Former Russian navy chief urges use of naval fleet as foreign policy tool

A former Russian Naval chief insists that the country’s newly established Mediterranean naval task force should be used as an effective foreign policy instrument.

“The fleet has always been a tool of foreign policy. Any country with the seacoast, which is especially large in Russia, must think about how to defend its coasts and prevent alien actions,” said Feliks Gromov, Russia’s navy chief between 1992 and 1997 as cited in a Sunday report by RIA Novosti.

“That is why, the operational task forces, which the Soviet Union employed Рone in the Mediterranean and the other in the Indian Ocean Рwere created for the purpose of exercising political leverage, supporting some states and warning others,” added Gromov.

Soviet warships, he further noted, were always present in the Mediterranean in the state of combat readiness.”

According to the report, Russia began establishing a naval task force in the Mediterranean in March, deploying several warships from its Pacific Fleet to the region for the first time in decades, including the destroyer Admiral Panteleyev, the Peresvet and the Admiral Nevelsky amphibious warfare ships, the Pechenga tanker and the salvage/rescue tug Fotiy Krylov.

This is while warships from Russia’s Northern, Baltic and Black Sea Fleets are currently staying in the Mediterranean on a rotating basis, following a pledge in May by current Navy Commander Admiral Viktor Chirkov to expand the Mediterranean task force to include nuclear submarines.

Gromov further emphasized that Russia must have warships in the area to perform state tasks, describing the Mediterranean sea as a zone of considerable influence on the entire southern region.

“This includes not only the Mediterranean, but also the Pacific region, and also the struggle against pirates in the Horn of Africa,” he added.

Gromov also underlined that Russia’s modern Navy needs at least three aircraft carriers, in addition to French Mistral-class helicopter carriers currently on order and under construction.

“The Pacific Fleet should have at least two aircraft carriers and the corresponding number of combat and support ships. In the [Russian] North, at least one aircraft carrier is needed, considering that the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier has served for many years and needs good repairs,” he asserted.

According to the report, the Soviet Union maintained its 5th Mediterranean Squadron from 1967 until 1992. It was then set up to counter the US Navy’s 6th Fleet during the Cold War, and consisted of 30-50 warships and auxiliary vessels.


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