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Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist

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The collapse of the Russian navy

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Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist

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The Russian navy has suffered a string of setbacks recently. The Ukrainians have begun striking targets in Crimea, which formerly served as Russia’s control hub over the Black Sea. Meanwhile, Sweden and Finland together control most of the Baltic Sea, and both of those nations filed to join NATO following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Russia also lacks the crucial ability to connect and transport its naval assets the way the United States can via the Panama Canal.

Between these and other developments, Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan concludes that Russia “has ceased to be a naval power at all.” Zeihan contends that Russian naval power, never the strongest historically, may now be sinking toward yet another historic low.

The following is an excerpt from Peter Zeihan’s Nov. 13 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

Naval challenges are nothing new for the former Soviets, but the Ukraine War has introduced some added stressors in the Black Sea. Russia’s inability to unify its naval presence across the four major seas in the region is a bad sign for Putin.

Russia’s vast swath of territory makes it a logistical nightmare to float a navy. Between the conflict in the Black Sea and the strategic loss of the Baltic Sea with Sweden and Finland joining NATO, Russia’s logistical nightmare is only getting worse.

With Russia’s economy highly dependent upon maritime shipments, finding a solution should be a top priority; however, any naval projects diverting resources away from the Black Sea could be devastating.

No matter what move the Russians make, limiting maritime power will have substantial economic impacts. Putin has once again backed himself into a corner, and I’m absolutely okay with that.

Hey everybody, Peter Zion here coming to you from Colorado where we just had our first big snowstorm nine inches in counting. Today, considering the weather, I figured it was a great time to talk about what the Russians call the four C’s problem.

 

Most countries who have navies that are worthy of the name, have a relatively limited frontage, or it’s insulated from other land power neighbors. And that allows them to float a navy that can then sail whenever they need it. In the case of some countries like the United States, we have two big ocean fronts a big chunk of land in between. And so it was an imperative early in the American Republic around 1900, to build the Panama Canal so that ships could go back and forth, and you combine your two navies into a single one, for a mailed fist. To a degree, the French have to do the same thing, but they can’t do a canal, they have to sail around the Iberian Peninsula. And that means that countries like the United Kingdom, or Japan be an island nations are always gonna do fairly well on the water. But not only because they don’t have laying the borders to defend, but it’s easy for them to combine all of their navies into a single force when they need it. The Russians have never had this option. Russians are obviously heir to the physically the largest country on Earth and largest country in history.

 

But they’re not able to combine their naval forces. So they have four seas, the Pacific, the Arctic,

 

the Baltic and the black. And because of that, other countries that have found themselves fighting with the Russians have often been able to defeat the Russians in detail. With the Japanese being the quintessential example, in the hearse of Soviet War of 19. Before 1905, the Japanese decided that the Russian territories in China were ones that they wanted. So they sailed over there and smashed the Navy. And the Russians have spent the next almost year, six months to a year yeah, sailing the rest of their Navy from the European Theater all the way around Asia, until they could get there to try to take your territories back. And the Japanese destroyed all that too. So in two battles, listen to your part, the Russians lost everything because they couldn’t combine their forces into a more capable force. That’s even before you consider the Russians have tended to be a technological laggard on all things naval.

 

We’re seeing some version of the foresees problems today. The Ukraine, conflict is obviously happening on the shores of the Black sleet, one of those four bodies of water, and the Russians reinforced the Black Sea Fleet in the days and weeks leading up to the war, so they’d have more punch. But now that Western weapons have made their way into Ukrainian hands combined with some very clever garage projects by the Ukrainians. The Ukrainians have been able to sync the majority of the major surface combatants, including the flagship, and what is left of the Russian Navy, if it was going to dock in Crimea, which was originally the Russian naval base, going back to the Crimean or sorry, going back to the czarist times, they’re all in range of Ukrainian weapons. And so the Russians have had to basically close down their naval base and their primary shipyards and move everything further east to the other major port they have which has never ceased, which is doesn’t have the drydock doesn’t have the service capabilities, doesn’t have the ability to build ships.

 

Other problems are that the Russian activities in Ukraine have prompted Sweden and Finland to join NATO. Now Sweden and Finland control the majority of the sea frontage on the Baltic Sea, with the second largest chunk of territory, the Baltic Sea controlled by countries that were already in NATO. And so now that Finland is in And Sweden is going to be in in a matter of weeks, the Russians will basically have this tiny little chunk of territory to place called Kaliningrad and the French words, it’s in the general vicinity of St. Petersburg, and that’s it. So less than 5% of the frontage. And in order to get out to the open sea, they have to sail by the sea 123456789. That’s called Nine NATO countries, and then you’re in the North Sea, which is also a NATO lake. So basically, everything that’s in the Baltic Sea now is written off, it’s a loss. And that just leaves the fleets that are in the Arctic Ocean, which had been depleted because they sent ships on to the Black Sea, and then off in the Pacific, which are way off by themselves. So no matter how the Ukraine war goes, at this point, Russia has functionally ceased to be a naval power at all. The question is whether ego will allow them to accept that fact. And honestly, the more money that the Russians throw at Naval projects that they’re not very good at, in order to base them at bases that they can’t defend. And that can’t reinforce one another. I think the better because every ruble that they use for that is a ruble that is not being used to build a tank or killer Ukrainian so you know, I say bring it on. How do I what this mean?

 

means as we’re looking at this entire space, seen a change in military statistics and military strategy, because the Russians today are one of the countries on the planet that is most dependent upon naval shipments for their economy. Russian industry is not all that. And they depend upon those oceans, for getting their oil and their liquefied natural gas, and their aluminum and on and on and on to market. And they’ve now found themselves in a position where they are utterly incapable of projecting power on the seas in a local basis, much less a regional or national one. And so if, when the United States and Europe decide that it’s time to really shut down the Russian economy, they’re going to be able to do it at sea with ease in a matter of days. So we’re only in the early stages of this war, not simply from a military point of view, but from an economic point of view, too. And it’s time to start preparing for what comes next. And that is a world without any Russian commodity exports. Okay, it’s starting to get cold. Okay, I think I think that’s it for me. See you guys next time.

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