Strategic realities of maritime power and security at sea

Strategic realities of maritime power and security at sea

Catalytic overturns and impactful changes in the international system and its supporting structures, along with the great powers’ contest for influence, cause multifactorial coalitions with “pack mentality” and “bandwagon” effects on other nations, on an illusory world security. However, maritime power and security at sea are not only the drivers for defense, but also the imperatives for the world’s welfare through sea trade (90% of world trade) and its safe transport worldwide viewing a prospect of maritime trade volumes tripling by 2050.

The more than 30 areas of armed conflicts, political and social unrest and humanitarian crisis are indicative of their impact on the international security environment. Additionally, a complex field of traditional and emerging threats, together with the distance and time of their manifestation from the center of command and control direction, geographical peculiarities, and uncontrolled dispersion of cutting-edge technology complicate their own prevention, management and encounter.

The maritime environment provides to all insecurity factors a broad horizon and hiding place for illegitimate activities. Any potential threat can be launched from any direction and distance. As Norman Friedman has written: New threats generate new weapons rather than new strategy or new tactics.

The modern sense of maritime power is a collective one and includes several components and not only the navy as the principal pillar of naval power, but also the mercantile marine and all possible assets, personnel, training, education, scientific research, infrastructure and activities related to the shipping, fishery and maritime environment. Security at sea delineates the defense of homeland, the protection of all maritime power components and sea lines of communications against threats and benthic warfare operations against critical underwater infrastructure capabilities.

New threats generate new weapons rather than new strategy or new tactics

Maritime power has to act as a catalyst in interdiction operations against all kind of threats in the maritime domain. NATO and the EU have common ground in maritime security. The European Union, assuming the naval operation Aspides in order to secure international shipping and freedom of the seas, demonstrates the EU will to shift from actor to naval power. The Greek Operational Command facilitates this concept, as happened with Operation Atalanta. The nation’s antagonism and spread of power provides the right questions to ask and the best answers to seek for any revision to national strategies towards the security of the maritime domain.

For that purpose, Greece needs to establish priorities, placing first maritime power and security at sea. As a traditional maritime nation, it must exercise a punctual and prudent maritime policy to capitalize on its leading role in global shipping and modernize its naval power. The Navy requires additional resources to procure a more adequate number than 18 major combatants, needed to form multi-capable battle groups, with proper resilience and sustainability for sea contxrol and power projection operations, in order to sufficiently support the national hard power actors in accomplishing strategic objectives and safeguarding its strategic interests at any strategic distances. To this end, the government, following the absolute requirements of national strategy, must develop, as soon as possible and avoiding any further waste of time, the proper framework of defense economics and decision making for major military force planning concepts, issues and choices proposed by the competent General Staff only.

Naval forces, depending on their selective presence, provide governments with the choice of the message they wish to send to the adversary. Greece, due to its archipelagic characteristics and the security situation in the regional environment, must strengthen its deterrent capability by maintaining a forceful Navy to prohibit any attempt of revisionism and expansionism against Greece and the Republic of Cyprus. History is written in the success or failure of projecting naval power and ensuring command of the sea.

Admiral Panagiotis Chinofotis is a retired Hellenic Navy officer, who served as chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff from 2005 to 2007 and was also a state deputy/member of Parliament.

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