They did not paint dandelions green, but were constantly on the front lines. Very little is known about Soviet bases abroad.
Soviet sailors have gained experience inaccessible to the overwhelming majority of representatives of other types of the USSR Armed Forces. They did not paint dandelions green, did not do agricultural work, but were constantly on the front line, ready at any moment to start hostilities against a very strong and skillful enemy.
Very little is known about Soviet bases abroad. Soviet agitprop called American military bases symbols of the aggressive policy of imperialism. Of course, the USSR, pursuing a "peaceful and constructive policy", could not have any bases abroad (the groupings of troops in the Warsaw Pact countries and the 40th Army in Afghanistan did not fall under this definition). However, in reality, we had naval bases abroad. The first appeared in 1939-1940 in the Baltic countries (before their complete occupation by Soviet troops) and in Finland (Hanko naval base). Immediately after the war, the legendary Port Arthur was rented from China (rather quickly returned to the owners as a sign of "eternal friendship"). In Albania, the Soviet Navy received the Vlora submarine base in 1958, which had to be abandoned just three years later due to a sharp deterioration in relations with Albania. At the same time, of our 14 submarines based in Vlora, four were actually captured by the Albanians (they were out of order and could not be taken away).
As the "national liberation movement" grew in developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, more and more states of "socialist orientation" began to appear. At the same time, our fleet received ocean-going ships and began to carry out permanent combat duty in the open ocean. His task was to combat US submarines and aircraft carriers. Without an extensive base system, full-fledged service was impossible.
Therefore, in exchange for massive deliveries of weapons to the "fraternal" countries and training of personnel to use them, the USSR began to receive the right to create "points of material and technical support" of the Navy on their territory. At different times in the 60s and 80s of the last century, such PMTOs operated in Cienfuegos (Cuba), Bizerte and Sfax (Tunisia, which, by the way, was never considered a country of socialist orientation), Port Said and Mersa Matruh (Egypt), Tripoli and Tobruk (Libya), Tartus and Latakia (Syria), Aden and on. Socotra (NDRY), Berbera (Somalia), Conakry (Guinea), Luanda (Angola), Camrani (Vietnam), in Asmara and on the island. Dahlak (Ethiopia). Thus, the Soviet fleet appeared in those areas of the World Ocean, which the West has always considered its deep rear (Indian Ocean, Central and South Atlantic, Caribbean Sea, central part of the Pacific Ocean). Some of the most important nodes of sea communications were under the control of our Navy, for example, both exits from the Red Sea (both the Suez Canal and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait). Soviet sailors and marines even began to conduct joint exercises with the "natives". Training assault forces landed on the Yemeni island of Socotra, in Syria, in Somalia, and in Vietnam.
Sometimes, however, our sailors and marines had to turn their weapons against recent training partners or get directly involved in Asian and African showdowns. So, in the summer of 1977, a war broke out between two allies of the USSR - Ethiopia and Somalia. It was not possible to reconcile the opponents, and Moscow had to make a choice. It was made in favor of Ethiopia, and the Somali President Barre suggested that the Soviet citizens who were in his country leave it immediately. On November 20, 1977, troops landed from our large landing craft in the capital of Somalia, Mogadishu. Thanks to this, the evacuation of the personnel of the embassy and other Soviet institutions took place without losses and special damage. However, the well-equipped base in Berbera had to be abandoned. In return, we received bases in Ethiopia, which, unfortunately, turned out to be located on the territory of the rebellious province of Eritrea (now a state independent from Ethiopia), and our soldiers had to take a direct part in the internal Ethiopian conflict. This truly "unknown war" of the Soviet Navy lasted 13 years.
The Navy provided the transfer of Soviet weapons and Cuban troops to Ethiopia, and also fought itself. In December 1977 - January 1978, the Pacific destroyer Veski fired at the positions of the Eritreans in the Massawa area. In the summer of 1978, a tank platoon of the Pacific Fleet Marine Corps landed in the port of Massawa, which, without suffering losses, ensured the Ethiopians capture the port and city. In May 1984, two Soviet anti-submarine Il-38 aircraft were destroyed by the Eritreans (according to other sources - special forces from Saudi Arabia) during an attack on the Ethiopian Asmara Air Force Base. In May 1990, a year before the final collapse of the regime of then Ethiopian President Mengistu Haile Mariam, two naval battles took place at once. First, the minesweeper "Razvedchik" repelled an attack by four Eritrean boats on a Soviet tanker, one of the boats was sunk. Then the AK-312 boat (project 205P) entered the battle with four other separatist boats. He sank three of them without receiving any damage (this battle can be considered one of the most successful in the history of the USSR Navy). In October 1990, the MPK-118 "Komsomolets Moldavii" (project 1124M) suppressed the artillery of the Eritreans that fired at it from the coast with artillery fire. In December, the minesweeper Dieselist sank two of the six Eritrean boats that attacked it. All the ships mentioned ("Scout", "Dieselist", AK-312, MPK-118) belonged to the Black Sea Fleet. In February 1991, the base from about. Dahlak was evacuated due to the impossibility of its further existence in the face of the apparent end of the Ethiopian regime (as well as the Soviet one).
Our sailors and marines had to fight in other exotic places. In 1981, Soviet sailors effectively thwarted a South African-backed military coup in the Seychelles and then secured a trial of the rebels in the capital of the islands of Victoria. In 1986, a civil war began in the "brotherly" South Yemen, so our marines had to deal with the evacuation of Soviet and foreign citizens (including Western ones) from Aden.
The fact of our stay in the Mediterranean is better known to the general public. The fifth operational squadron of the USSR Navy (1 cruiser, 1 destroyer or large anti-submarine ship, 1-2 minesweepers, 1 large and 2-3 medium landing ships with marines) consisted of ships from all three European fleets of the USSR - the Black Sea, Baltic and Northern (on on a rotational basis, of course). Moreover, the main role, despite its remoteness from the Mediterranean Sea, was played by the Northern Fleet. Firstly, it was the strongest, and secondly, it had the ability to freely deploy into the open ocean. From 1967 to 1972, the squadron was permanently based in Port Said, and the Tu-16, Il-38 and Be-12 reconnaissance and anti-submarine aircraft were stationed at the Mersa Matrukh, Aswan, Alexandria, Cairo-Zapadny airfields. Our sailors were more than once ready to engage in battle with the Israelis or the US 6th Fleet - both during the 1967 Six Day War, and during the 1967-1970 war of attrition, and during the October 1973 war, although by that time our fleet, like the entire military contingent, had already been expelled by Sadat from Egypt. In January 1968, a detachment of ships of the Black Sea Fleet made an amphibious assault on the Asian coast of the Suez Canal in order to maintain Egypt's control over the entrance to the canal, but this did not lead to a conflict with Israel.
Large anti-submarine ship "Simferopol", 1987 After the loss of Egypt, the 5th squadron, which is commonly called the Mediterranean, remained restless. The ships entered the ports of Algeria, Tunisia and Libya (here they were in the spring of 1986, that is, already under Gorbachev, they almost got involved in a conflict with the 6th Fleet again during American strikes on the Libyan fleet in the Gulf of Sidra, and then in Tripoli and Benghazi), but did not have a main base. The main ally of the USSR in the Mediterranean was Syria, however, apparently, our military had long unpleasant memories of the 1973 war, when Israeli missile boats, in the course of several strikes on the Syrian ports of Latakia and Banias, completely destroyed the Navy of this country, and also sank several foreign merchant ships, including one Soviet (and they did it with complete impunity, not a single Israeli boat was even damaged). In addition, in the early 80s, our anti-aircraft missile launchers, temporarily stationed in Syria, were attacked several times by both Israeli paratroopers and local Muslim extremists. Nevertheless, the sailors had nowhere to go, since 1988 a permanent PMTO began to operate in Tartus. Now only he has remained with us, this is the only base of the RF Armed Forces outside the CIS.
Our largest base abroad was the Vietnamese Cam Ranh. In addition to the 15th operational squadron of the Pacific Fleet, operating in the western and central parts of the Pacific Ocean, a naval aviation regiment was based there, radar and electronic reconnaissance equipment were located. In addition, Cam Ranh was a rear base for the 8th operational squadron operating in the Indian Ocean. The number of military personnel reached 10 thousand people. Cam Ranh harbor is one of the best in the Pacific Ocean; ships of all classes up to and including an aircraft carrier can be based here. During the Vietnam War, the United States intended to transfer the main base of its 7th Fleet to Cam Ranh from Subic Bay in the Philippines. They managed to create a well-equipped naval base just at the time of their defeat and withdrawal from Vietnam. In 1979, the USSR took it over as a 25-year free lease (which, alas, ended two years ahead of schedule). In the mid-80s, the number of submarines, ships and auxiliary vessels simultaneously based here exceeded 20 units. The ships of the 15th Squadron not only confronted the 7th US Fleet, but also strained China from the south, relations with which at that time were at the level of the Cold War.
The landslide withdrawal from foreign bases, which began at the end of the existence of the USSR, is explained not only by economic and political reasons, but also by the discrepancy between the structure and composition of the Navy and the tasks it faces. If the Ground Forces and the Air Force possessed at least some degree of versatility, then the fleet (like the Strategic Missile Forces) was created for war only and exclusively against the United States, while (unlike the Strategic Missile Forces) it was not capable of actually fighting the Americans either in quantitative or, which is much more important, in terms of quality parameters. The task of fighting American submarines was not solved at all, the effectiveness of our anti-submarine defense was very close to zero (although the anti-submarine aircraft Tu-142 and Il-38 were based in Cuba, Angola, Ethiopia, Egypt and Vietnam, that is, next to many of our PMTO). The situation was not too good in terms of the fight against aircraft carriers. We have created submarines and missile cruisers capable of demolishing an entire US aircraft carrier in one salvo, but there were very serious problems with target designation. In the event of a real war, we simply would not have the opportunity to use our wonderful missiles, since the Americans would very quickly "blind" us by destroying the satellites and Tu-95RTs intended for target designation. Finally, our foreign bases and ships in the open ocean did not have any air cover. With the United States having a dozen aircraft carriers and many air bases around the world, this left our ships no chance of success. The USSR has never had military air bases with combat aviation (except for anti-submarine aircraft) abroad, except for the short stay of the 135th Fighter Aviation Regiment in Egypt during the war of attrition. The exception was Cam Ranh, where the MiG-23 squadron was permanently based, but it could only cover the base itself, but not the ships in the ocean. When the severity of the confrontation with the United States dropped sharply, all these circumstances were fully manifested. And of course, the country ran out of money, with which the sphere of influence collapsed.
Nevertheless, the long-term military service in the open ocean with calls to foreign bases was a unique stage in the history of the Russian Navy (something similar took place only at the end of the 18th - beginning of the 19th centuries during the campaigns of our Baltic Fleet in the Mediterranean to fight the Turks). Over the years, Soviet sailors have gained experience that is inaccessible to the overwhelming majority of representatives of other types of the Armed Forces. They did not paint dandelions green, did not do agricultural work, but were constantly on the front line, ready at any moment to start hostilities against a very strong and skillful enemy. Despite the above circumstances, the combat service of the USSR Navy in the World Ocean strained America very much. Moreover, in the course of this permanent confrontation between Soviet and American sailors, despite the perception of each other as enemies, mutual respect of professional colleagues arose.
P. S. Navy Day is celebrated on July 31st. Congratulations!