The Militarization of the Baltic Sea

BERLIN (Own report) – Since 1990, the German Navy is more than ever focusing its activities on the power struggle with Russia in the Baltic Sea. It is “conceivable” that “the eastern area of the Baltic Sea could become the venue for conflicts of interests and provocations,” the head of a department in the German Navy Command wrote in an article published in the current edition of MarineForum. This necessitates preparations for “the regular and permanent presence of operational forces” and a resolute military buildup, and Berlin’s announcement to procure five new corvettes is a signal in the right direction. At the same time, large scale maneuvers are regularly being held in the Baltic Sea. The most recent “BALTOPS 2017” exercise was focused around the scenario of naval combat against an enemy advancing “from the North.” Strategic B-52 bombers – among others – we e training so close to the Russian border that Moscow saw itself forced to chase them off with fighter jets. B-52s can be equipped with nuclear arms. Moscow has announced Russian-Chinese naval exercises to be held this month – for the first time in the Baltic Sea.

Gateway to the Atlantic

Last March already, the specialized journal, MarineForum, assessed the growing importance the power struggle with Russia has for German naval activities. According to the journal, not only the Black Sea, but the Baltic Sea as well, is of high strategic importance to Moscow. From the Russian perspective, it is imperative to keep the Baltic Sea open, because of its significance not only as a “rear space” for the Russian naval forces, but also “as a gateway to the Atlantic for Russian maritime trade.”[1] Moscow is at a large disadvantage, because, at the “Danish Straits,” NATO controls the Baltic Sea’s gateway to the Atlantic and is planning its “immediate and effective blockage” if conflicts escalate. Russia’s position has also been considerably weakened through having lost “the largest part of its former [Baltic Sea, editors note] coastline.” According to an analysis of high-ranking NATO officers, Russia is trying to counterbalance its disadvantages through a strategy of Anti Access/Area Denial (A2/AD).[2] The western war alliance, however, can counter this by seeking “sea control,” wrote Navy Commander Peter Korte, Branch Head for Future Developments, in MarineForum.

Controlling the Space

The journal has expanded these reflections by publishing two basic articles on the German Navy regaining its capacity to “marginal sea warfare.” It is “conceivable that the eastern area of the Baltic Sea, for example, could become the maritime venue for conflicts of interests and provocations,” the journal notes in view of the escalating power struggle with Russia. To take up an effective position in the sea, a “regular and permanent presence of operational forces” is indispensable. It is also a matter of “regaining regional expertise” and, above all, “the will to control (particularly maritime and air) space together with our partners.”[3] This requires comprehensive rearmament measures. It is helpful that the decision to procure five new corvettes has already been made (german-foreign-policy.com reported [4]). They have the “potentials for essential contributions” to offshore combat along the Baltic coasts, for example, with their “command capacity” or because of the “direct effects of their high precision weapons systems” – “on sea and on land.”[5] In the MarineForum, Department Head Korte proposes diverse other measures of rearmament including “developing and integrating weapons systems of new technologies” (laser) and “intensifying the development and use of unmanned systems above and underwater” as well as “creating and further developing the capacity to detect and combat underwater targets.”[6]

Air Control and Submarine Hunting

Nuclear Bomber

Russian-Chinese Maneuvers

In fact, Moscow is increasing its counter-measures. Russia has announced it will be holding joint maneuvers with the People’s Republic of China – the sixth since 2012. They will be held in the Baltic Sea – near Kaliningrad and St. Petersburg. In mid-June, a Chinese convoy sailed from Sanya Harbor, headed for Europe, where it is due to soon arrive. Beijing has dispatched a destroyer, a frigate and a supply vessel to the Baltic. According to information from China, this year’s drill aims to jointly carry out rescue missions and protect the safety of economic activities at sea.[11] Whereas Chinese statements paint a purely defensive image and refer to scenarios, such as combating piracy, e. g. at the Horn of Africa, Russian media quite frankly say that the current maneuver (“Joint Sea 2017”) will be held “at the epicenter of tensions and contradictions between Russia and NATO.”[12]

Full article: The Militarization of the Baltic Sea (German Foreign Policy)

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