The United States, Norway and the Soviet Naval Threat in Northern Europe, 1954–60

  • Mats R. Berdal
Part of the St Antony’s Series book series

Abstract

Until 1955, Anglo-American maritime concerns about Soviet intentions in European waters outside the eastern Mediterranean focused predominantly on the Baltic Sea and the defence of its three natural exits — the Sound, the Great Belt and the Little Belt. At one level, this was hardly surprising. Operating out of bases in Liepaja, Kaliningrad, Baltiijsk, Tallinn, Riga, and Leningrad, the logistic facilities available to the Baltic Fleet (Baltijskij Flot) — including ship repair, dockyard and construction facilities — were clearly superior to those of the other Soviet fleets. Indeed, from 1954 to 1960, the Baltic fleet, measured in terms of the total number of ships and personnel strength, remained the largest of the four Soviet fleets.1 More important than logistic and gross numerical advantages, however, was the assumption — evident in early joint war plans, in the deliberations of the NAORPG and, later, in the NEC — that the Soviet Union attached the highest priority to securing the Baltic exits in the early stage of a war as part of their central front offensive across the German plain.2 The corol-lary of this was the belief that the threat to the Scandinavian peninsula came from the south. Until 1960 this remained a key planning assumption at SHAPE, one consequence of which was that the Supreme Allied Commanders in Europe, and especially their British and, later, West German subordinate commanders, continued to regard the Baltic as strat-egically the most important fleet area.3

Keywords

Europe Shipping Radar Beach Expense 

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Notes

  1. 9.
    Interview with Vice Admiral Ronald Brockman, 18 March 1991. See also Commander T. Gerhard Bidlingmaier, “The Strategic Importance of the Baltic Sea,” USNIP 84 (September 1958), pp. 23–31.Google Scholar
  2. 10.
    Keith Allen, “The Northern Fleet and North Atlantic Naval Operations,” in The Soviet Navy: Strengths and Liabilities, eds. Bruce W. Watson and S.M. Watson (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1986), p. 183.Google Scholar
  3. 16.
    A.D. Nicholl, “Geography and Strategy,” in The Soviet Navy, ed. M.G. Saunders (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1958), pp. 246–247.Google Scholar
  4. 23.
    Until the anti-party purge in 1957, the yard was known as the Molotovsk yard. Its importance to the US stemmed from the fact that the first Soviet SSN and SSBN projects were all concentrated at Severodvinsk. Between 1958 and 1963, all thirteen of the November-class submarines — the first nuclear-propelled attack submarine of the Soviet Navy — were built there. In 1959, the world’s first SSBN, the Hotel-class submarine, was completed at Shipyard 402 at Severodvinsk. See N. Polmar and J. Noot, Submarines of the Russian and Soviet Navies, 1718–1990 (Annapolis, MA: Naval Institute Press, 1991), pp. 294–296.Google Scholar
  5. 31.
    Little is known in the West of the ‘Bosun’ (Type-35), although the figure of 700 is almost certainly too high. Between 400 to 500 would appear to be a more accurate estimate. Jean Alexander, Russian Aircraft since 1949 (London: Putnam, 1975), pp. 363–65.Google Scholar
  6. 40.
    Soviet radio and weather stations in the polar regions were assumed by the USAF to facilitate bomber navigation and operations in the Arctic. Similarly, studies of terrestrial magnetism in the Arctic were seen as important for assessing missile guidance requirements and extensive hydrological and bathometric measurements were designed to ensure safe submarine operations throughout the Arctic ocean. Drifting stations were organised regularly by the Soviet Union from 1954 onwards. See “Soviet Arctic Equipment,” The ONI Review vol. 11, no. 7, 1956, and Pier Horensma, The Soviet Arctic (London and New York: Routledge, 1991), p. 111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 41.
    See Cmdr. Bernard M. Kassell, “Soviet Logistics in the Arctic,” USNIP 85 (February 1959), pp. 88–95Google Scholar
  8. Capt. R.S.D. Armour (RN), “The Soviet Naval Air Arm,” in The Soviet Navy, ed. M.G. Saunders (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1958), p. 196.Google Scholar
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    “Soviet Air Developments, 1956,” The ONI Review: Secret Supplement, Spring-Summer 1957, NHC. The air-to-surface missile was the AS-1 (NATO name ‘Kennel’), and was carried by “Bulls” and “Bagders” in the late 1950s. See Norman Polmar, The Naval Institute Guide to the Soviet Navy, Fifth Edition (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1991), p. 381.Google Scholar
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    R.W. Herrick, Soviet Naval Strategy: Fifty Years of Theory and Practise (Annapolis, MD: US Naval Institute, 1968), pp. 67–73.Google Scholar
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    The peak of the German effort was reached in late April and early May 1943, when 240 U-boats were operational. The number of German U-boats on patrol never exceeded 120, this being the peak figure reported for 9 May 1943. J. Noakes and G. Pridham, eds, Nazism 1919–1945 Vol. 3, Foreign Policy, War and Racial Extermination: A Documentary Reader (Exeter: Exeter University Press, 1988), p. 853.Google Scholar
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    For the problem of mirror-imaging in the area of intelligence, see Abram N. Shulsky, Silent Warfare: Understanding the World of Intelligence (Washington, DC: Brassey’s, 1991), pp. 64–67.Google Scholar
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    Memorandum, From: CNO, To: The Hydrographer, 13 July 1955, Subject: Submarine Control of Regulus (enclosing priority target list for Regulus), A-5, Box 315, Strategic Plans Division Records, NHC. See also Norman Friedman, U.S. Naval Weapons (London: Conway Maritime Press, 1983), pp. 218–220.Google Scholar
  16. 108.
    Ibid. Similarly, on the perceived implications for the Arctic as an area of strategic pivot, see A. F. Talbert, “Polar Routes Envisioned As Increasingly Vital,” USNIP 84 (October 1958), pp. 130–132.Google Scholar
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    Norman Friedman, The Naval Institute Guide to World Naval Weapons Systems, 1991/92 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1991), p. 802.Google Scholar
  18. 135.
    Jürg Meister, ‘The Soviet Merchant Ships and Fishing Fleets,’ in The Soviet Navy, ed. M.G. Saunders (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1958), p. 232.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Mats R. Berdal 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mats R. Berdal
    • 1
  1. 1.International Institute for Strategic StudiesLondonUK

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