Best Defense

Is the Russian navy as bad as you think? Also, why sailors should read Melville!

No, the Russian navy is not a paper tiger.



No, the Russian navy is not a paper tiger, argues an article in the February issue of Proceedings.

Forget about the smoking wreck that is the carrier Kuznetsov, write Norman Polmar and Michael Kofman. “The country’s current naval power largely resides in its submarine force,” they say. They note that today Russia has about 51 submarines, a fraction of the Cold War strength of nearly 400, but still substantial.

The February issue of the magazine is strong, which is good to see. I’ve already mentioned the essay on suicide by an enlisted sailor. There’s also a nice piece on why naval professionals should read the works of another former enlisted sailor — Herman Melville, who “served as an ordinary seaman on the frigate USS United States from August 1843 until October 1844.”

Photo credit: U.S. Navy

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at

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