It is known that the question "Does Russia need an ocean fleet, and if so, why?" still causes a lot of controversy between supporters and opponents of the “big fleet". The thesis that Russia is one of the largest world powers, and as such it needs a fleet, is countered by the thesis that Russia is a continental power that does not particularly need a navy. And if she needed some naval forces, then only for the immediate defense of the coast. Of course, the material offered to your attention does not pretend to be an exhaustive answer on this issue, but still in this article we will try to reflect on the tasks of the navy of the Russian Empire.
It is well known that at present approximately 80% of the entire foreign trade, or rather, foreign trade turnover is carried out by sea transport. It is equally interesting that sea transport as a means of transportation is leading not only in foreign trade, but also in the world cargo turnover as a whole - its share in total commodity flows exceeds 60%, and this does not take into account inland water (mainly river) traffic. Why is that?
The first and key answer - shipping is cheap. They are much cheaper than any other type of transport, rail, road, etc. And what does it mean?
It can be said that this means additional profit for the seller, but this is not entirely true. It was not for nothing that in old times there was a saying: “Over the sea, the heifer is half a sheaf, and the ruble is hauling.” We all understand very well that for the end customer of the product its cost consists of two components, namely: the price of the goods + the price of delivery of this very product to the territory of the consumer.
In other words, here we have France of the second half of the 19 century. Suppose that she has a need for bread and the choice to buy wheat from Argentina or from Russia. Suppose also that the cost of this same wheat in Argentina and Russia is the same, which means that the profit extracted at the same sale price is the same. But Argentina is ready to deliver wheat by sea, and Russia only by rail. Shipping costs for Russia will be higher. Accordingly, in order to offer an equal price with Argentina at the place of consumption of the goods, i.e. in France, Russia will have to reduce the price of grain by the difference in transportation costs. In essence, in world trade in such cases, the difference in the cost of transportation to the supplier has to pay extra from its own pocket. The buyer's country is not interested in the price “somewhere out there” - it is interested in the price of goods in its territory.
Of course, no exporter is willing to pay the higher cost of transportation by land (and today by air) transport from his own profit, therefore, in any case, when the use of sea transport is possible, they use it. It is clear that there are special cases when it turns out to be cheaper to use road, railway or other transport. But these are particular cases, and they do not make the weather, but they mostly resort to land or air transport only when, for whatever reason, sea transport cannot be used.
Accordingly, we will not be mistaken in declaring:
1) Sea transport is the main transport of international trade, and the overwhelming majority of international cargo transportation is carried out by sea.
2) Sea transport has become such as a result of cheapness relative to other means of delivery.
And here we often hear that it was precisely the Russian Empire that did not have maritime transport in sufficient quantities, and if so, then why does Russia need a navy?
Well, let us remember the Russian Empire of the second half of the 19-th century. What was going on in its foreign trade then and how valuable was it for us? Due to the lag in industrialization, the volume of industrial goods of Russia exported fell to ridiculous values, while the bulk of exports were food products and some other raw materials. In essence, in the 2-th half of the 19-th century, against the backdrop of the rapid development of industry in the United States, Germany, etc. Russia quickly slipped into the rank of agrarian powers. For any country, its foreign trade is extremely important, but for Russia at that moment it turned out to be extremely important, because only in this way could the newest means of production and high-quality industrial products enter the Russian Empire.
Of course, it was reasonable to buy, because, by opening the market to foreign goods, we risked destroying even the industry that we had, because it would not withstand such competition. Therefore, a significant part of the 2-th half of the 19-century, the Russian empire followed a policy of protectionism, that is, they imposed heavy customs duties on imported products. What does this mean for the budget? In 1900, the revenues of the Russian ordinary budget were 1 704,1 million rubles, of which customs duties formed 204 million rubles, which is quite noticeable 11,97%. But these 204 million rubles. the profit from foreign trade was not exhausted at all, because the treasury also received taxes on exported goods, and in addition, the surplus between imports and exports provided the currency to service the public debt.
In other words, manufacturers of the Russian Empire created and sold for export hundreds of millions of rubles (unfortunately, the author did not find out how many were shipped in 1900, but in 1901 they shipped products by more than 860 million rubles). Naturally, due to this sale in the budget were paid a tidy amount of taxes. But in addition to taxes, the state additionally received additional excess profits in the amount of 204 million rubles. from customs duties, when the money gained from export sales, acquired foreign products!
It can be said that all of the above gave a direct benefit to the budget, but it was also indirect. After all, producers did not just sell for export, they made a profit on the development of their farms. It is no secret that the Russian Empire bought not only colonial goods and all kinds of junk for those in power, but, for example, also the newest agricultural machinery — far from as much as was needed, but still. Thus, foreign trade contributed to an increase in labor productivity and an increase in total production, which, again, subsequently contributed to the replenishment of the budget.
Accordingly, it can be said that foreign trade was a super profitable business for the budget of the Russian Empire. But ... We have already said that the main trade between countries is by sea? The Russian Empire is by no means an exception to this rule. Most, if not to say - the vast majority of goods were exported / imported from Russia / to Russia by sea transport.
Accordingly, the first task of the fleet of the Russian Empire was to ensure the security of the country's foreign trade.
And here there is one very important nuance: the foreign trade brought super-profits to the budget, and not the presence of a strong merchant fleet in Russia. More precisely, there was no strong merchant fleet in Russia, but there were significant budgetary preferences from foreign trade (carried out by sea on 80). Why is that?
As we have said, the price of goods for the country of purchaser consists of the price of goods in the territory of the country of origin of the cost of delivery to its territory. Consequently, it doesn’t matter who carries the products: Russian transport, British ship, New Zealand canoe or Nautilus by Captain Nemo. The only important thing is that the transport is reliable, and the cost of transportation is minimal.
The fact is that it makes sense to invest in the construction of a civilian fleet only in those cases if:
1) The result of this construction will be a competitive transport fleet, capable of providing the minimum cost of shipping in comparison with the transports of other countries.
2) For any reason, the transport fleets of other powers cannot ensure the reliability of cargo transportation.
Unfortunately, at least due to the industrial backwardness of the Russian Empire in the 2-th half of the 19-th century, it was very difficult for it to build a competitive transport fleet, if at all possible. But even if it was possible - what will we achieve in this case? Strangely enough, nothing special, because the budget of the Russian Empire will have to find funds for investments in the marine transport industry, and it will only receive taxes from the newly formed shipping companies - perhaps a similar investment project would be attractive (if indeed we could build a maritime transport system at the level of the best in the world) but still did not at all promise profits in the short term, and superprofits never did. Strangely enough, to ensure Russia's foreign trade, its own transport fleet was not very necessary.
The author of this article is not in any way opposed to a strong transport fleet for Russia, but it should be understood: in this regard, the development of railways was much more useful for Russia, because in addition to domestic traffic (there is no sea in the middle of Russia, you want it or not, but it has to be transported by land) is also a significant military aspect (acceleration of mobilization, transfer and supply of troops). And the country's budget is not rubber. Of course, a transport fleet of the Russian Empire was needed, but the development of the merchant fleet of an agrarian power at that time should not be given priority.
The military fleet is needed to protect the country's foreign trade, i.e. cargo transported by the transport fleet, it is absolutely unimportant whose transport fleet carries our cargo.
Another option is - what will happen if we abandon sea transportation and focus on land? Nothing good. First, we increase the cost of delivery and thereby make our products less competitive with similar products from other countries. Secondly, unfortunately, or fortunately, Russia traded with almost all of Europe, but it bordered - far from all European countries. By organizing trade "land" through the territory of foreign powers, we always have the danger that, for example, the same Germany at any moment will introduce a duty for the transit of goods through its territory, or will oblige to carry only its own transport, breaking the transport for an utter price and ... What will we do in this case? Let's go to the foe of holy war? Well, if he borders with us, and at least theoretically we can threaten him with an invasion, and if there are no common land borders?
Sea transport does not create such problems. The sea, besides the fact that it is cheap, is also remarkable by the fact that it is nobody's. Well, with the exception of territorial waters, of course, but they generally do not do special weather ... Of course, if we are not talking about the Bosporus.
As a matter of fact, the statement about how difficult it is to trade through the territory of not too friendly countries is perfectly illustrated by the Russian-Turkish relations. For many years, the kings looked at the Straits with lust, not because of congenital quarrelship, but for the simple reason that while the Bosphorus was in the hands of Turkey, they were in control of a significant part of Russian exports that went directly through the Bosphorus on ships. In the 80 and 90 of the 19 century, the Bosphorus was exported to 29,2% of all exports, and after the 1905 year, this figure increased to 56,5%. According to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, over the decade (from 1903 to 1912), export through the Dardanelles amounted to 37% of the total export of the empire. Any military or serious political conflict with the Turks threatened the Russian Empire with enormous financial and image losses. At the beginning of the 20 century, Turkey closed the Straits twice - it happened during the Italian-Turkish (1911-1912) Balkan (1912-1913) wars. According to the calculations of the Russian Ministry of Finance, the loss on closing the Straits for the treasury reached 30 million rubles. monthly.
The behavior of Turkey perfectly illustrates how dangerous the position of the country, whose foreign trade can be controlled by other powers. But this is exactly what would happen with Russian foreign trade, try to conduct it by land, through the territories of a number of European countries that are not always friendly to us.
In addition, the above data also explains how the foreign trade of the Russian Empire with the Bosporus and the Dardanelles was interconnected. For the Russian Empire, the capture of the Straits was a strategic task not because of the desire for new territories, but to ensure uninterrupted foreign trade. Consider how the navy could contribute to this task.
The author of this article has repeatedly met the view that Turkey, if it really squeezes, we could conquer the land, i.e. simply occupying its territory. This is largely true, because in the 2-th half of the 19-th century, the resplendent Port gradually slipped into senile marasmus, and although it was still a fairly strong adversary, it still could not resist Russia in a full-scale war alone. Therefore, it would seem, for the conquest (temporary occupation) of Turkey with the withdrawal of the Bosporus in our favor, there are no special obstacles, and the fleet for this would not seem necessary.
The problem in all this reasoning is only one - no single European country could have wished for such a strengthening of the Russian Empire. Therefore, there is no doubt that in the event of the threat of seizure of the Straits, Russia would immediately face powerful political and then military pressure from the same England and other countries. As a matter of fact, the Crimean War of 1853-56 was caused by similar reasons. Russia should always take into account that its attempt to seize the Straits would face political and military opposition from the strongest European powers, and as the Crimean War showed, the Empire was not ready for that.
But even worse was possible. If suddenly Russia nevertheless chose such a moment when its war with Turkey for some reason would not have caused the formation of an anti-Russian coalition of European powers, then while the Russian army cut its way to Constantinople, the British, having carried out a lightning landing operation, could well have To “grab” the Bosphorus for itself, which would be for us a grave political defeat. For worse, the Straits in the hands of Turkey for Russia would be the Straits in the hands of Foggy Albion.
And therefore, perhaps the only way to seize the Straits without getting involved in a global military confrontation with a coalition of European powers was to conduct its own lightning operation with the landing of a powerful assault force, seizing the dominant heights and establishing control over the Bosphorus and Constantinople. After that, it was necessary to urgently transport large military contingents and to strengthen coastal defenses in every possible way - and prepare to stand the battle with the British fleet "in advance positions."
Accordingly, the Black Sea navy was needed for:
1) The defeat of the Turkish fleet.
2) Ensuring the landing of troops (fire support, etc.).
3) Reflections of a possible attack by a British Mediterranean squadron (based on coastal defenses).
It is likely that the Russian land army could have won the Bosphorus, but in this case, the West had enough time to think and organize opposition to its capture. It is quite another thing to quickly capture the Bosphorus from the sea and put the world community in front of a fait accompli.
Of course, you can argue about the realism of this scenario, remembering how strongly the allies were involved, having besieged the Dardanelles from the sea in the First World War.
Yes, having spent a lot of time, effort and ships, dropping powerful landings, the British and French, as a result, were defeated and were forced to retreat. But there are two very significant nuances. First, it is impossible to compare the slowly dying Turkey of the sample of the second half of the 19 century with the “Young Turkish” Turkey of the First World War - these are two very different powers. And secondly, the Allies for a long time tried not to capture, but only to force the Straits, using only the fleet, and thus gave Turkey time to organize land defense, concentration of troops, subsequently repulsing the Anglo-French landing forces. The Russian plans did not envisage the forcing, but the seizure of the Bosphorus, by carrying out a sudden landing operation. Consequently, although in a similar operation Russia could not use resources similar to those that were thrown by the allies in the Dardanelles during the first world war, there was a certain hope of success.
Thus, the creation of a strong Black Sea fleet, obviously superior to the Turkish and corresponding to the power of the British Mediterranean squadron, was one of the most important tasks of the Russian State. And you need to understand that the need for its construction was determined not by the whim of those in power, but by the most burning economic interests of the country!
A small remark: hardly anyone who reads these lines considers Nicholas II to be an exemplary statesman and a beacon of state wisdom. But the Russian shipbuilding policy in World War I looks perfectly reasonable - while in the Baltic the construction of the Izmailov was completely curtailed in favor of light forces (destroyers and submarines) dreadnoughts continued to be built on the Black Sea. And not at all the fear of “Goeben” was the reason: having a rather powerful fleet of 3-4 dreadnoughts and 4-5 battleships could risk and try to capture the Bosphorus, when Turkey completely exhausted its forces on the land fronts, and the Grand Fleet another will keep quietly rotting in Wilhelmshaven Fleet of the open sea. Having thus put our valiant allies on the Entente before the accomplished fact of “swords of dreams” of the Russian empire.
By the way, if we talk about a powerful fleet to capture the Straits, then it should be noted that if Russia reigned on the shores of the Bosphorus, the Black Sea would finally turn into Russian Lake. Because the Straits are the key to the Black Sea, and a well-equipped land defense (with the support of the fleet) was likely to repel any attack from the sea. And this means that there is absolutely no need to invest in the land defense of the Black Sea coast of Russia, there is no need to keep troops there, etc. - And this is also a kind of savings, and quite considerable. Of course, the presence of a powerful Black Sea fleet to some extent made life easier for land forces in any war with Turkey, which, in fact, was perfectly demonstrated by the First World War, when Russian ships not only supported the coastal flank with artillery fire and landing forces, but that is even more important , interrupted the Turkish shipping and thus excluded the possibility of supplying the Turkish army by sea, "closing" it on land communications.
We have already said that the most important task of the Russian Imperial Navy was to protect the country's foreign trade. For the Black Sea theater and in relations with Turkey, this task is very clearly specified in the seizure of the Straits, but what about the other countries?
Of course, the best way to protect your own maritime trade is to destroy the fleet of a nation that dares to attack it. But to build the world's most powerful navy, capable, in the event of war, to crush any competitor at sea, to drive the remnants of its navy into ports, block them, cover their communications with cruisers in masses and ensure unimpeded trade with other countries without any problems opportunities of the Russian Empire. In the 2-th half of the 19-th and the beginning of the 20-th century, the construction of the military fleet was perhaps the most high-tech and technologically advanced industry among all other human occupations - it’s not for nothing that the battleship was considered the pinnacle of science and technology of those years. Of course, Tsarist Russia, with a certain amount of difficulty reaching the 5-th place in the world in terms of industrial power, could not count on building a military fleet superior to the British.
Another way to protect our own maritime trade is to somehow “convince” countries with a more powerful navy to stay away from our products. But how can this be done? Diplomacy? Alas - political alliances are short-lived, especially with England, which, as we know, “has no permanent allies, but only permanent interests”. And these interests are to prevent any European power from excessively strengthening - as soon as France, Russia or Germany began to demonstrate power sufficient for the consolidation of Europe, England immediately threw all its forces into forming an alliance of weaker powers to weaken the power of the strongest.
The best policy argument is power. But how to show it to the weakest at sea power?
To do this, remember that:
1) Any first-class maritime power itself conducts a developed foreign trade, a significant share of which is carried out by sea.
2) Attack always has priority over defense.
This is exactly how the theory of “cruising war” emerged, which we will consider in more detail in the next article: for the time being we only note that its key idea: the conquest of dominance at sea through cruising operations turned out to be unattainable. But the potential threat to maritime traffic, which was created by a fleet capable of conducting cruising operations in the ocean, was very great and even the mistress of the seas, England was forced to take it into account in her policy.
Accordingly, the creation of a powerful cruising fleet served two tasks at once — the cruisers were excellently suited both to protect their own freight and to interrupt enemy maritime trade. The only thing the cruisers could not do was fight with far better armed and protected armadillos. Therefore, of course, it would be a shame to build a strong cruising fleet in the Baltic Sea and ... to be blocked in the ports by few battleships of some kind of Sweden.
Here we are concerned with such a fleet task as protecting our own coast, but we will not consider it in detail, because the need for such protection is obvious both for supporters and for opponents of the ocean fleet.
So, we state that the key tasks of the naval force of the Russian Empire were:
1) Protection of Russian foreign trade (including by seizing the Straits and creating a potential threat to foreign trade of other countries).
2) Protecting the coast against threats from the sea.
How the Russian Empire was going to solve these problems, we will talk in the next article, but for now let us pay attention to the question of the cost of the navy. And really - if we say that the military fleet is necessary to protect the country's foreign trade, then the budget revenues from foreign trade should be correlated with the cost of maintaining the fleet. Because one of the favorite arguments of the opponents of the “big fleet” is precisely the gigantic and unjustified costs of its construction. But is it?
As we said above, in 1900, revenues from customs duties on imported goods alone amounted to 204 million rubles. and this, of course, the benefit from the foreign trade of the Russian state was far from exhausted. And what about the fleet? In 1900, Russia was a first-class maritime power, and its fleet could well claim to be the third fleet in the world (after England and France). At the same time, mass construction of new warships was carried out - the country was preparing to fight for the Far Eastern frontiers ... But with all this, in 1900, the expenses of the Naval Department for the maintenance and construction of the fleet amounted to only 78,7 million rubles. This amounted to 26,15% of the amount received by the Ministry of War (expenditures for the army amounted to 300,9 million rubles) and only 5,5% of the total budget of the country. True, it is necessary to make an important caveat.
The fact is that in the Russian Empire there were two budgets - ordinary and extraordinary, with the latter often being used to finance the current needs of the military and naval ministries, as well as to wage wars (when they were) and some other goals. The above 78,7 mln. Rub. according to the maritime ministry, only the ordinary budget was spent, but how much money the Maritime Office received under the emergency budget, the author does not know. But the total for the emergency budget for the needs of the Military and Maritime Ministries in 1900 r was allocated 103,4 million rubles. and it is obvious that from this amount sufficiently large funds were spent on suppressing the boxing uprising in China. It is also known that from the emergency budget, the army was usually allocated much more than the fleet (for example, in 1909 g more than 82 million rubles were allocated for the army, less than 1,5 million rubles for the fleet), therefore it is extremely difficult to assume that the total cost of the Marine Ministry in 1900 g exceeded 85-90 mln. rub.
But in order not to guess, let's look at the 1913 statistics of the year. This is the period when the combat training of the fleet was given increased attention, and the country implemented an enormous shipbuilding program. 7 dreadnoughts (4 “Sevastopol” and 3 of the “Empress Maria” type ship on the Black Sea), 4 giant Izmail type cruisers, as well as six Svetlana light cruisers were in various stages of construction. At the same time, all expenses of the Marine Ministry in 1913 (for ordinary and extraordinary budgets) amounted to 244,9 million rubles. At the same time, the income from customs duties in 1913 g was 352,9 million rubles. But the financing of the army exceeded 716 million rubles. It is also interesting that in 1913, the budget investments in state assets and enterprises amounted to 1 billion. 108 million rubles. and that's not counting 98 mln. rub., budget investments in the private sector.
These figures irrefutably indicate that the construction of a first-class fleet was not at all an imposing task for the Russian Empire. In addition, it should always be borne in mind that naval construction required the development of a huge number of technologies and was a powerful stimulus for the development of industry as a whole.
To be continued ...