The Caspian Policy Center Holds Webinar on Challenges and Opportunities for Naval Defense in the Caspian Sea
Author:Caspian Policy Center
May 19, 2022
TODAY, the Caspian Policy Center hosted a virtual panel discussing Naval defenses in the Caspian Sea with experts from the military, academic, and think tank community communities. The panelists discussed Russia’s strategic use of its Caspian Sea fleet, the growing capacity of other Caspian littoral states, and changes in policy priorities on the Caspian Sea caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Russia’s use of its Caspian Sea fleet to strike Ukrainian targets, has created serious challenges for Kyiv and demonstrates Russia’s naval strength in the Caspian. The panel, moderated by Rear Admiral Ron (ret.) MacLaren, senior fellow at the Caspian Policy Center, sparked fruitful conversation on the impacts of the invasion and sanctions imposed against Russia.
The panelists discussed Moscow’s use of its naval assets and materiel in the conflict. While the Russian navy has had more success than its ground forces counterparts, Rear Admiral (ret.) Ken Carodine, former Deputy Commander of the Navy Warfare Development Command stated that “Russia is still acting like the Soviet Union, they are lying about what they are doing, trying to put the best face on their losses, and also trying expand territorial influence in the area.”
Luke Coffey, Foreign Policy Director at the Heritage Foundation noted the strategic importance of the Caspian Sea, not only to the region itself, but for providing economic and energy connectivity to the United States and Europe.
He noted that the area is of “strategic importance, due to the fact that Russia and Iran are both actors and Caspian coastal states, but also because some of the world's most important oil, gas, and transport links run through this region.”
Major General (ret.) Michael Repass, a senior fellow at the Caspian Policy Center, emphasized the fact that “the vital east to west flow of energy and trade across the South Caucasus is only enabled by security on the Caspian Sea”. He also warned that currently there is “a multi-dimensional air defense threat presented by Russia on the Caspian Sea.”
Brianne Todd, Assistant Professor at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, speaking in a personal capacity, further explained naval capabilities on the Caspian Sea stating “we have seen is a slow militarization of the Caspian region probably since the late 1990s early 2000's.” This militarization came about “when Russia first began to recognize that other countries, particularly the United States and Turkey, also had security and economic interest in the Caspian region.”
The speakers all noted that sanctions imposed on Russia could impact the countries’ ability to sell replacement parts to its Caspian neighbors. Additionally, they agreed that the success of non-Russian weapons systems used by Ukraine would potentially increase the demand among Caspian littoral stands for alternative defense partnerships and materiel acquisitions.