RIP, Russian Navy? There are serious concerns from lawmakers in Washington that the U.S. Navy is failing to keep pace as China’s navy grows by leaps and bounds. Navy officials, for their part, have offered plans to Congress that would see the service shrink in size right now, essentially getting rid of vessels the service does not need in order to begin its resurgence by the end of the decade.
Not everyone is on board with the proposal, but at least the Navy has a plan — or more accurately, three proposed plans.
By contrast, Russia seems to have given little if any consideration to the future of its navy. It is already a mere shadow of the Soviet navy, and its situation is likely to get worse.
Russian Naval Atrophy
An exclusive report from Newsweek cites a former U.S. Navy admiral as saying the Kremlin has allowed its above-water naval fleet to atrophy.
The Russian navy’s surface fleet has been badly neglected, although its underwater capabilities remain a concern, according to the dean of the Center for Maritime Strategy, James G. Foggo.
Still Large – But Not in Charge
The magazine of record also cited data from Statista, which noted that as of 2023, Russia had a total of 598 military ships, including 15 destroyers and 11 frigates.
Yet the Kremlin has just one aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov – a ship that could be fittingly described as a “hole in the water” into which money continues to be thrown. The vessel is the Russian Navy’s flagship, and it has been undergoing a refit for nearly half a decade. It probably will not return to service until at least next year. If and when the flattop is able to sail again, Russia almost certainly lacks sailors trained to man the vessel.
Apart from a handful of frigates, much of Russia’s surface fleet is in a similar state of disrepair.
The Kremlin has largely neglected its fleet, and its war in Ukraine is unlikely to help matters.
Putting on a Show of Force
Despite the sorry state of naval affairs, just this month Russia did manage to hold military drills with its Pacific Fleet. According to the Kremlin, these involved more than 25,000 personnel and 167 warships, along with a dozen submarines.
The snap drills, which had not been announced in advance, were meant to test the capability of Russia’s military to mount a response to aggression.
Though Russian President Vladimir Putin praised the Russian navy’s performance, there is now speculation that things did not exactly go as planned. This could explain why the Pacific Fleet’s commander, Adm. Sergei Avakyants, was removed from his post on Thursday, apparently under orders from Putin. In true Russian fashion, Avakyants was given a new posting: He will head an organization that oversees military training and patriotic education.
Can The Russian Navy Recover?
Even if the war in Ukraine were to end tomorrow, it would be hard to see how Russia can rebuild its land forces and its navy. Even in the best of times, it is a country that simply lacks the resources. Now, war has emptied its coffers.
However, the Russian navy remains an important symbol for the Kremlin.
It was founded by Tsar Peter the Great, who felt that in order to be a major power in Europe, Russia would need a navy. That sentiment was echoed as recently as 2009 by then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who stated that “without a proper navy, Russia does not have a future as a state.”
Given the war in Ukraine, Russia’s future is already in doubt, and its navy, probably even more so.
Author Experience and Expertise:
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.