Naval Construction programs of the
limitary European states in the interwar period.
Text by 1JMA member Skorzeny
The political term “limitary states” was widely employed in the USSR to denote a number of Central and Northern European states which separated the Soviet Union from the “imperialistic bourgeois” countries in the post-Versailles geopolitical reality. These included: Finnland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania, either emerging as a direct consequence of the downfall of Russian, German and Austro-Hungarian empires in World War One or acquiring significant territorial gains therefore promoting one’s geopolitical status from a second-rate country to a would-be regional superpower.
Poland and Romania became major French allies in Central Europe and pretended to follow the path of developing strong military systems capable of providing adequate support for growing political ambitions, and Finnland remained an important outpost deterring Soviet expansion in the north. The ability to create a strong naval branch of service was traditionally considered a matter of prestige for the countries possessing access to the sea and willing to project their military influence beyond the continent. After 1918 several of the “limitary states” planned ambitious and far-reaching construction programs for their fledgling navies pursuing not only purely defensive objectives of defending the newly-acquired sovereignty, but also serving possible offensive means. An article by a Soviet naval expert E.Shvede, appearing in 1932, attempted to review the development of the key “limitary states” naval forces throughout the previous 15 years, comparing the planned construction programs with the real state of affairs.
Poland (accepted construction program of 1924)
Poland (construction program project of 1930)
Romania (construction program of 1926—1927)
Romania (construction program of 1931)
Finnland (construction program of 1923)
The degradation of political systems of the “limitary states” throughout the period of 15 years reviewed by the Soviet analyst was followed by the economical recession and necessitated realistic corrections of the ambitious plans designed and contemplated by the naval strategists. Among the more exotic delusions one may distinguish the Polish intentions to build no less than 3 battleships, 3 cruisers and 18 submarines (1930 project) and more serious Romanian plan to receive 2 aircraft-carriers (1931 construction plan). On the other hand, the Finnish concept of building a “mosquito fleet” for the defence of its seaside deserves appreciation for the carefully-calculated balance of forces.
Of 1932, the real operative strength of the above-mentioned navies was based on the following numbers of vessels, reinforced by aviation wing:
In comparison, Latvia managed to obtain the following: