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Russia Lacks Ships, Bases, Personnel And The Need For A New Arctic Fleet – OpEd


Over the last several months, rumors have been flying about the possible creation of a fifth, Arctic Fleet, to protect Russian sea lanes in the North and to project Russian power there more generally; but a sober examination of the situation suggests that Moscow lacks the capacity or even the need to create such a force, Mikhail Khodarenok says.


A retired colonel who served as a senior officer in the Main Operational Administration of the Russian General Staff examines the rumors and makes some damning conclusions about the entire matter. (On the rumors, see; for Khodarenok’s critique, see

“In order to create such a fleet,” the retired colonel says, “to begin with one must find several tens of thousands of sailors, midshipmen, officers and admirals.” But “without a general increase in the number of the Armed Forces in general and the navy in particular, there isn’t anywhere to find them.”

Moreover, there are simply not enough vessels available. “For a fleet one needs almost 100 ships.” Russia doesn’t have an excess of these and isn’t building new ones fast enough to make possible the creation of a new fleet.  And what is more serious is that there is nowhere to base these ships if they did exist.

But even if by some miracle all of these problems were to be solved, Khodarenok says, there is a bigger reason not to even try to build the fleet. Russia has sufficient airpower and sufficient air bases in the north to defend the Northern Sea Route against any plausible opponent. The air force could do this far more cheaply and effectively than the navy.


Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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