I am always cranky whenever I see all kinds of taxonomies and "classifications", never more so than when those, mostly vague and, often, propaganda-driven distinction methods are applied to military affairs. Make no mistake, I am not against systematization, generalization and proper linguistic representation of military, or any other, phenomena--I am all for it, when done professionally, after all, there is a reason one of the first books on the table of any officer in Russian Navy or Army, as an example, is the small book called "Command Words" and phrases. Things, any things, need to be named correctly and have a very good reaction "path" to the brains of those to who they are addressed--be it a young soldier or an experienced rear-admiral. Clarity is the main requirement. Hm, maybe that is why I am published by Clarity Press. Maybe it wasn't accidental that I decided to go with them.
Well, here I am again, ranting. This time I had it with the term Blue Water Navy. I opened Yahoo News feed today and, bang--Dmitry Gorenburg of Center for Naval Analysis writes this:
In the near to medium term, the Russian Navy’s role will be to serve primarily as a deterrence force to constrain U.S. and NATO operations in the eastern Mediterranean and to provide forward defense for approaches to the Russian homeland through the Black Sea. It will have some power projection through its ability to hold opponents’ territory at risk with its cruise missile capability, rather than through traditional naval strike groups. Out-of-area deployment capability will increasingly shift to smaller patrol ships and to submarines as Russia’s remaining Soviet-era large surface ships become increasingly less reliable. Over the last decade, there has been a transition in the Russian Navy’s future planning from unattainable blue-water aspirations to establishing a fairly capable green-water force. Its overall focus remains defensive in the near term, with the possibility of greater emphasis on power projection in the medium term as more Yasen-class nuclear attack submarines come online and older Soviet submarines are armed with Kalibr cruise missiles as part of ongoing modernization plans.
While Gorenburg's piece, surprisingly more-or-less balanced (for "American" analyst), is not wrong in a matter-of-fact way, passage highlighted in yellow makes by eyebrows being raised pretty high. For starters, what are "blue-water aspirations"? Let's see. We go to WiKi, and why not.
Public discourse, of course, is important but I was getting away from this term for a long time now, since it makes NO operational sense whatsoever if it is not judged relative to its mission against PROBABLE adversaries. Here is how some people define these Blue-Water, Green-Water, what have you, capabilities.
So, is the United States Navy a Blue-Water Navy? Absolutely--it is large, it can sail globally, it single-handedly can destroy some countries and in a civilian logic which still exists at the power-balance configuration circa 1999-2003 it is, it MUST be, a Blue-Water Navy. Well, I have issues with this statement in October, 2019. For starters, I took Stansfield Turner's (and not his only) operational truism to heart, long time ago.
“It isn’t the number of keels, or size of ships that count. It is the capacity to do what might be decisive in some particular situation.”(c)
Blue-Water Navy's definition is as operational (or strategic, if one wishes) as it is a geopolitical qualifier and here is, where Gorenburg, while making his point within old, and, I would dare to say, obsolete cognitive apparatus, born primarily within deep recesses of Pentagonese Newspeak and fantasies taught as "science" in the Political Science courses in US Universities, is wrong. Blue-Waterness or lack there of is defined primarily by such tactical, operational, strategic and geographical term as the RANGE, distance that is. The further one's navy sails, the bluer this navy becomes. But as of lately, this range thing turned into a peculiar category. Just on this merit alone, as in the distance one's navy assets sail, we cannot be particularly sure, or otherwise, that Russian nuclear subs are not hanging out somewhere in the Gulf of Alaska, or at the entrance to Gibraltar. Who knows, but if the prior experience is any indication, chances are that they are there. So, in this respect, Russian Navy is a Blue-Water Navy because ANY Navy which has nuclear submarine forces equaling in capability Russian one is a Blue-Water navy by definition, since it sails its serious assets globally. So, Gorenburg, basically contradicts himself immediately following what I highlighted in yellow. This is not the way to conduct analysis by contradicting oneself immediately after making statements.
He also forgets to mention that Project-885 (Yasen-class) SSGNs are armed not with just 3M14 but primarily with 800-km range capable P-800 Onyx supersonic anti-shipping missiles with 1000-km range 3M22 Zirkon slated for the first underwater launch from this very same class of subs next year. So, a single Yasen-class SSGN with Zircon creates an exclusion zone of area A=pi x r^2= 3.14 x 1,000^2=3.14 million square kilometers. "Parked" somewhere in or "near" GIUK Gap a single Yasen creates A2/AD "bubble" from roughly Greenland to UK. That is if this (or these) sub(s) operate there, if it moves beyond GIUK Gap in the South-Western direction roughly 700 miles (around 1,000 km), two subs of this class can completely wreck havoc on Atlantic SLOCs. If that is not Blue-Water operations, I don't know what is. Mind you, those have nothing in common with "power projection", those will be good ol' classic SLOCs' interdiction operations and, frankly, sinking the enemy fleet. That is how real wars are fought. As we may all know (not from me) US Navy has no viable defense against salvos of high supersonic missiles such as P-800 Onyx and will not have viable defense against hypersonic missiles any time soon. So, where all this leaves us with this Blue-Water thing. Here is what Dmitri Gorenburg thinks:
The Mediterranean will play a key role in Russian naval strategy because of its strategic significance as an access point to southern Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. For Russia, the Mediterranean symbolizes the larger competition between Moscow and Washington. By building up its naval forces, Russia is hoping to circumscribe NATO access to the region, protect Russia’s southern flank, and assist its current and potential future client states in the region. At the same time, maintaining forces in the eastern Mediterranean is less of a priority for Russian strategy than defending the homeland. Maintaining naval presence in the Mediterranean is a far more effective strategy for the Russian Navy than pursuing a globally active blue-water navy because Russia has neither the resources nor the global ambitions to challenge U.S. naval supremacy around the world.
Here is a conundrum, for Gorenburg and the US Navy--Russia does not need a clone of US Navy to deny its "supremacy" which was, apart from being grossly overstated, dramatically reduced by consecutive denial its "Bluishness" by means of creation of vast impregnable exclusion zones around Eurasia. What's the point of moving enormously expensive assets, such as US Navy's CBGs, into such zones where they (CBGs) are simply not survivable, forget any effective use of their weapons. With Russia's M=10+ capable Kinzhal having own range of 2000 km (up to 3,000 with MiG-31K range), or X-32 with own 1,000 km range with TU-22M3 combat range of 2,500 kilometers, or with recently paraded China's DF-17 2,000 kilometer range hypersonic missiles, what kind of "supremacy" Gorenburg is talking about? What does this "supremacy" even mean? Russia doesn't really care if US Navy exercises its supremacy anywhere other than in a Russia's (and generally Eurasia) vicinity. South Atlantic sounds fine, Pacific Ocean? Sure. Hawaii is a lovely place. Why should one build a vast, ungainly, ridiculously expensive and dubiously combat effective force to meet a challenge, when the US Navy, for all its glorious combat history and impressive visuals was turned obsolete for a minute fraction of a price by introduction of weapons, force structure and operational concepts which created a synergistic effect? The answer is obvious--there is no justification for such a ridiculous waste of money and resources, not to mention the fact, which Gorenburg accurately omits, that the United States itself has no resources to support its grossly unrealistic ambitions. The nation is simply bankrupt and demoralized. But sure, US Navy still maintains "supremacy" in numbers of platforms most of which are fat and prestigious targets for new weapons which drive Real Revolution in Military Affairs.
So, what is a Blue-Water Navy then? The answer is simple--it is not what one may think or try to express it in Pentagonese or Political Scientinese. It is really sad that many complexities of modern warfare (and of geopolitics) have been reduced to a couple of obvious, to just about anybody, traits and memes while Turner's brilliant operational truism 'It is the capacity to do what might be decisive in some particular situation' was discarded in favor of propaganda expediency and inherent ignorance of political "scientists", which is in the foundation of the American economic, military, moral and intellectual decline. As per the American field of the so called "Russian Studies", as I stated it not for once--it is a wasteland of pseudo-"science", pseudo-"history" by pseudo-"academe" about the country which realistically never existed and which continues, being a civilization, to masquerade itself as a nation. As per warfare and "supremacy", reduced to a simple truism (or meme), this is how it is done, too bad few people took the lesson to heart. Maybe they need to learn a new language?