Vladimir Putin has cast the US and Nato as its biggest naval enemies and called for an expanded presence in the disputed Arctic region as he outlined a new doctrine for his country’s navy.
He laid out plans to project Russia as a “great maritime power” with orders to increase activities around Svalbard, a strategically important Norwegian archipelago close to the North Pole, during a speech to mark Russia’s Navy Day in St Petersburg.
A 55-page document, signed by the president, said Washington’s “strategic objective to dominate the world’s oceans”, as well as Nato expansion, were the key threats to Russian security.
Putin said the Russian navy was “able to respond with lightning speed to anyone who decides to encroach on our sovereignty and freedom”.
The Admiral Gorshkov, a warship, would be armed with Russia’s new Zircon hypersonic missile and ready for “combat duty” within months, Putin said.
Hours before his speech, a drone attack had injured six people at the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea fleet in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, annexed in 2014. Russian officials blamed Ukraine and cancelled planned parades in the Black Sea.
But Russian officials at the main Navy Day parade in the Gulf of Finland off St Petersburg appeared unfazed.
More than 40 warships and 3,500 sailors saluted Putin as he stood on a white boat emblazoned with a presidential coat of arms.
Calls for increased activity around Svalbard will add to already heightened tensions over the archipelago, where Russia has a coal-mining base, after Moscow accused Norway of blocking food resupplies to its miners.
Svalbard is considered a strategic location because it is close to North America and also projects control over any potential Arctic Sea shipping route between Europe and Asia. Norway was handed sovereignty of the former whaling station in a deal signed after the First World War, although it is not allowed to impose border restrictions or prevent other nations from exploiting its coal reserves.
Under his rule, Russia acquired the status of a great maritime power
Putin signed the naval doctrine at a museum in St Petersburg under a portrait of Peter the Great as rifle-bearing sailors in ceremonial uniforms stood to attention along the walls of the hall.
His speech contained several references to the 18th-century tsar, whom Putin has repeatedly lionised to draw comparisons between his land grab in Ukraine and the warmongering that expanded the borders of Imperial Russia. “Under his rule, Russia acquired the status of a great maritime power, gained prestige and influence,” Putin said.
The new doctrine outlines Russia’s priority to develop strategic and naval cooperation with India as well as wider cooperation with Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and other states. (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd 2022)
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