Breaking Russia’s Naval Blockade

Please see the full text of the Breaking Russia’s Naval Blockade post on Google Docs.


NATO should make breaking Russia’s naval blockade of Ukraine a top, urgent priority

  • Avoid open sea defended convoys; exploit near-shore, territorial waters; go lo-tech, small and numerous; deploy NATO’s most advanced EW and land-based air and missile defenses.
  • Establish a near-shore, shallow-water, defended corridor, entirely within Ukrainian/NATO territorial waters, to move grain and other exports from Odesa to Constanta (with its 4-5m depth canal to the Danube) and further south to Bulgaria and potentially to the Bosporus.
  • Keep Ukraine’s coastal waters and territory (Snake Island) under its control (or at least deny all to Russian forces), necessary for success of larger design.
  • Bring NATO land, air/missile, and naval/maritime power to bear on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet under purely defensive, least escalatory conditions possible.
  • Exploit BSF submarine force’s shallow-water limitations/vulnerability; wear down/deplete surface and logistics forces; present the BSF with a problem it cannot solve.
  • Augment NATO’s coastal mine sweepers to clear/keep clear Odesa and a near-shore sea corridor running southward. (In Ukrainian waters mine sweepers would be “Ukrainian” flagged and manned.)
  • Deploy as many coastal and riverine ships and barges as NATO at large can muster; flood near-shore corridor with laden ships and barges and with multiple false targets to dilute/defeat Russian air/missile attacks, particularly those launched from Crimea/nearby seas. Mask operations with massive land- and sea-based electronic warfare.
  • Deploy Mk VI patrol boats and multiple riverine and coastal craft for security, ISR, and command and control rivers, ports, and coastal zones of operations.
  • Provide dense land-based air/missile defense focused on Ukrainian and NATO air space over territorial waters; enforce a “no-fly zone” of strict geographical limits for specific strategic purpose.
  • Protect Odesa and the near-shore corridor with antisubmarine mine barriers as needed.
  • Deploy multiple land-based anti-ship missiles to force Russian surface ships out of range of land targets and ships and barges operating near shore.
  • Help Ukraine hold and control Odesa and the land and riverine LOCs that connect it with upstream grain storage depots; augment transport capacity to store and move grain and other goods southward from dispersed riverine locations.
  • Seek NATO’s political approval of these plans—the least escalatory possible —to answer Russia’s blockade which has been a signal success and adds to Russia’s strategic leverage over Ukraine and NATO in general.
  • Restore Ukraine’s diminished sovereignty; defeat BSF in its main offensive mission; open Ukraine’s economy to vital exports; cast NATO and its navies into selfless role of worldwide famine relief.
  • Harden the West’s currently defenseless seaward approaches to its southern flank; provide strategic seaward glacis from Odesa south to Turkish border (possibly to the Bosporus); show Black Sea is not Russia’s lake.

Analysis is urgently needed to determine whether a design of this kind is operationally and politically feasible with existing NATO civil and military resources/capabilities. At a minimum, blockade-busting action must surely be better than continuing current policy: Accept Russia’s victory; do absolutely nothing.

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  1. There’s just no stopping you, Clio. I’ll give you a call tomorrow. Hope all is well.




  2. Thank you Brad for this thoughtful plan. I have argued for the need to break the blockade. My best, John Rodgaard



    1. John,
      Glad to hear your thinking goes to blockade-busting too. Have you seen the RAND paper that advocates a near-shore defended corridor (RAND, “Unblocking the Black Sea for Ukrainian Grain”
      COMMENTARY (The Hill) by Bradley Martin and William Courtney, June 15, 2022)? Meanwhile, the harvest starts in less than a month and there’s nowhere to store the grain. The Administration has talked of building temporary silos in Poland. Far better would be lending Ukraine 50+ barges, stow the new grain in them in dispersed riverine locations, and await southern movement when defended convoys start. And while we’re at it, immediately lend Ukraine a dozen coastal mine sweepers to clear Odesa and approaches and to counter possible Russian mining. Let’s stay in touch. Brad


      1. Just curious Brad, have you received any feedback from Admiral Stravidis? I heard him on MSNBC recently, and he said that the next phase in the war will be one at sea. My best. John


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