Navies in Northern Waters, 1721-2000

Navies in Northern Waters, 1721-2000

Navies in Northern Waters, 1721-2000

Navies in Northern Waters, 1721-2000


Focusing exclusively on small navies, this study explores the roles and tasks undertaken by the nations bordering on the Northern waters of Europe. The contributors describe their special features, concerns, and differences to the larger US, Russian and British naval forces operating in the same region.


Although previous volumes in this series have done something to correct the imbalance, most naval books in the English language tend to focus on the preoccupations, problems and fortunes of the larger maritime powers. This volume, however, concentrates on those of smaller navies. What is special about them? What are their concerns? How different in fact are they? the editors of this volume have assembled a collection of expert papers that help us explore all these issues.

One thing that emerges very clearly here is how difficult it is to generalise about the characteristics of the 'smaller navy' that makes them different from their larger equivalents - apart, that is, from such obvious considerations as their tendency to have fewer large vessels in their order of battle. Many of the elements of distinctiveness emerge in this book. One, for example is a different doctrinal approach to their role and function. Smaller navies tend to be less concerned with the struggle for command of the high seas, focusing more narrowly on fighting in and for their narrow waters. Contesting command of the narrow seas, rather than that of the open ocean, seems to demand different capacities in the way of platforms, weapons and sensors, moreover.

The functional priorities of smaller navies seem to differ too. They are, by and large, less concerned with the classic functions of seapower (the struggle for mastery of the seas, the protection of oceanic shipping, the conduct of large-scale amphibious operations) and more preoccupied with coastal defence and, especially these days, the protection of national resources within their own Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). But the Norwegian example reveals the significant subtleties hidden within such preoccupations. Does coastal defence require the navy to work with land-based forces and, essentially, to concentrate on defeating invaders as they hit the beaches, or should it focus more on moving out to intercept attackers while they are still out at sea? in seeking to shift to the latter emphasis, the Norwegian Navy seemed to be adopting the approach of the larger navy - at least to some extent.

In fact, this book demonstrates that all these 'differences' are much more matters of degree than of kind. Smaller navies have been concerned with the strategic problems and priorities of the greater ones (such as the balance to be struck between belligerent and neutral rights in the prosecution of a war on shipping) and have often gone out of their way to seek to influence larger navies by joining together in common cause, either with them or with each other. in more recent times, even small navies have followed the general trend of developing an interest in contributing to the conduct of expeditionary peace-

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