chant ships built to merchant service requirements
public. But the Warsaw Pact must also consider this long coastline as an open flank leading into one of the Soviet Union’s major industrial centers.
This open flank was the Soviet Navy’s main concern immediately after World War II. It was obvious in those years that no nation could challenge the sea power of the United States. Therefore, the Soviet Union concentrated on building naval forces for coastal defense, to counter the West’s capability to deploy continental scale armies by sea to areas such as the Baltic. During this time, the U. S. Navy frequently sent impressive task groups with carriers and amphibious ships into the Baltic. For offensive operations, the Soviet Union chose the traditional roles of an inferior naval power—anti-sea lines of communication and anti-convoy operations—implemented primarily with submarines. In the early 1950s, the Soviet Union had about 350 operational submarines, most of which were based in Baltic ports.
For many years, the Soviet Navy’s main mission had been to defend the Soviet Union against maritime attack and to support the army’s operations on land. Since the advent of a sea-based capability to deliver nuclear weapons, the Soviets added to the traditional missions the new tasks of nuclear strategic attack and extended their homeland protection with anticarrier and antisubmarine operations. With these additional tasks, the Soviet Northern Fleet and the Soviet Pacific Fleet have gained importance. According to the most recent edition of Soviet Military Power, the Soviet Baltic Fleet comprises 43 principal surface combatants, 347 other combatant ships and craft, 170 auxiliary ships, 33 submarines, and 270 aircraft.
The size and the structure of this fleet indicate that its potential missions are not confined to the Baltic Sea. The bigger ships are ocean-going and even better suited f°r operations on the high seas than in the shallow and confined Baltic waters. All the submarines are diesel- powered. The Golf-II and Juliett-class submarines, carrying medium-range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles* can operate in the Baltic Sea, but the cruise missile target options would be considerably increased if they operated outside the Baltic. The shallow waters of the western Baltic inhibit the operation of submarines the size of the Soviets’. But as the 1981 Soviet Whiskey-class submarine incident in Swedish territorial waters showed, there are also tasks in the Baltic. However, the training activities of th^ Soviets’ torpedo attack submarines indicate that we shoul expect a number of them outside the Baltic. Finally, Soviet bombers and the Fitter-C fighter bombers from f°r' ward bases in the German Democratic Republic have a range that extends far into the North Sea; for the Backfire bomber, this range includes the Norwegian Sea, Great Britain, and the ports of the English Channel area. In fact- the distance to Iceland from Soviet airfields in the German Democratic Republic is less than the distance from the Kola Peninsula.
The Soviets’ potential is complemented by the naya and naval air forces of the two other Warsaw Pact navies- the German Democratic Republic’s and Poland’s, both ° which specialize in coastal warfare. The East German ships are modem, and their personnel training level >s high. The Polish fleet has been passive in the past, but modernization of its largely obsolete assets was begun m 1984. In some areas, the total strength of the United War saw Pact Fleet in the Baltic is impressive.
A large number of the smaller combatants are missi attack craft of the aging Osa-class. However, replaceme has started and even the Polish and East German navies are getting the modem missile corvettes of the Tarantu class. With a displacement of more than 500 tons, mode111 surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missile armament and a top speed of more than 35 knots, these ships are als° well suited for operating in the shallow seas outside tb Baltic.
The Warsaw Pact amphibious forces do not yet have Western-style long-range amphibious assault capability' The landing ships are mainly of medium size and are d signed more for lifting than for living on board. With t ever-increasing number of amphibious hovercraft, 1 Soviets possess an important component capable of h*S j. speed assault operations. Altogether, more than 50% ^ the Warsaw Pact’s amphibious capacity is concentrated the Baltic Sea. One Polish naval infantry division and 0Jj Soviet naval infantry brigade form the spearhead of 1 landing force. This force could be further increased t adding troops with auxiliary amphibious ships and u1® with naval standards of communications, prote' against nuclear fallout, and some naval crewmen.
emphasis given to amphibious forces in the Warsaw Baltic fleets clearly indicates the importance that the W saw Pact military leadership places on this type of uav
Warfare in the Baltic area.
The third field in which the Warsaw Pact Baltic naval 0rces have remarkable strength is mine warfare. The Rus- sjans have traditionally been in the forefront of mine de- rninelaying, and mine countermeasures operations. n the early postwar years, they prepared for the require- ^ent to lay large defensive fields, and at least part of these °cks still exist. Modem mines have supplemented this . > and most of their bombers, submarines, and surface Un'ts, including the most modern ones, have a minelaying ^ability. In mine countermeasures, the Soviets seem to e behind the West, but the tremendous number of their assets dedicated to this warfare area compensates for their echnical shortcomings.
The force composition of the three Warsaw Pact Baltic eets indicates that the main tasks of these forces in the ^ a'tic Sea comprise the following:
protect the long coastline and the sea transport lines ^°r the follow-on forces . To support ground force operations . To open the Baltic exits by gaining control of the Dan- sh Straits and to provide mine-free lanes to the North Sea rough NATO’s minefields in the Belts, the Sound, the attegat, and the Skagerrak
R the Warsaw Pact gained control of the Baltic Ap- Pr°aches, the first two tasks would probably continue and extend to the West, causing the main operations area to
Although some of the Warsaw Pact forces are in a reserve status or have a low combat readiness, one must reckon with their entire fleet being combat ready by the start of hostilities. But the German and Danish naval forces are especially structured and trained to fulfill their two main goals—defending the Baltic Approaches against Warsaw Pact attacks and protecting NATO reinforcement and resupply in the North Sea. These goals are closely related because of the importance NATO places on ground and air reinforcements to hold this geostrategic key position. Therefore, the North and Baltic seas must be viewed as one operational entity.
Although the structure and strength of the German and Danish naval forces in the Baltic Approaches area have been adequate in recent years, they are now undergoing improvements. Responding to developments in the Warsaw Pact, NATO naval forces have begun modernizing, emphasizing guided weapon systems against air and surface units, shorter response times, higher combat effectiveness against submarines, and improved all-weather capability of the land-based naval fighter bombers of the German Naval Air Arm. Of the 21 destroyers and frigates, 18 are equipped with Harpoon or Exocet surface-to- surface and surface-to-air missiles. Of the 56 fast-attack craft, the 40 German 143 and 148 classes carry four Exocet missiles each, while the ten Danish Willemoes class are equipped with Harpoon missiles.
’ft toward the North Sea. The Soviet Baltic Fleet could j e” extend its operations into the Norwegian Sea, provid- ,, 8 both a southern flank for the battle of the Norwegian and sustained support for the Soviet Northern Fleet’s antic operations.
I he mission of NATO’s naval and naval air forces is to ^event the Warsaw Pact from achieving these goals. a0rriPared with the indigenous naval forces of Denmark j. ’he Federal Republic of Germany, the Warsaw Pact v’es in the Baltic have a threefold numerical superiority.
Considering the Warsaw Pact’s enormous minelaying capacity, an adequate NATO anti-mine capability continues to be of particular importance for an area that depends so much on reinforcements and resupply. As ports and debarkation areas of the North Sea, the Skagerrak, and the Kattegat are the terminal links of the sea routes from North America to Central and Northern Europe. Therefore, the task of keeping the sea-lanes and harbors free of mines has always been one of highest priority. Thus, NATO has a considerable mine countermeasures force in this area con- nado and two F-104G Starfighter attack squadrons, two Brequet Atlantique maritime patrol squadrons, and four helicopter and light transport squadrons. From their bases in the Baltic Approaches area, these aircraft can operate far into the Baltic Sea and can also support naval operations throughout the North Sea.
When the F-104Gs are replaced by Tornados in the next few years, the German Navy will have an increasingly stronger force of land-based all-weather combat aircraft capable of engaging amphibious forces, surface forces,
The Baltic Sea’s narrowness prevents any evasion our defending forces. Naturally, NATO presupposes spect for neutral states’ territorial rights. Therefore,
sisting of minesweepers, minehunters, and the modem Troika countermeasures system. The Troika system, consisting of one manned control vessel and three unmanned remotely controlled sweep units, triples each unit’s effectiveness. In addition, the mine countermeasures vessels, the German landing craft, and the Danish minelayers have the capability to lay a great quantity of mines within a short period of time. The sweep-resistant and precisely hitting mines are particularly suitable for defending the prospective landing beaches and the Baltic Straits. Furthermore, the 28 German and Danish submarines also have a minelaying capability—although it is more offensive than defensive. These diesel-electric submarines have been especially designed for operations in the Baltic. With a displacement of 500 tbns, they are highly maneuverable and difficult to detect. They also have remarkable instant fighting power with their eight readily loaded torpedoes, a capability that is enhanced by the addition of up to 24 mines in external mounted mine belts.
All naval air forces in the area are German, except'for one Danish helicopter squadron. They consist of two Tor- support units, and other targets with a high probability 0 success. This flexibility constitutes a major element ° naval warfare in this area.
Because of the close proximity of the Warsaw Pact forces, reaction times are short, especially against enemy air attacks. The need for immediate reaction is met b) command, control, and information systems, which ar® located ashore, protected against air attack, and supp°rte by electronic data-processing and data transmission sys terns. These modem command and control systems have shortened the defender’s response times considerably- which is essential for this constricted area of operations-
With these forces and capabilities, NATO Baltic forces can take advantage of the geographic situation by explo'1' ing the long, narrow sea area for a layered defense-in' depth. The fighter-bombers of the German Naval A>r Arm, the submarines, the missile- and torpedo-carryi11- surface forces, the defensive and anti-invasion minefields- and the Danish coastal batteries all provide the means f° the Baltic defense concept. This concept forces the enem) to direct his forces against widely diverse threats, preven ing him from concentrating against only one type ot n fense. Often, the optimal deployment of forces to countc one particular threat creates disadvantages in defens against another type of threat
jsquieting to observe that the Soviet Union has already Vl°lated Swedish territorial rights in peacetime—both Jjnder water and in the air—without the Swedish armed 0rces being able to take effective countermeasures.
^ successful defense of the Baltic Approaches would Preserve the cohesiveness of NATO’s defense of the °rthern and Central regions, would prevent the Warsaw act from using this area as a springboard for further opera- l0ns> and would contain the powerful Warsaw Pact Baltic naval forces in the Baltic Sea. The latter can only be chieved by taking advantage of this unique area’s geographic conditions: the shallow waters, the islands and jsiets, the Sounds, and the Belts. This area is the “cork in e bottle” of the Baltic Sea. If the Jutland Peninsula and e Danish islands were lost, the Warsaw Pact could bring 0 bear its large number of naval combatants and mine countermeasures assets. Mines can be considered a means ‘ blocking enemy shipping only as long as friendly forces fatl control the minefields and prevent the sweeping of anes—an extremely difficult task if the Baltic Approaches are not under NATO control.
As in the central region, the strategy for the defense of e Baltic Approaches area is based on the principle of ,°rward defense. The geographical features and the exist- ln8 vital interests dictate such a strategy. This strategy’s ''alidity is based both on an instant warfighting capability 0 s|op a Warsaw Pact attack and on the ability to move sufficient reinforcements and resupply material across the dantic Ocean for a sustained defense. This can only be ®Ccornplished through the mutual efforts of both Supreme died Commander Europe (SACEur) and Supreme Allied ornmander Atlantic (SACLant). In public statements, ACEur has often pointed out that he would not be able to u§ht for more than a few days before having to request a.uthority to use nuclear weapons, because of his conven- tonal capabilities’ shortcomings. Therefore, the support . European theater forces must be considered a major *ssion among many for SACLant. The more support *CEur receives at the outset of hostilities, the better the ance for preventing an escalation into nuclear war.
^ en‘y years ago, such support was considered automatic . Ucause the strong U. S. and British navies had supremacy , toe shallow seas adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean. This s changed significantly because of the U. S. and British vies’ decline and the Soviet Navy’s dramatic rise. With e rapid buildup of a high-quality, 600-ship U. S. Navy, ability to win a battle of the flanks is not beyond ATO’s capability. A strategy to gain control of the Nor-
wegian Sea would not only support SACEur and contain the Soviet Northern Fleet but would also provide protection of the reinforcements nearing their destinations and the sea lines of communication.
As long as NATO’s Baltic forces are able to defend the Baltic Approaches, contain the powerful Soviet Baltic Fleet, and provide a forward barrier of air defense against the bombers of the Soviet Baltic Fleet’s naval air force, the battle in the Norwegian Sea would only face a threat from the north. NATO’s naval forces could use their flexibility to operate in the Norwegian and North seas, preventing the Warsaw Pact from entering both, attacking southern Norway from the south, and supporting a westerly advance of their ground forces in the central region from the north. In fact, such an advance would leave the Warsaw Pact forces with an open maritime flank.
The NATO strategy of flexible response and a forward defense capability are the basis of deterrence. The forward defense strategy at sea does not confine naval and naval air forces to narrowly defined regional borders—it calls for their employment anywhere the situation dictates, even in pheripheral seas where an adversary may attack. In the Baltic Sea, forward defense begins at the Warsaw Pact ports. This not only provides an effective defense for the Baltic Approaches, but also becomes the forward edge of NATO’s deeply echeloned defense-in-depth for the vital life lines of our Atlantic Alliance.
Admiral Kampe joined the German Navy in 1943 and served on a destroyer during World War II. After the war, he became a member of the German Minesweeping Administration and participated in the mine- clearance operations in the North Sea and the Skagerrak. When the Federal Armed Forces were founded, he rejoined the navy—after ten years in a civilian profession as a surveying engineer—and completed flight training with the U. S. Navy. His operational flying experience has been in the S-2 Tracker, HU-16 Albatros, Fairey Gannet, and Brequet At- lantique. He has been a Squadron, Wing, and Station Commander in the German Naval Air Arm. He is a graduate of the German General Staff and War College, and he has served as military assistant to the Chairman of the German Joint Chiefs of Staff, Superintendent of the German Naval Academy, Chief of Staff of the Joint Armed Forces Staff, and Deputy CinC German Fleet. Since April 1983 he has been Commander Allied Naval Forces Baltic Approaches.