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Red Flag Rising

Shane Deichman had a superb post on Soviet Admiral of the Fleet and C-in-C of the Red Navy, Sergei Georgyevich Gorshkov over at Antilibrary. The admiral was the father of Soviet blue water power projection. Shane is reviewing Gorshkov’s The Sea Power of the State:

Gorshkov’s “The Sea Power of the State”

In this book, Admiral of the Fleet Gorshkov not only offers a vision of the relevance of the “World Ocean” to any nation’s well-being – he also provides a compelling rationale for “joint operations” a full ten years before our own nation’s Goldwater-Nichols Act forced jointness onto a reluctant American defense establishment, and underscores the importance of the littoral in a navy’s ability to influencing events ashore nearly two decades before “… From the Sea”.

The Sea Power of the State is rich in dichotomy: a land-rich nation with few accessible ports preaching the relevance of sea power, an atheist totalitarian regime describing the social and cultural significance of the “World Ocean”, a nation besmirched for its negative impact on the environment bemoaning pollutants and the need for “union with the environment”, and a foundational tome for effective naval force planning from a nation that just this month claimed the lives of nearly two dozen civilians in a submarine accident. Such is Gorshkov’s compelling style – scholarly and impeccably researched, with steadfast devotion to the tenets of Marxism, decrying the “imperialist aggression” of the Capitalist powers who exploit sea power to “hold in check other states.”

….Most impressive about Gorshkov is the breadth of his perspective.  Alongside the typical Communist demagoguery (e.g., “Imperialist power exploit sea power to preserve their monopoly …”) are lucid arguments for balanced force structure planning (inclusive of creating large merchant fleets), diminished pollutants, and even maritime law (with an appeal to demilitarize the World Ocean beyond the 12 mile territorial waters).  Curiously, he never once expresses disdain at the limited blue water access of the Soviet Union – and was convincing enough in his vision that the Kremlin subsidized his development of a fleet that nearly reached parity with the dominant sea powers of the west

Read the whole review here

I am not an expert in maritime matters but I am relatively conversant on Soviet affairs. Shane’s right, by Soviet standards, where bureaucratic conservatism and enforced conformity to CPSU doctrine served to weed out independent thinkers before they could ascend the first rungs of the nomenklatura ladder, Gorshakov was making a daring, even a startingly bold argument. The Sea Power of the State could have easily been a career-ender had the ideological winds taken a wrong turn; Gorshakov’s argument has very little to do with Marxism or Soviet military doctrine. Instead, it draws upon the Petrine tradition of modernization and securing the “window to the west” that Peter the Great sought in building St. Petersburg and the warm water ports after which subsequent Tsars lusted.

Fortunately for Gorshakov, his ideas coincided with the noontide of Brezhnev’s faction, which was rooted in military heavy industry, the Dnepropetrovsk mafia and a national security axis of the power ministries – Defense, Foreign Ministry and the KGB which were controlled by Brezhnev’s then allies and proteges, Ustinov, Gromyko and Andropov. Gorshakov’s vision of expanding Soviet reach abroad also had appeal to party hardliners like Mikhail Suslov and Boris Ponomarev who were deeply interested in supporting radical third world regimes and adding the Ethiopias, Angolas and Nicaragua’s to the “Socialist camp”

2 Responses to “Red Flag Rising”

  1. deichmans Says:

    Many thanks, Zen — and kudos to you for adding the brilliant strategic context of "TSPotS’s" fortuitous timing within the nomenklatura.

  2. Gorshkov’s “The Sea Power of the State” « Antilibrary Says:

    […] The inestimable Zenpundit has posted a review of the review — and has added invaluable context to the political machinations of what Zen calls “the […]

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