In the modern world of globalized economies and interconnected societies, politics and geostrategy are no longer about violent conflict between great powers. This was especially true between 1947 and 1989, during the Cold War, when the United States engaged in a war of posture with the Soviet Union at sea. The lessons learned over the course of that 44-year game of chess—sometimes fought with missiles in regional proxy conflicts, but more often through military exercises and the positioning of military assets—can be applied today, as the United States increasingly engages with China.
The Cold War Begins
In March 1946, long-standing Russo–Turkish tensions over Russian transit rights through the Dardanelles came to a boil. President Harry S. Truman’s reaction was swift, as he dispatched the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) to the Sea of Marmara on 22 March 1946.1 By August, the crisis had escalated as part of a wider policy of Soviet intervention and interference in the Balkans and the Middle East.
1. Missouri III (BB-63), Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, United States Navy, 2019, www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/m/missouri-iii.html.
2. Gabriel Gorodetsky, ed., Soviet Foreign Policy 1917–1991: A Retrospective (New York: Routledge, 1994), 139–40.
3. Anadi Bhushan Maity, “The Problem of the Turkish Straits,” The Indian Journal of Political Science 15, no. 2 (April–June 1954): 134–52.
4. John Lehman, Oceans Ventured: Winning the Cold War at Sea (New York:
W. W. Norton and Company, 2018), 25.
5. Lehman, Oceans Ventured, 39.
6. Lawrence Freedman, U.S. Intelligence and the Soviet Strategic Threat (New York: MacMillan Press, 1977), 98.
7. Andrew Dwyer, “Bottling-up Soviet Submarines,” Harvard International Review 3, no. 4 (December–January 1981): 17.
8. Lehman, Oceans Ventured, 53.
9. Agreement on the Prevention of Incidents at Sea, US-USSR, 25 May 1972, TIAS 7379; 852 UNTS 151, www.state.gov/t/isn/4791.htm.
10. Lehman, Oceans Ventured, 53.
11. Desmond Ball and Richard Tanter, The U.S. Ocean Surveillance Information System (OSIS), The Tools of Owatatsumi Japan’s Ocean Surveillance and Coastal Defence Capabilities (Canberra, AU: Australian National University Press, 2015), 95–96.
12. Jonathan F. Soloman, “Maritime Deception and Concealment: Concepts for Defeating Wide-Area Oceanic Surveillance-Reconnaissance-Strike Networks,” Naval War College Review 66, no. 4 (Autumn 2013): 87–116.
13. Lehman, Oceans Ventured, 25.
14. Lehman, 16, 23.
15. Lehman, 31, 33.
16. CAPT Sam J. Tangredi, USN (Ret.), Anti-Access Warfare Countering A2/AD Strategies (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2013), 132.
17. Frederick Kuo, “Why China Won’t Stop Island Building in the South China Sea,” The Diplomat, 2 July 2016.
18. Nan Li and Christopher Weuve, “China’s Aircraft Carrier Ambitions: An Update,” Naval War College Review 63, no. 1 (Winter 2010): 18.
19. Bernard C. Cole, The Great Wall at Sea: China’s Navy in the Twenty-First Century (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2010), 369.
20. Conrad Waters, ed., Seaforth World Naval Review 2018 (Barnsley, UK: Seaforth Publishing, 2017), 31–34.
21. Lyle J. Goldstein, “China’s ‘Undersea Great Wall,’” The National Interest, May 2016.
22. “Arbitration Award More Shameless than Worst Prediction,” The Global Times, 12 July 2016, www.globaltimes.cn/content/993855.shtml; Permanent Court of Arbitration, “The Tribunal Renders Its Award,” 12 July 2016.
23. U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, “China and the U.S. Rebalance to Asia,” 114th Congress, 2d sess., 31 March 2016, 121.
24. Timothy A. Walton, Ryan Boone, and Harrison Schramm, “Sustaining the Fight: Resilient Maritime Logistics for a New Era,” Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, 23 April 2019, 32.