NATO admiral has sober assessment of alliance’s firepower in the Black, Baltic seas

Strategic Intelligence: NATO/Russia


Vice Adm. Clive Johnstone, the British Royal Navy officer who currently heads NATO’S Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM) recently gave his assessment of the alliance’s naval capabilities in the Black and Baltic seas, two strategic bodies of water that are seeing increased Russian naval activities. “When I was an ensign, a lieutenant, we knew we could beat the Russians. It was just a question of time because we were better than them. I’m not sure we could make that assumption now.”

Johnstone noted that European NATO allies have many shortcomings in naval capabilities including anti-submarine warfare, stockpiles of munitions, missile defense, cybersecurity, sealift and command-and-control abilities at its own headquarters. When asked at a recent defense forum if coastal waters within range of Russian land-based missiles such as the eastern Mediterranean Sea near Syria, the northern Black Sea, and the entire Baltic Sea be no-go zones, Johnstone replied they would not be. Nor, he added, would any NATO ships effectively be hostage to Russian sea power in those regions.

To that point, however, the NATO maritime commander believes that the alliance must aggressively patrol those regions and contest them, rather than cede them to Russian control. That may include…


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Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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