The CSS Blog Network

Russia: A Land Power Hungry for the Sea

Courtesy of MASS MoCA/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 19 April 2017.

Trying to understand the military behavior of nations has been a hobby of Western academics, beginning with the great geopoliticians of former centuries, such as Nicholas Spykman, Sir Halford Mackinder, and Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan. Simply, the argument is that geography demanded that insular and coastal nations such as England, Japan, and the Netherlands develop strong navies to support their national economic and political interests. Conversely, Germany, the Turkish Republic, and the Roman Empire were required to use their formidable land armies to defend and expand their territories. Russia stands out as a one-off. Situated squarely on the borders of Eastern Europe and central Asia, she endured numerous land assaults, and, accordingly built large defensive and offensive land armies. However, in fits and starts, she has also assembled naval forces equal to or greater than most of her presumptive adversaries. Why does Russia, a traditional land power, engage in such counterintuitive and unique behavior? Do recent international events shed light on Russia’s future naval activities?

When Tsar Peter the Great embarked on building a navy 330 years ago, he did so to defend the homeland from Swedish and Turkish enemies, north and south, while at the same time buying Russia a seat at the “great power” diplomatic table. Serendipitously, his navy did enable him to expand Russian boundaries and give him access to the world’s oceans. A second noteworthy Russian foray into the sea was at the height of the Cold War when Soviet Adm. Gorshkov planned and built a naval force that rivalled American supremacy at sea. His submarines alone (385) outnumbered those of the NATO Alliance and they regularly patrolled off the American Atlantic and Pacific coasts until the fall of the Soviet Union. On the surface of the oceans, it was commonplace for U.S. warships visiting exotic ports around the world to be joined by their Soviet counterparts throughout the Cold War.

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The Threat is Here, It’s Just Distributed Unevenly: A2/AD and the Aircraft Carrier

USS George Washington is underway in the Pacific Ocean

Courtesy of Official U.S. Navy Imagery/Flickr

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 28 July 2016

Editor’s Note: You can read a longer account of Steve Blank’s visit to the U.S.S. Carl Vinson at his website later this week.

Sitting backwards in a plane with no windows, strapped in a 4-point harness, head encased in a helmet, eyes covered by goggles, your brain can’t process the acceleration. As the C-2 A Greyhound is hurled off an aircraft carrier into the air via a catapult, your body is thrown forward in the air, until a few seconds later, hundreds of feet above the carrier now at 150 miles per hour you yell, “Holy sh*t!” And no one can hear you through the noise, helmet, and ear protectors.

I just spent two days a hundred miles off the coast of Mexico as a guest of the U.S.S. Carl Vinson with Pete Newell (my fellow instructor in the Hacking for Defense class) and 11 other Stanford faculty from CISAC and the Hoover Institution. It’s hard to spend time on a carrier and not be impressed with the Navy and the dedicated people who man the carrier and serve their country.

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The Emperor’s New Clothes: The Self-Delusions of American Naval Power

Aircraft from Carrier Air Wing 7 fly over USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. Image: Official U.S. Navy Page/Flickr

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 1 October, 2015.

Hans Christian Andersen crafted the parable of the emperor’s new clothes to teach children how pomposity and collective denial can produce stupidity and how childlike honesty can cut through it all. The tale centers on a credulous emperor and a circle of courtiers and subjects who were willing to play along with the delusion – a situation now mirrored not only in the Pentagon, but also in the White House and Congress. And the U.S. Navy is caught in in this web of pomposity and collective denial on two fronts. The first involves the Navy’s Fleet Response Program (FRP) and the second is the inconsistency between the Unified Command Plan (UCP) and the Navy’s operating environment – the world’s oceans. These issues might not sound sexy, but they are crucial to understand. Both are related and the net result is an over-extended Navy, bereft of a command-and-control apparatus congruent with its operating environment. » More

Putting Air Defense Identification Zones on the Radar

China’s East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone. Image: voa/wikimedia

This article (PacNet #36) was originally published by the Pacific Forum CSIS on 22 June 2015. It draws upon a recent CIGI Graduate Fellows Policy Brief, which is available here.

In November 2013, much to the surprise and alarm of the international community, China announced the creation of its “first” Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea. There is growing concern that China will implement a second in the South China Sea, an unstable area riddled with maritime and territorial disputes. The November announcement prompted journalists, policy makers, and scholars to understand and explain the political and security implications of China’s ADIZ. A common concern was that China appeared to be using its ADIZ as a means of asserting sovereignty over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. Much of the subsequent analysis and commentary misrepresented the actual global state of play with respect to ADIZs, as well as their purposes and functions. The result was a great deal of unnecessary criticism and tension. A better understanding of ADIZs is required to prevent similar disputes in the future. But even better than an improved understanding would be a uniform global regime with consistent and transparent practices so that aviation safety and maritime or territorial disputes do not compromise each other in the future. » More

Death From Above

“Death from above” . Image: AK Rockefeller/Flickr

This book review was originally published by the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) on 28 May, 2015.

Andrew Cockburn. Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins. Henry Holt Publishers. 307pp. $28.00.

It’s not often that a book review coincides with current events. Books, particularly nonfiction, are usually written and published months, if not years after an event has occurred. That’s because good nonfiction is written in retrospect: writers have spent some time absorbing their subject, researching and analyzing the facts; authors are hesitant to be rash in judgment or thought.

However, there are exceptions. Some pieces of nonfiction, particularly journalists’ works, are appropriate now — not later. Andrew Cockburn’s new book, Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins, is one of them.  Cockburn’s book is timely.  In just the past few weeks there has been a flood of reporting from media outlets stating that a drone strike killed an American and an Italian hostage when targeting a group of Al-Qaeda members operating near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. » More

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