Europeans view Russia as the greatest threat they face, but China has made inroads, and threats from violent extremism and ungoverned spaces in the Middle East and Africa complicate an already complex security environment, the commander of NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command Naples said last week.
Navy Adm. James G. Foggo III, who also serves as commander of Naval Forces Europe and Naval Forces Africa, spoke to reporters traveling with Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan at the Munich Security Conference.
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“The security environment today is complex and dynamic,” Foggo said. “As highlighted in the 2018 National Defense Strategy, the United States is in a great power competition with Russia and China. Russia is using force to change the internationally recognized borders of sovereign nations and to challenge international laws and norms. Through dialogue and solidarity within the alliance, I am optimistic we can achieve a more stable Euro-Atlantic region.”
Russian actions in invading Georgia in 2008, illegally annexing Crimea and fomenting war in Eastern Ukraine are a challenge to the one-time goal of a Europe “free, whole and at peace,” the admiral said. Russia also has increased tensions with the Baltic republics, propped up the Bashar Assad regime in Syria and violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, he noted. “Russia’s lone nuclear saber-rattling demonstrates they are more committed to escalation dominance than escalation avoidance,” Foggo said.
Ensuring Security in the Atlantic
The United States and NATO had to respond to this situation, and at the last NATO summit in Brussels, alliance leaders established the Allied Joint Force Command in Norfolk, Virginia, to help ensure allied security in the Atlantic. This is needed, Foggo said, because Russia is sending more capable submarines back into the North Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
The admiral said six Kilo-class Russian submarines are in the Black Sea and eastern Mediterranean now. These are new craft that are much quieter and more capable than their predecessors, he explained. “The U.S. submarine force is still the quietest, most lethal and most capable, but the Russians see this as an area they can challenge the West, and they are investing in the capability,” he said.
The U.S. Navy re-established U.S. 2nd Fleet partly in response to Russian actions. Russia has invested enormous sums in building naval capabilities.
Concrete responses include basing P-8 anti-submarine warfare maritime patrol aircraft in Sigonella, Italy. The command also is working with Iceland to upgrade the infrastructure at Naval Air Station Keflavik, where Navy P-8s will operate on a rotational basis.
“NATO also launched the ‘Four 30s’ initiative to reinvigorate a culture of readiness and ensure the alliance can employ 30 squadrons, 30 ships and 30 battalions within 30 days or less,” Fogo said.
Exercise Trident Juncture
In October and November, Foggo commanded NATO’s Exercise Trident Juncture in and around Norway. All NATO nations and Finland and Sweden participated in the exercise. It was the largest NATO exercise since the Cold War, with more than 50,000 troops, 250 aircraft, 70 ships and 10,000 rolling or tracked vehicles.
The exercise also included a demonstrating of the Navy’s new dynamic force employment strategy. The USS Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group joined Exercise Trident Juncture, and became the first aircraft carrier operating north of the Arctic Circle since 1987.
The exercise highlighted the alliance’s ability to respond to Russian provocations, the admiral said, calling it “deterrence in action.”
“A mantra with Trident Juncture is ‘deter, defend and dialogue,’” he said. “The exercise was deterrence on its own. It showed Russia that NATO will act together in an Article 5 operation.” Article 5 of NATO’s founding document states that an attack on one NATO ally is considered an attack on all.
One outgrowth of the exercise is that logistics should be considered a domain of warfare as much as land, sea, air, cyber and space, Foggo said. “People have said, ‘That’s not a domain; logistics is just something you do,’ he added. “But ask Alexander the Great about that. He said that ‘if I lose the battle, the first person I will slay will be the logistician.’”
Movement of people, equipment, information and capabilities are crucial to the fight, and this needs further study, the admiral said.
China is an immediate problem for Foggo’s counterparts in the Indo-Pacific region, but the country is trying to work its influence in Europe as well. The Chinese “One Belt, One Road” strategy forms the basis behind Chinese moves, and it is a long-term strategy that will take generations to employ. “They go places where we go, and where we don’t go, they fill in the seams,” Foggo said.
In Africa, China established a base in the strategic nation of Djibouti, very near the American facility at Camp Lemonnier. Chinese leaders and diplomats visit African nations constantly, and they are investing in ports all around the continent.
In Djibouti, Chinese personnel were lasing U.S. aircraft as they landed. After vociferous protests, the dangerous provocation stopped. If China wants to be a great power, it needs to behave maturely, Foggo said.
“NATO continues to be the most successful alliance in history, and we celebrate our 70th year in April,” the admiral said. “NATO has been and will continue to be the cornerstone of European defense and transatlantic security. We share the common goal of preventing conflict, and preserving peace and freedom for our people.”