LT DIXON: Welcome to On the Horizon Navigating European and African Theaters. The official podcast of Admiral James G. Foggo, III
Welcome and thank you for join us for another podcast with Admiral Foggo. In this episode, we will look discuss topics pertaining to exercise Trident Juncture and the importance of the NATO alliance. Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group operating in the Norwegian Sea, and his recent publications concerning the challenges in the North Atlantic.
We start with an audio clip from Admiral Foggo’s recent press conference at NATO HQ in Brussels where he discussed the next major exercise Trident Juncture 2018.
ADMIRAL FOGGO CLIP: NATO is a defensive alliance. Trident Juncture demonstrates our incredible capability and together, we deter potential adversaries. All 29 Nation member nations will participate in the exercise along with our partners from Sweden and Finland, and we’re delighted about that. Trident Juncture illustrates NATO’s relevance and unity in that we are ready to defend ourselves in the territory which is contained within those 29 allied nations.
LT DIXON: I'm here with the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa and commander of Allied Joint Force Command Naples.
Admiral Foggo, thank you for joining us today. I would like to start with talking about exercise Trident Juncture which just started a few days ago.
ADM FOGGO: Hey, Lieutenant Dixon, it's good to be back and thank you. It's been a very busy couple of weeks.
Trident Juncture began on Thursday, October 25th. And it's the largest NATO exercise since the Cold War and demonstrates that NATO is ready to defend and deter across the entire territory of the alliance, from North America to Europe and from the Med to the Arctic.
The exercise is designed to ensure NATO forces are trained and ready. It'll be an important test and a tremendous display of our collective capabilities.
It's going to test NATO's ability to plan and conduct a major collective defense operation, from troop training at the tactical level, to command over large numbers of forces and in particular logistics. And you've heard me say it before, logistics is emerging as the sixth domain of warfare.
On that note, we'll have about 50,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, well over 150 aircraft, 65 ships, and 10,000 tracked or wheeled vehicles from 31 allies and partners participating. So this really is the largest NATO exercise since the Cold War.
It is also an Article 5 scenario testing collective defense. Norway's sovereignty has been violated, they having called away an Article 5, which is a part of the Washington Charter of 1949 that founded NATO, and NATO comes to their defense.
The secretary general talks about this in terms of the three Ds, and I often quote him where he says we will deter, we will defend, but we'll also dialogue; dialogue with anyone out there who may question our capabilities or our strength as the united alliance.
And so, to keep all the nations that are participating and all of the members of NATO safe in an unpredictable world, it's our job to keep the alliance strong. So that's why we're doing this training exercise.
It encourages relationship-building between partners and allies. It allows us to conduct interoperability of our communication systems and our hardware and our software and hardware being the ships, the aircraft, the tanks, the tracked vehicles, software being the people.
And so I'm really excited and we're well into execution.
LT DIXON: There have been news articles that have said Trident Juncture is meant to intimidate the Russians and may provoke a reaction from them because of how close it is to their border. What is your response to this concern as the commander of the exercise?
ADM FOGGO: I don't buy it.
I did a press call in Brussels a couple of weeks ago with a very capable Norwegian army general, Lieutenant General Rune Jakobsen. The same question was asked and, as General Jakobsen pointed out, Russia has nothing to fear.
I mean, this exercise is literally about 700 kilometers from the Russian border. Again, we don't go out of our way in NATO to take somebody else's territory; we defend our own territory. And the point is that you deter conflict by showing that you operate from a position of strength.
So NATO's really a defensive alliance, and we're ready to protect the sovereignty of the borders of all of our allies.
The majority of this exercise will take place in Norway and surrounding areas of the Norwegian Sea and the Baltic Sea.
Exercises like this make the alliance better prepared to counter any kind of aggression if it becomes necessary. Remember, deter first, and defend second.
NATO exercises are really not directed against any one country. They're a part of NATO's response plan to a change in security environment. And frankly, the reason that we're doing this live-ex portion of the exercise is to then come back to this headquarters in Naples, Italy, and do the command post portion of the exercise.
We'll have monitors on board from SHAPE headquarters. We'll have NATO mentors on board who are distinguished retired officers with experience in the battlefield. And we will work together to be certified to take over the NATO Response Force responsibilities in 2019.
LT DIXON: At the same press conference, Admiral Foggo announced an update to U.S. military units participating in Trident Juncture.
ADM FOGGO CLIP: It’s my pleasure to announce the aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman and its strike group, including its ships and aircraft will participate in Trident Juncture, adding about 6,000 personnel to the mix
LT DIXON: Sir, related to exercise, Trident Juncture, we have the Truman Carrier Strike Group in support to the exercise which put the ship in the Norwegian Sea and above the Arctic Circle, which for our audience’s awareness is the first time a carrier has operated in that region in decades. Why is this a significant event, and what message does this send?
ADM FOGGO: Well, right now, the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, with its leadership and Rear Admiral Eugene Black are operating in the Norwegian Sea above the Arctic Circle.
Now, that's an area that has challenged mariners as far back as the day of the Vikings. And, of course, we're going to be in the air, on the sea and on the ground with the Norwegians, who were some of the original Viking warriors at that time.
This is the first time in decades that a carrier strike group has been this far north. And the reason that we're doing this is because times are changing. And in this multi-polar world, it's essential that we be flexible and agile.
And so, the secretary of defense has promulgated dynamic force employment, or DFE, as one of the tenets that he would like incorporated into the joint force: keep opponents back on their heels, be a little bit unpredictable.
And that's what we've done with Harry S. Truman. She was not supposed to be in this theater for her entire deployment, but we changed that plan. She went home for a short period of time and she came back and she went up north. And I don't think many people expected that.
And it's been a great learning experience for the Harry S. Truman in Trident Juncture so far.
LT DIXON: And Sir, how does the Truman fit into the exercise and what can we expect for the future?
ADM FOGGO: So Harry S. Truman was a very nice addition to the exercise, which brings incredible capability from her cruiser and destroyer, direct support, her air wing, and the over 5,500 people that are on board that carrier.
We've made it quite clear that we will look for operational risk management.
First, this is an exercise. It's not a crisis. But weather can be as capable an adversary as another nation that invades your territory. And we're finding out that there are some very challenging conditions out there.
The Harry S. Truman continues to operate at a very high level of peak performance. I'm very pleased with what they've done thus far.
We had the supreme allied commander, General Scaparrotti, and the secretary general out. They trapped and they catapulted off the carrier while they were operating in the High North. And I think their reviews were spectacular, both men and their staffs, about what we're trying to do with the carrier and with dynamic force employment.
And I think this is the first time that Secretary General Stoltenberg, former prime minister of Norway, had had an opportunity to come out and do this on one of our aircraft carriers.
So, Truman's making the most of an operating area where carriers typically haven't gone for a couple of decades. And in doing so, we're, kind of, rebuilding our muscle memory. It's very important that we take those lessons back home for other future strike group deployments.
And she's demonstrated that she can bring the full spectrum of combat capability to bear anywhere in the world, because it's pretty challenging conditions up there right now.
LT DIXON: Sir, you just returned from your trip to Iceland to commemorate the Battle of the Atlantic and you wrote a blog about your experience there called “Ally Island Stands Watch over the North Atlantic.” Why did you attend the commemoration and why was it important to highlight this trip?
ADM FOGGO: Well, I attended this portion of the pre-ex, if you will, the pre-live-ex, because our Marines and their amphibious ships were coming to Iceland, were going to spend some time in the port of Reykjavik, and also conduct practice amphibious landing and practice amphibious air assault.
Because of the weather, we did not get the amphibious landing off. But that is part of the learning curve of operating at this time of year in the latitudes of the High North.
We did, however, get the air assault off. And I was a participant and observer in that, and the Marines prepared and performed spectacularly.
One of the other reasons that I went was to recognize the contribution of this great ally, Iceland. You know, it's a very strategic and important island nation.
We talk about this acronym, the GIUK gap, which represents both territory and countries and the maritime domain. And the "I" is Iceland.
Well, strategically located, the Icelanders kept watch over the Atlantic. That's the way I like to look at it.
And, so it is at a crossroads and a gateway between Europe and North America. It's a stopping point. And it was a stopping point for the convoys in World War II.
So, I spoke at a commemoration ceremony honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the Second Battle of the Atlantic, in the Second World War.
That battle lasted 68 months, Lieutenant Dixon. It finally ended when German Fleet Admiral Donitz ordered his U-boats to cease all hostilities and return to base, May 4th, 1945.
There were 110,000 recorded deaths on both sides of that conflict. And the visit to Iceland brought me to reflect on the importance of our allies and our partners, particularly Iceland because of how critical their country is to the security of this gateway between North America and Europe.
LT DIXON: And Sir, can we hear more about the historical importance of the North Atlantic that re-enforces the position of why this body of water is so important?
ADM FOGGO: During the Second World War, the country of Iceland was smack-dab in the middle of the sea lines of communication; the sea lines of communication that proceeded from North America to supply or resupply Europe, including Russia in Murmansk. And there were operations that took convoys up there to keep Russian forces who were allied with us against the Axis forces and help defeat them.
So, control of these sea lines of communication in the North Atlantic is critical when it comes to maritime security and free flow of trade.
From NATO's point of view, if Article 5 needs to be invoked, the North Atlantic will be essential to the movement of supplies and troops to defend one of our nations. And that's exactly what we're demonstrating in Trident Juncture.
The importance of the North Atlantic is undisputed. And for this reason, Iceland's participation and NATO membership is critical to NATO's security.
LT DIXON: You and Dr. Fritz in 2016 released an article in Proceedings entitled “The Fourth Battle of the Atlantic.” The continuation of that same conversation was recently published in your second article together in the Royal United Services Institute journal titled, “NATO and the Challenge in the North Atlantic and the Arctic.” It was an incredible read and one recommended to folks who want a clearly understand the challenges here in Europe. Why write the article and what were some of the highlights?
ADM FOGGO: Well, thanks, Lieutenant Dixon. And as you pointed out, this is a follow-up from an article that Dr. Fritz and I co-authored in proceedings in 2016 entitled "The Fourth Battle of The Atlantic."
"The Fourth Battle of The Atlantic" was a call to arms to address the threats we face in this region of the world. And not necessarily just in the Atlantic, but in those bodies of water that border on the Atlantic. And I'm talking about the Arctic Ocean, the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, and even the Black Sea which feeds back and forth into the Mediterranean Sea, and how the United States and NATO are answering this call to arms.
First of all, it's important to lay out the key facts.
One, Russia's not 10 feet tall. And today in the undersea domain, U.S. submarines are superior to Russians and we hold the acoustic advantage. But we've got to keep this advantage as we move forward.
Secondly, ASW, anti-submarine warfare, is a team sport. It's not just submarines on submarines, it's surfaced assets with multi-function towed arrays, air assets like the P-8 Poseidon, which is a spectacular aircraft and performing extremely well here in the theater, and all of the assets that our allies and our partners bring to bear in this game of cat and mouse in the undersea domain.
But still, I'm concerned about the growing and aggressive nature of Russian forces throughout Europe, primarily in the North Atlantic and the Arctic. As I said earlier, the North Atlantic remains absolutely critical to the West's collective security and to our economies.
The unavoidable operational reality is that if conflict arises, whoever can exert control over this region can either protect or threaten all of NATO's northern flank.
NATO must be prepared to deter the most capable of adversaries. And I don't single anybody out, but obviously one of the most capable adversaries that could challenge NATO is Russia.
And that doesn't mean that a conflict is likely. Our hope has always been that Russia will be fully and peacefully integrated into a rules-based and prosperous global system.
Despite these hopes, Russia has acted aggressively in the European theater and demonstrated its willingness to interfere in the political and economic affairs of sovereign states. Russia clearly places more emphasis on escalation dominance than escalation avoidance.
Some of their actions in the past decade make it clear that they're focused on conflict escalation: Georgia back in 2008; illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014; inciting tensions with the Baltic states; dangerous fly-bys at sea with close encounters, we bring that to their attention; and most recently, as you've seen in the press, violating the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
Furthermore, Russia has intentionally and quietly renewed its capabilities in the North Atlantic and the Arctic in places not seen since the Cold War.
LT DIXON: That said, what is the NATO and U.S. Navy response to the possibility of conflict?
ADM FOGGO: Our NATO forces sticking together are significantly capable, postured and ready to deter and, if necessary, defeat any aggression that we face.
Our forces can respond to any of the challenges facing us, not only in the maritime but also in cyber and asymmetric ways.
We operate forward across the globe, but always with our allies and partners as the U.S. Navy. This is one of our fundamental strengths, and nowhere is this more evident than in the North Atlantic and as seen in the ongoing exercise Trident Juncture.
Every day, the warships of NATO countries are at sea, maintaining control and security over this crucial water space and protecting international commerce and freedom of navigation.
LT DIXON: Thank you Admiral for your insight into the challenges facing Europe, the discussion about Truman and your recent publications. We look forward to hearing how TJ goes. And Sir, until next time, thank you.
ADM FOGGO: Thanks for having me Lieutenant Dixon. Look forward to seeing you next time
LT DIXON: We hope you have enjoyed our podcast, On the Horizon Navigating European and African Theaters. Please share the podcast with your friends and family and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter. The podcast is hosted on Sound Cloud, iTunes, Stitcher.com and Speaker.com. Join us next time when Admiral Foggo and I look to discuss various topics and events that are impacting the maritime security environment in Europe and Africa. Thank you.