I denne artikel beskæftiger lektor Erik Beukel, Odense Universitet, sig med Sovjetunionens voksende maritime styrke og dennes interesse og aktivitet i relation til de danske strande. Artiklen er oprindelig skrevet for »National Security Series«, der udsendes af Center for International Relations, Queens University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Den bringes derfor i den originale engelske version.
During the last 15—20 years much more attention has been paid to the idea that military means have consequences for international relations even without being used in violent conflicts, i.e. they are also important in times of peace. Concerning strategic atomic weapons, especially in the Unites States there have been developed very sophisticatd theories of deterrence, and theories about the importance of both superpowers possession of second-strike capabilities. In the situation of strategic parity or balance of terror which has developed since the beginning of the 60s, special attention has been paid to the significance of conventional military means. Researches have pointet out that naval power in particular has a flexibility and a mobility that makes it particularly applicable for the promotion of political goals in times of peace1). There is agreement among researchers and other observers that there is a close connection between a state’s capacity for influence and its possessin of military means. Or, as it is often expressed, between the capacity for influence and the perceived possibilities for the use of military means in specific situations. However the more specified character of this connection has been particularly difficult to fix. The existence of a military capacity must be assumed to effect the expectations of states as to each others’ behaviour, and from this simple assumption it follows that military weapons have consequences in time of peace. It can be very difficult to estimate the military forces of states and the possible effects of their use in violent conflicts. But it is even more difficult to go on to theorize about the meaning of military wepons in times of peace. This is probably part of the explanation for the fact that more attention has been paid to the outcomes of conceivable military conflicts of the changing naval activity of the three Warzawa-pact countries in the Baltic Sea, rather than the consequences for political developments in peacetime. But even if it is very difficult accurately to evaluate those consequences, it is nevertheless very importnt to consider them now and in the future. Different reasons can support the hypothesis that it is in this sphere, the so called “ grey lever’, that one can expect to identify the most important results of the changing naval balance in the Baltic Sea. The purpose of this article is to look at the following:
1. The interests of the Soviet Union in the Danish straits;2)
2. The changing pattern of naval activities og the three Warsawa-Pact coastal states (GDR, Poland, and the Soviet Union) in the Baltic Sea;
3. Political consequences up till now of the changing naval behaviour — if any can be ascertained;
4. Possible consequences in the future both in normal peacetime and in crises.
Analyses of the naval policy of the Soviet Union can roughly be divided according to two different approaches used: a “defensive” and a“offensive” interpretation of the forward deployment of the Soviet navy. The “defensive” interpretation considers the Soviet navy as still fundamentally for coastaldefence and in a supporting role to the army. In this view it is shaped by the defensive outlock prevailing in the Soviet military and in the Soviet leadership. Forward deployment is still primarily considered as a rection to the actions of other sates, i.e. as a response to the American Polaris-submarine threat in the early 60’s. This interpretation stresses the fact that the Soviet Union (still) lacks the carrier task force necessary to project power far from the Soviet Union. On the other hand the “offensive” school considers forward deployment as an attempt to obtain a global political influence by a peacetime presence on oceans traditionally dominated by Western great powers; this school especially emphasizes that even if the forward deployment was originally the reaction by a traditionally defence-minded state to the Polaris-threat, it is now more relevant to consider the forward deployment as an attempt to gain peace-time influence.3) More pejoratively observers have spoken of a “realistic” versus an “alarmist” interpretation of Soviet naval policy. “Realist” observers express the opinion that the very extended “alarmist” interpretations of Soviet naval policy (which may have been advanced with the intention of alerting Western governments to new threats to fundamental Western interest) actually please the Soviet leadership, because they contribute to a strengthening of image of overwhelming Soviet (naval) power. This creates the desired background for a political use of the navy in peacetime. Put differently, there has been a tendency to forget that here too there is strategic interaction: the observers and researchers have become actors. If the original reason behind the forward deployment was a desire to neutralize the Polaris-submarines, the “alarmist” may have given the Soviet leadership new ideas.4) The critique from some “realists” concerns the analyses of the global Soviet naval policy. The question is, if similar considerations are relevant for an analysis of Soviet naval policy on the regional level, i.e. in the Baltic area. Put another way: will a discussion in itself of possible peacetime consequences of the naval behaviour of the three WP-countries create the desired background for a political use of the naval strength. It is principally relevant to consider such arguments. The conclusion is, however, that it is vey easy to overstimate both the positive and negative importance of “alarmist” writings. The perceptions of decision makers may not be so easy to influence. At any rate an eventual critique must concern the reliability or validity of an evaluation of Soviet naval strength, and not that it should be unfortunate, altogether, to consider this problem. However, it is very important not to commit the mistake which according to Michael MccGuire and others, is typical of “alarmist” analyses of Soviet naval policy, namely to set forth a “theater-tactical” analysis, as if it were a “political-strategic” analysis.
The Soviet interest in the Danish straits is a funtion of the expectations of the importance of the straits in military conflicts on different levels. Because of its composition compared to the three other Soviet navies, the Soviet Baltic fleet must be assumed to have relevance solely on the conventional level, not for conflicts or deterrence of conflicts on the strategic nuclear level. However, six Soviet Golf-2 submarines were transferred to the Baltic Sea from the Northern navy during the autumn 1976. These were built 1958—62, and were the first Soviet submarines built to carry ballistic missiles. Each Golf submarine is armed with three nuclear missiles with a range up to 600 nautical miles, i.e. from the Baltic they can reach large parts of Western Europe.
The missiles in the Golf submarines are not counted in the SALT-1 agreement on limitations of offensive missiles due to their relatively old age and short range, and they are likely soon to be replaced by more modern systems. Since the Soviet Union already has about 600 MRBM and IRBM directed towards Western Europe, they are not very significant in the theatre nuclear balance. The straits are unlikely to gain strategic importance on this account. It is unlikely that the placing of the Golf submarines in the Baltic is the first “innocent” step towards the permanent deployment of strategic ballistic submarines in the Baltic. In estimating the conventional situation in the Baltic Sea, observers have underlined the naval superiority of the WP, and the significant build-up of amphibious forces. The WP naval force in the Baltic are superior to NATO in the proportion 5:1; only west of the island Bornholm do the NATO navies play a significant role. Amphibious forces include a Soviet and a Polish division, in all about 11.000 men. Almost half of this force can be carried in one lift by landing vessels to the Danish islands. It gives the WP a good possibility for a surprise action (perhaps supported by paratroops) to control the straits or parts of Denmark. Denmark is inside the range of the landbased tactical Soviet air force, and hence the traditional Soviet naval weakness — the lack of carriers — is without relevance in the estimation of the situation in the Baltic. The Soviet naval dominance in the Baltic has during the recent years been countered by occasional visits by the Standing Naval Atlantic (STANAVFORLANT). However, these visits are becoming rarer because the Parliaments of Netherland and Canada raised doubts over the interests of the two countries in operations in the Baltic. STANAVFORLANT has in any case confined its few cruises in the Baltic to the Western parts. Units from the U.S. navy have also pais visits to the Baltic on a few occations during the recent years. These visits have very little effect on the naval balance in the area, but they do have an important symbolic value. They underline the fact that the Baltic is an open sea and that “deterrence by involvement” covers this area too although the changing naval balance could cause an increasing doubt about the credibility. The constant preoccupation with the problems of the central front at expense of the problems of the flanks could also lead to a lack of interest in the Baltic. The Soviet Union has interests in the straits as one of the few exits to the oceans from Russia and as a barricade against the traditional seapowers entrance into an area of importance for her. In order to provide against a closing of the straits by the NATO-powers, the Soviet Union would have to control the Danish isles, the peninsula of Jutland, and probably the southern part of Norway. The straits can be made into a barricade by a much more limited action. The importance of the straits as a passage in a conventional conflict is estimated in different ways by the different observers. Since 1960 the number of warships through the straits have fallen; from this it might be deduced that the Soviet Baltic navy primarily has tasks in the Baltic. It would then follow that the straits will be less important in a military conflict. However it seems probable that at least a part of the Soviet navy in the North Sea and the Atlantic is based in the Baltic. Behaviour in execises during the last ten years confirms this. The Soviet Union might then try to secure control of the straits in a rapid surpriseaction, particularly if a conventional conflict of longer duration was expected. But in such a case the Soviet Union might try to take the ships through the straits before the outbreak of hostilities. This possibility is increasingly relevant, because technological development nowadays is favourable to the defense. Laying mines to block the straits would be easy and it might be costly to force a way through.5) If the purpose solely would be to get control over some NATO-areas, perhaps in order to get a “bargaining chip” as an element in a crisis somewhere else, the Danish island Bornholm and a few other Danish isles in the Baltic are obvious candidates. If the action could be carried out rapidly — and the strength of the WP navy in the Baltic suggest that it could — NATO would face a “fait-accompli”, and would either have to assume responsibility for an escalation in an area where it is definitely inferior in strength, or escalate in another geographical area. This possibility is clearly attractive to the Soviet Union and a greater danger than any actions related to Soviet interests in securing the straits as exits to the oceans.
What is the normal behaviour of the three WP navies in the Baltic Sea, and in what ways has it changed in recent years? First, there has been a significant expansion of the supervision of the entrances to the Baltic through the Danish straits. This began in 1956 and by 1958 the two first permanent patrols were established — a Soviet south of Trelleborg in Sweden and an East-German in the Fehmarn Belt. In 1968 a Polish patrol between Rugen and the Danish island of Moen was added. In 1970 a Soviet patrol was deployed opposite Skagen on the border between Kattegat and Skagerak although until now it has only been functioning from May to September or when NATO exercises and other NATO movements in these sea-areas have been watched. In 1973 yet another patrol (north of Rugen) was added from May to November manned alternately by GDR, Poland, and the Soviet Union. With these patrols the WP is capable of controlling all navigation through the straits. In the autum 1977, when a NATO exercise took place in Denmark, the WP expanded its patrolling in the seas to the south of Denmark and increased naval activities elsewhere in the Baltic. Second, units from the three WP navies often sail around Zealand. In the years since 1960 the number of such circumnavigations have gone up sixfold and there are now about 30 a year. It is assumed that the purpose is primarily to make the personnel acquainted with the Danish waters. More recently these have been performed by units from GDR and Poland. Third, in recent years the geographical location of the WP-exercises has changed significantly from the eastern parts of the Baltic to the areas directly to the south of Denmark. The first large Soviet amphibious exercise took place about 20 years ago along the Estonian coast at the entrance to the Gulf of Finland. Today exercises take place far to the west. These activities have especially attracted attention in Denmark and they have been rather dramatically covered in the Danish press. Fourth, a significant number of warships pass the straits each year bound both for WP shipyards in the Baltic and for patrol duty outside the Baltic although the number of passages have decreased significantly since 1960. This lends support to the view that the Baltic fleet today primarily has its tasks in the Baltic. On the other hand, about 50% of the Soviet shipyard capacity lies in the Baltic, and many tenders to the ships in the Atlantic and the North Sea have their bases here. Fift, since 1969 the air activities of the WP countries have expanded especially in the western Baltic area. Formations af about 40 strike bombers often carry out flights from the Leningrad area to within minutes from Danish air-space. These activities (especially the amphibious naval exercises and the flights) have strained the Danish military alert system. An activity which a few years ago would be quite abnormal is today a regular occurrence and this contributes to slowly creating the image of the Baltic as a Soviet lake or a sea characterized by Soviet dominance. The image of the decision-makers of the power relations in the area and of what can be done in crises have been changed. The changed WP activities can be connected with the verbal assertion of the Soviet Union that the Baltic Sea is a “mare clausum” . Soviet juridical view has devised a threefold categorization of the seas: internal, closed, and open seas. Internal seas are seas that are surrounded by the territory of one state and are consequently subject to its exclusive jurisdiction. Closed seas, which are enclosed by the territories of at least two states, are seas which either have no or limited communication with the open sea. The jurisdiction of the closed seas is a matter of concern of the littoral states exclusively. The Baltic Sea belongs to this group. The open seas are all those not within the first two categories. Soviet juridical view accepts that merchant ships from non-littoral states have a right of passage through straits to closed seas, but this right is denied to warships from non-littoral states. This juridical views is contrary to common international law, which conceives closed seas as “mare liberum” . To accept the Soviet juridical view would mean a legalization of the Soviet actual dominance in the Baltic, and acceptance of Soviet participation in the control of the traffic through the straits. However, practically the Soviet Union has treated the Baltic Sea as an open sea.That is in accordance with the view that the Soviet Union has two different objectives with regard to the Baltic Sea: a realistic and current in accordance with common international law and a long-term one in accordance with the Soviet juridical view. The current objective is to secure free passage through the straits. The long-term object is to obtain control of the straits. The slowly changing routine behviour of WP navies in the Baltic is in accordance with the Soviet juridical view on the status of the Baltic Sea.
Is it possible to ascertain any political consequences of the changing power relations in the Baltic? This is, of course, difficult to answer. It can be difficult to relate some (maybe new) behaviour to the military relations in the Baltic. Political developments can be scrutinized from three different approaches in an attempt to give an answer: the attitude of the Danish government towards the membership of NATO and the Danish security policy in general; the attitude of public opinion towards NATO membership; and the verbal behaviour of the Danish government vis-à-vis the activities of WP forces in the Baltic area. The attitude of the Danish government to Danish security policy, especially towards membership in NATO, is today more firm than the late 60’s. This can for example be seen from the defence agreements among the solid majority in Parliament. The last agreement entered into inearly spring of 1977 was an inflation-proof defence budget without the outs that were common some years ago. The changed attitudes of the Danish parliament and government is paradoxically related to the fact that the European Conference on Security and Cooperation has been held. Before the Helsinki conference there were widespread expectations that it could result in a new security system in Europe making the WP and NATO obsolete. These expectations were skilfully cultivated in the security policy debate and pro-NATO politicians were on the defensive. After Helsinki such expectations evaporated and anti-NATO politicians have been much more on the defensive. If there is a significant internal disagreement about any part af the Danish foreign policy today, it is about Common Market membership, not about membership of NATO. The attitude of public opinion to NATO membership has been polled in most years since joining in 1949. The results from the last ten years have been reproduced in order to evaluate recent levels of support/opposition which may relate to changing power relations in the Baltic.
The level of support during the 70’s may be characterized as constant and the level of opposition as strongly varying. The latest opinion poll from August this year, i.e. after the many newspaper stories about the WP activities just south of Denmark, is within the same general tendency.6) The Danish government did not show any reaction to the development in the Baltic area until last year but then it changed abruptly. From the beginning of 1976 Danish ministers on more than one occasion about the WP activities in meetings with colleagues from the Soviet Union, Poland, and Gdr. This officially pronounced concern was followed by defensive declarations and explanations from the three WP countries. Immediately after the first Danish newspaper stories about increasing WP naval and air activities in the Baltic, the Polish foreign secretary (Stefan Olszowski) declared to the Danish newsagency Ritzaus Bureau that the Danish apprehensions about the advanced WP activity in the Baltic were exaggerated. What Poland did in the Baltic Se and in air space above it was inside the scope of reasonable security needs of the WP. In June 1976 an East-German warship tried in vain to steal a Danish torpedo used in an exercise arranged by the Danish navy in the Baltic,7) and WP ships generally hampered the Danish ships in many ways. Denmark used diplomatic channels to protest against the episode. As a very lenient way of prostesting, a civil servant from the ministry of defence had a “thorough” discussion with the Soviet Defence Attaché in Copenhagen. Later, during a visit in Copenhagen, the Chief of the Soviet Baltic fleet declared that the Soviet Union exclusively worked for peaceful coexistence. During a visit to Denmark in October 1976, Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko declared on Danish television that the Soviet Union was not increasing its military activity in the Baltic Sea. He said that it was only rumours if Denmark declared the opposite. On the same occasion members of the Danish Government expressed their concern to Gromyko at the increased WP activities close to Danish territorial waters and Danish air-space. A few days later, during a visit to GDR, the Danish foreign minister (K. B. Andersen) expressed dissatisfaction with the activities of the WP in the Baltic area. In a speech delivered in East Berlin he declared that it was difficult to explain to the Danish population about détente between East and West, at a time when tensions increased in the Baltic Sea. During a visit to Poland a little later, the Danish prime minister (Anker Jørgensen) raised the question in a talk with his Polish Colleague Piotr Jaroszewics. The Polish Prime Minister answered that Poland had no interest in confrontation. The conclusion is that it is only possible to relate official pronouncements from the Danish government since the beginning of 1976 about Denmark’s misgivings over developments to the changing power balance in the Baltic. The WP activities have only given rise to unambigious Danish statements and complaints to the WP-countries but have not resulted in any observable changes in the Danish foreign and defence policy. This is important to remember in forming ideas about possible future consequences.
In order to form these ideas, it is necessary to specify more closely how political influence can derive from sea power and the separate elements in that reasoning. Some of these ideas are based on empirical generalizations, but as empirical theories are in short supply, ideas about the political affects of sea power must to some degree be based on models of social behaviour. As hinted above, it is a distinctive feature that the political effects of sea power rely on the reactions of the influenced. It is not the actual use of force, but the effects on the state concerned of the expectation of the potential use of force that matters. The behaviour of states can appropriately be assumed to be purposive and goal-directed. The decision-makers of a state select modes of behaviour whose consequences are preferred in terms of the utility function of the state, which ranks each set af choices according to an order of preferences.8)To each alternative behavior is attached a set of consequences which will follow from that particular behaviour. These consequences are partially decided by the environment, i.e. by the behaviour of other states. Therefore it is expedient to operate with an assumption about strategic interaction — that the behaviour (and with it the perception) of other states affects the outcome of the decisions of Denmark. In other words, the best possible alternative behaviour for Denmark in the future will change bcause of the changed behaviour of the three WP countries. The decision-calculus of Danish decision-makers will be affected and in borderline cases, Danish behaviour therefore must be assumed to be influenced. Certain options will be precluded. This will be particularly evident in crises where the possibility for a (maybe) limited use of military force is evaluted most seriously by Danish decision-makers. It is essential also to evaluate those elements in the Danish decision-calculus which could be changed with the opposite effect, i.e. leading to a greater resistance to outside pressure originating from the changing sea power relations in the Baltic. Denmark can perceive real possibilities for resisting implicit pressure. This can, for example, result from the feeling of the decision-makers of widespread internal support for a course of plain resistance or from clearly perceived internal limits to compliance. Many cases in international politics suggest that this factor is significant in relations between states, especially if one state so evidently relies on the use of military generated influence vis-á-vis a small state. But more probably the perceived possibility for resistance can be due to expectations of support from other states, including the extreme case of a direct confrontation or use of military power. The effect of this can be limited if Denmark has the impression that the alliance partners consider the strategic importance of the Danish straits as small and decreasing and see the military balance in the Baltic area as changed so much that a quick help in a crisis situation will be difficult and may achieve little. In order to elaborate on the possible consquences of the changed sea power relations it is expedient to distinguish between two applications of naval power: latent naval suasion, i.e. reactions evoked by routine and/or undirected deployments and active naval suasion, i.e. reactions evoked by deliberate action.9) This distinction is very appropriate in this case. For the foreseeable future, active naval suasion must be assumed to be less relevant in the Baltic vis-á-vis Denmark. An exceptional, clearly distinguishable and unusual deployment will be the action most likely to activate the alliance garantee and create a public stir not just in Denmark, but also in other Western countries — especially in Scandinavia — and be damaging to détente. It will also affect the socalled Nordic balance. It is presumed that these effects will, not counting any unforeseeable changes in the leadership in Moscow, be very much against the wishes of the Soviet Union. However, a gradual and less obvious change in the naval balance in the Baltic must be Moscow’s preferred behaviour. Piecemal changes in the routine deployments make it very difficult for the state affected to protest clearly and loudly at any particular moment, because it can always be maintained (with some credibility) that the latest changes will not amount to much. Showing too much annoyance over such changes is incompatible with detente and friendly relationships. If the state affected protests too loudly, as Denmark did in 1976, it is very easy to retract and deny any offensive intentions behind the deployment. The flexibility and undirectedness of this form of naval suasion makes it difficult for both parties to calculate its effects. Obvious increases in routine deployments can evoke unwanted reactions or produce side-effects which are undesirable for Moscow but, as in 1976, it is not difficult for the WP to retract if Danish protests are loud. The distinction between two modes of naval suasion leads to the assertion that the relevant mode to consider here is latent naval suasion. This suggest that the security political situation for Denmark is at the same time both more easy and more difficult to handle. Easier because the possibility in the coming years that Denmark will suddenly face security political crisis arising from WP attempts at active naval suasion is, according to the above reasoning, small. What makes the security policy more difficult to handle is the fact that Denmark will face a gradually changing military environment without any obviously easy solutions. Denmark is not accustomed to this kind of security policy difficulty. An effort intellectually on the part of Denmark to accommodate to the changing balance can be essential first step towards a solution.
The conclusion is that there are definite limits in the effective use of WP sea power vis-á-vis Denmark in times of peace, especially in the coming years. The alliance policy of Denmark is much less equivocal than it was ten years ago. The many Danish complaints to WP activities in 1976 confirm this. Important will be Denmark’s own reaction in the coming years to gradual pressure. Essentially Denmark can avoid possible unwanted political effects from the changed power balance in the Baltic by, so to speak, showing a willingness to use its “ drawing-rights” on the Alliance membership.10)
1) “In having a peacetime political function in addition to their combat capabilities, naval forces are like all other forms of militry power, only more so. The familiar attributes of an oceanic navy — inherent mobility, tactical flexibility, and a wide geographic reach — render it particularly useful as an instrument of poliy even in the absence of hostilities44, Edward n.Lutwak, The Political Uses o f Sea Power, The Washington Center of Foreign Policy Research, Baltimore, 1974, p. 1.
2) Soviet interests will here be used interchangeably with WP-interests.
3) A part of the “defensive”-“offensive” debate can be accounted for by a failure analytically to distinguish between assumed motives and observable effects of the Soviet naval policy, cf. Michael MccGuire (ed.), Soviet Naval Developments. Capability and Context, New York, 1973. It is also problematic to talk about Soviet motives; it could be more expedient to approach the Soviet policy as an autcome determined by an internal bureaucratic game as simple inertia. Using such an approach has become a “boom” i international politics, cf. Graham T. Allison, Essence o f Decision, Boston, 1971. Specifically about Soviet naval policy from this approach, see the chapters by Franklyn Griffith and Ken Boothe in MccGuire, op. cit. In this article I will exclusively approach the Soviet naval policy in the Baltic by means of the state-as-actor approach. This must not veil, hat it could be interesting, but almost impossible, to approach it as an outcome determined by bureaucratic games or inertia. That it could be appropriate to look at the Soviet policy using other than the always-used approaches is suggested, for example, by the former COMB ALT AP, Eigil Wolff, in a paper to a Danish conference in 1977.
4) It must be realized that the critique by MccGuire and others is not a critism against the unfortunate political consequences from analyses, which are relevant and valid, but a criticism against analyses, which have blurred the important distinction between analyses on the theatertactical level and analyses on the politico-strategic level. The first analysis deals with contingency planning, its purpose is to identify the most dangerous possibility. The politico-strategic analyses deals with the most likely course of behaviour considered in the political context. For very balanced analyses of the Soviet naval policy, which allow for this analytical danger, see the chapter by Thomas W. Wolfe in MccGuire, op. cit.; Tonne Huitfelds Chapter in Power at Sea, Adelphi Papers, No. 124, London, 1976; Barry Blechman, The Changing Soviet Navy, The Brookings Institution, 1973.
5) Hans Garde, The Influence of Navies on the European Central Front, United States Naval Institute Proceedings. Naval Review, May 1976, Annapolis, Maryland, pp. 160—175, and Edward Wegener, The Soviet Naval Offensive, Annapolis, 1975, pp. 34—42. Soviet interests in the straits is analysed in John Erickson, The Northern Theater: Soviet Capabilities and Concepts, Strategic Review, summer 1976, pp. 67—82. New naval weapons technologies is analysed in Strategic Survey, 1975, pp. 21 —26.
6) In a speciel report, Soviet Sea Power, The Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, D.C., 1969, p. 120, the american strategic researcher Alvin J. Cottrell writes, that as the Soviet naval power grows in the Baltic, Denmark will conceivably be inclined towards a more neutralist policy and possible withdraw from NATO in order to accomodate the Soviets. Maybe this was correct in 1969, but it is definitely not so today. Alvin J. Cottrell has commented on the development in the Baltic too in Robert Kilmarx (ed.), Soviet- United States Naval Balance, The Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington D.C., 1975, pp. 63—74.
7) The incident was dramatically reported in the Danish press.
8) Allison, op. cit., pp. 28—32.
9) Luttwak, op. cit.
10) The use of this expression in a security policy context has been introduced by the Norwegian Johan Jørgen Holst.