“The New Battle for the Atlantic: Emerging Competition with Russia in the Far North” by Magnus Nordenman, Naval Institute Press, 2019, 272 pages, $38

The United States has offered to buy Greenland from Denmark. Why?

“The New Battle for the Atlantic: Emerging Competition with Russia in the Far North” by Magnus Nordenman offers an explanation. Nordenman explores the consequences Russia’s new military buildup and its potential for triggering a new Battle of the Atlantic.

Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, combined with its previous seizure of part of Georgia, signals Russia’s intention to rebuild the Soviet Union. The Baltic States are NATO partners. Russian moves to reincorporate them into Russia could involve the U.S. in a war with Russia through our NATO membership.

Despite a resurgent Russia, the U.S. military can quickly defeat the Russian army once the U.S. brings reinforcements across the Atlantic. A Russian naval buildup has accompanied Russia’s new aggressive posture. Nordenman shows the buildup is concentrated in Russia’s Arctic Fleet. Russia is again strengthening its submarine fleet.

As Nordenman shows how this offers Russia a way to block North American reinforcement in future European conflicts. He builds his thesis by reviewing the histories of the previous battles of the Atlantic: in World War I, World War II and the Cold War.

He shows how submarines can easily interdict communications across the Atlantic. He illustrates the importance of controlling the Greenland-Iceland-United-Kingdom (GUIK) gap to block submarines from the North Atlantic trade lanes. He also shows the NATO’s victory the last phase of Cold War hinged on NATO’s control of the Barents and Norwegian seas, north of the GUIK gap.

Nordenman sketches the Russian Navy’s collapse in the 1990s following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and how as a result NATO and the U.S. let their anti-submarine capabilities deteriorate. There was no threat, so scarce resources were used elsewhere.

Now, the U.S. has to contend with a resurgent Russia and a China seeking Atlantic bases to distract the U.S. from the Pacific. As in the Cold War, Nordenman asserts controlling seas north of the GUIK gap remains the key to a secure Atlantic.

“The New Battle for the Atlantic” offers a penetrating look at a theater critical for securing peace.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

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