On the strategic depth of the sea

N. Lygeros

Translated from French by M. Theodosiadou

In order to set up a process of deterrence, it is necessary to have a strategic depth, which actually exists only at sea. Indeed, only the sea allows the invulnerability related to the discretion of manoeuvres. Since the surface does no longer remain unaffected by the technical progress, it is only the depth that allows the creation of a security area but also an offensive area. And it is precisely on this strategic depth that it is possible to support the concept of nuclear deterrence. Besides, this is the natural world of the nuclear attack submarines. At global level we have the following figures: United States (54), Russia (32), United Kingdom (12), France (6) and China (5). Above all, it is the area of predilection for the nuclear submarines launchers of machines. This time, the figures are smaller but much more important for the process of deterrence: United States (18), Russia (15), France (4), United Kingdom (4), and China (1). These units might seem very small but their existence modifies the teleology of the maritime area. For, the nuclear - sea combination offers an unmatched possibility in strategic terms. If we were to choose a term to describe this possibility, it would be, without doubt, that of ubiquity. In fact, the whole system of nuclear deterrence is based on the ability to be everywhere on the terrestrial globe. And this possibility is naturally transformed into a virtual threat for every warlike enemy. In this way, the sea with its strategic depth represents a sort of establishment in the virtual area of deterrence. The introduction of the nuclear weapon into the maritime area creates a strategic paradox. The combination of the most powerful human weapon with the vastest element on earth helps to create a peace-guaranteeing force. We have a reversed form of asymmetrical attack since it is all about an asymmetrical defence. In fact, the slightest faux pas on the enemy’s part can be penalised in a fatal way. The strategic depth of the sea, thanks to the potential which can thereby be exploited and developed creates a polemological interface which breeds peace. The very existence of this potential generates a true dogma. Indeed it influences not only the officers and the strategists, but also entire nations. For, the omnipresence of this potential helps to remotely deter potential adversaries. Thus, the sea via its strategic depth constitutes the confrontation area between the virtual and the potential. It is, therefore, necessary to understand the challenges of the 21st century within this framework which paradoxically represents one of the most stable areas of conflict that are also the most capable of imposing the law of nuclear deterrence.

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