LT DIXON: Welcome back to the 5th edition of the podcast “On the Horizon: Navigating the European and African Theaters.” Tune in, as Admiral Foggo and I look to discuss the U.S. Navy highlights from 2018, the Great Power Competition with Russia’s resurgence in and around Europe and China’s growing influence in Africa. In addition, we will talk about Dynamic Force Employment and a recent conference attended by our African Partners.
LT DIXON: Admiral Foggo, great to see you again and happy holidays.
ADM FOGGO: Hey, thank you very much. Lieutenant Dixon. Good to see you again.
LT DIXON: Well sir, we appreciate you taking the time to join us today during this busy holiday season for our final podcast of 2018.
ADM FOGGO: My pleasure, looking forward to another great conversation.
LT DIXON: I’d like to start off with discussing the highlights from this year, can you go over the accomplishments and challenges of Naval Forces Europe and Africa?
ADM FOGGO: I'd be delighted. This has been a great year for Naval Forces Europe and Africa, and I think there's been a significant number of accomplishments thanks to the professional sailors that run this organization day in, day out.
First and foremost, Trident Juncture, the largest exercise since the end of the Cold War and our first-ever employment of dynamic force employment with USS Harry S Truman.
As you know, I discussed this last time, that it was kind of a brain child of the Secretary of Defense and embraced by the Secretary of the Navy and the CNO, and a concept identified in our National Defense Strategy as a response to a return to great power competition.
So, every day in this theater, we operate from the North Pole to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, and from about mid-Atlantic region all the way out to the shores of Crimea and the Black Sea.
That's a pretty vast sea-line of communication and connectivity, and our people do it extremely well. Last year, we conducted 70 major exercises across the European and African theater, and these are all designed to provide reassurance and deter aggression of any violent extremist organizations or any potential adversary that challenges us.
So if I do a quick overview of the security environment, I think it's pretty obvious that we faced a resurgent Russia in the last couple of years, which is becoming more and more aggressive each day, and I'll talk about that when we discuss the current events that are ongoing in the Sea of Azov.
We also see China as a rising power and gaining influence through their One Belt, One Road Initiative in the theater of Europe and Africa. And as long as that's a peaceful rise, that's OK, but there are some things there that cause me pause.
LT DIXON: And sir if I may, you and Dr. Fritz wrote an article about these challenges in Europe?
ADM FOGGO: Earlier this year, Dr. Alarik Fritz from the Center of Naval Analysis and I wrote an article entitled NATO and the Challenge in the North Atlantic and the Arctic.
The article was a follow-up to a piece that we wrote and published in proceedings in 2016 called The Fourth Battle of the Atlantic, and the fourth battle was really a call to arms to address the threats we face in this region of the world, primarily in the undersea domain.
And the latest article, the Challenge in the North Atlantic and the Arctic, is how the United States and NATO are answering this call to arms that we raised in 2016. The last piece was published in the Whitehall Papers by the Royal United Services Institute.
LT DIXON: Sir, your article discusses Russia’s resurgence in and around Europe. What actions are you seeing Russia take to your point of being a resurgent power?
ADM FOGGO: Russia's really renewed its capabilities in the North Atlantic and the Arctic in places not seen since the Cold War. For example, my Norwegian friends remind me that they've reoccupied seven of their former Soviet Union bases in the Arctic Circle.
It improves Russia's capability to project power into the crucial strategic routes from the Arctic into the North Atlantic and the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap. Russian submarines are out there and operating today in numbers that we haven't seen before.
Missiles from those submarines and coastal defense systems and long-range aircraft and other delivery mechanisms can reach any of the capitals of Europe, from places like the Caspian Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Black Sea.
And that is of concern to me, and I know it's of concern to many of my European contemporaries. So not only have Russia's actions and capabilities increased in kind of alarming ways, its national security policies aimed at challenging the United States and NATO and bifurcating the alliance and our traditional partners.
And the potential there for miscalculation can't be ignored, we're stronger together and we've got to stick together in order to push back against that aggression.
LT DIXON: And, Sir, that goes perfectly to our next segment about miscalculation in our region. Specifically, Russia’s recent activities having become more and more aggressive, with the most recently the incident involving the Sea of Azov.
ADM FOGGO: Yes, it's very unfortunate what transpired in the Sea of Azov. There was formally an agreement between Russia and the Ukraine on the peaceful use of the Sea of Azov and commerce in the Sea of Azov, and that kind of went out the window a couple weeks ago when we saw the Russians block the Sea of Azov.
They have slowed traffic down for Ukrainian shipping coming through the Kerch Strait and into the Sea of Azov and out of the Sea of Azov and into the Ukrainian port of Mariupol. This is costing the Ukrainians, in terms of resources and income every year, and it's just not right.
It came to a head a couple of weeks ago when three Ukrainian vessels sailed through the Kerch Strait. They were challenged by the Russians unfairly and illegally, and the Russians had blocked the Sea of Azov.
When the Ukrainians made their way through, they were told to heel to, they did not, and so the Russians fired on their ships, ultimately seized these three vessels, a tug, and two patrol crafts and their crews. And those crews are now being detained and have been moved to Moscow for detention and for trial.
LT DIXON: And Admiral, what bothers you about this? Why should we the U.S. Navy care?
What bothers me is these are sailors and officers and chiefs that wear a uniform, just like you and me. They're in the Navy, but they're being treated like pirates or common criminals. That's not right, that's not in accordance with the Geneva Convention and they should be released immediately.
In total Russia's actions to impede maritime transit in a place like the Sea of Azov undermines and destabilizes the Ukraine, as well as ignores international norms. It's just not the type of behavior that you would expect from a rising power or a resurgent power that wants to be a responsible player in the international domain.
So, I urge restraint on the part of both parties, and I'd urge the Russians to release those sailors and get them back home.
LT DIXON: So, to recap, we’ve have outlined some of the aggressive behavior of Russia and outlined the various threats we face in our theater. How is the U.S. Navy and NATO responding to this?
ADM FOGGO: Well, like I said, after that call to arms in the fourth battle of the Atlantic article in 2016, I think the United States and NATO are answering that call to arms. NATO countries are spending a larger percent of their nations' gross domestic product on defense. Last time I checked, at the time of Trident Juncture, I think overall spending in the alliance had gone up and that's good. Most of the allies are on a glide path to get to 2 percent of spending by the year 2024.
On the U.S. side, we're in the game, too. We've reestablished the Second Fleet and we have taken on the responsibility of establishing a new Joint Force Command in Norfolk, Virginia. That's a NATO command.
Both these NATO commands are essential for security across the Atlantic and in Europe. And even down south in Africa, as you know, we've stood up the NATO Strategic Direction's south hub for Africa and the Middle East to help with development, rule of law, governance and stability.
LT DIXON: For our next segment, Dynamic Force Employment, or DFE is one of the big ways the U.S. military is addressing the great power competition. How has Naval Forces Europe and Africa implemented this policy?
ADM FOGGO: Well, Lieutenant Dixon, I think the National Defense Strategy makes it pretty clear that the central challenge to U.S. security is a return of great power competition, specifically with regards to a resurgent Russia and a rising China.
So, the security environment requires us to change the way we operate forward.
The Secretary of Defense's concept for U.S. forces causes us to be more unpredictable. That's what dynamic force employment is all about. And as the sailors assigned to this region adapt to all these changing challenges, they can be proud of the trails they've blazed being the first to, in my humble estimation, successfully deploy dynamic force employment in the Sixth Fleet area of operations.
LT DIXON: Admiral, can you give us an example of where DFE was implemented and was it successful?
ADM FOGGO: I'll give you the best example and the first example; that is, Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Groups' unpredictable deployment to the CNE, CNA, AOR in the start of this year.
The strike group success is no surprise; very professional sailors on board that ship and the associated direct support that operated with it. They were originally not scheduled to be in the European theater for the entire deployment. We had other plans. But because of dynamic force employment, they came here. They immediately proceeded to the Eastern Mediterranean and conducted strike missions in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
And then they moved to the Adriatic, and this was interesting because it was a move coincident with Vice Admiral Franchetti's command of BALTOPS 2018 in the Baltic Sea. So, the Harry S. Truman, to my knowledge, is the first carrier to participate in a BALTOPS operation with airpower from the Adriatic. So that was a first time ever.
They then returned to the United States for about a month. And I don't think anybody, let alone the Russians, expected that, and that kind of puts them back on their heels.
In fact, we were starting to see some articles in Russian media about the carrier heading back into the Mediterranean, but she didn't go there; she went up north. She went to the Arctic Circle, and it was our intent at that time to put her into the Trident Juncture LiveEx exercise, and she was a force multiplier.
This is the first time that we've operated north of the Arctic Circle with a carrier that high up in latitude since the end of the Cold War. I think that she proved through dynamic force employment that she can be strategically predictable but operationally unpredictable.
And so, it's important to mention that while we remain unpredictable to our adversaries, there's a clear signal here to our allies and our partners that we're there for them.
So, this is an excellent example of what dynamic force employment is all about.
LT DIXON: And sir before we move on, for our audience, can you recap what exercise Trident Juncture was all about and how big exactly was this exercise?
ADM FOGGO: It's an Article 5 exercise, and that is the key element of the Washington Charter that established NATO in 1949; an attack on one is an attack on all. And we had an exercise scenario where the sovereignty of one of our close allies, Norway, had been violated and we went to their defense to push the adversary out.
What that meant was an incredible number of personnel 50,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, 250 aircraft, 70 ships and 10,000 vehicles tracked vehicles, rolling vehicles, heavy equipment transporters, portable bridges.
Overall, we delivered seven brigades in about 30 days.
So, this really underscores the importance of logistics, and in my mind, logistics has become the sixth domain of warfare. So, you've got the air, the land, the sea, cyber, space and now logistics, the Achilles' heel of any joint force, and I think we demonstrated that.
LT DIXON: How did the U.S. Navy and Marine Corp support the exercise?
ADM FOGGO: I am very proud of the U.S. Navy participation in Trident Juncture, notwithstanding USS Harry S. Truman's Strike Group, USS Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group and all of her direct and associated support, the second Marine Expeditionary Force from Camp Lejeune, on the heels of Hurricane Florence.
Those guys were heroes. I mean, they basically went through that storm that wiped out a lot of their infrastructure and housing on base, got on the ships and came over and did the exercise with aplomb. We had about 140 aircraft, aid ships and 900 vehicles under the U.S. flag, and it was essential to the success of Trident Juncture and I thank them for that.
LT DIXON: And Sir, are there any other events that happened in 2018 that you’d like to highlight?
ADM FOGGO: Yeah, too many to mention in the podcast, but I'll give you some of the really important ones. In April, our Sailors and Marines allowed the United States, British, and French allies to send a very strong message to the Assad regime in Syria for once again using chemical weapons on innocent civilians.
USS John Warner launched a salvo of Tomahawks from the Mediterranean. We picked our targets very carefully and we destroyed infrastructure to send that message to the Assad regime, and I think it was received loud and clear. Make no mistake about it, we stand ready to do it again if required.
In October of this year, some of the air crewmen assigned to the Trident's Patrol Squadron 26 down in Sigonella these are the P-8 aircraft, Marine patrol aircraft completed their first operational aerial refueling flight in the sixth fleet area of operations.
So that's significant because it gives us extra legs and extra time airborne in the event of a crisis, in that we would have to stay up and either conduct surveillance operations or the primary mission of that aircraft is to go after enemy submarines, find them and sink them. And so, I was pretty happy about that.
Our four forward-deployed naval service guided missile destroyers in Rota continued their routine and crisis action patrols throughout the theater.
They're in the Black Sea, they're along the north coast of Africa, they're up in the Baltic, they're out in the approaches to the Mediterranean, both inside and outside the Strait of Gibraltar, and just doing a fantastic job and a force multiplier for us.
So that's just a few of the highlights, I could go on but I'll stop there and thank all of those Sailors, Military Sealift Command personnel, U.S. Marines and CVs and aviators for all of the great work they did in 2018, and I'm looking forward to 2019.
LT DIXON: Well sir, thank you for the year in review and discussing with us all that the U.S. Navy is doing here in Europe and Africa. Earlier we started to discuss China’s influence and growth in Europe and Africa. Focusing in on Africa, I’d like to discuss China and its effort to gain influence. What type of activity are you seeing and are there any concerns?
ADM FOGGO: Yes, China established their first overseas base in the Horn of Africa in the country of Djibouti, near our Camp Lemonnier. We'd been there in the Horn of Africa for a very long time, and this is the only permanent U.S. military installation in Africa. So, they have established a base in Djibouti not far from ours.
China is using its economic influence to advance its security interests throughout the region, and in 2015, the Chinese were the second largest arms provider to Africa, behind only Russia.
LT DIXON: And, Sir, on that point, what are we doing to address these security concerns?
ADM FOGGO: Yeah, well I think it's important for us to attempt to co-exist and create a peaceful rise with the Chinese in this theater. The ball is in their court to determine whether or not they are willing and able to do that.
What we're doing is, we're maintaining our traditional partnerships, friendships and alliances with African countries. And what we do here at Naval Forces Africa is focus on the maritime domain.
So just last week we conducted a maritime commanders conference here in Naples. And it's the first one we've done since 2015. I did it last time when I was Sixth Fleet commander and I found it very rewarding.
And as you saw earlier this week, the National Security Council and the White House released its Africa strategy. I'm pretty excited about that, because it underscores the importance of what we have been doing in the maritime domain since 2010 and that was my first tour here, from the Africa partnership station to our signature series express exercises. We do Cutlass Express in eastern Africa. We do Phoenix Express in North Africa. And we do Obangame Express in West Africa and the Gulf of Guinea.
We've been doing that for a very long time. And I think it's clear that the Navy is moving well along the strategy that was articulated this past week, the new Africa strategy, and our support for African navies.
LT DIXON: Now, Sir, what progress did you see in 2018 for both the U.S. Navy and our African partners?
ADM FOGGO: In 2018, we were very active in the maritime domain of the African continent. Our exercises and engagements helped our African partners increase their maritime security, their maritime domain awareness and the development of their navies, their coast guards and military institutions, including war colleges. They stood up a new war college in the country of Nigeria.
Prior to the CFMCC course, the combined force maritime component commander’s course, we held something called a MSWG, maritime security working group, here in Naples. We had representatives from U.S. embassies, U.S. State Department, African militaries, euro-Atlantic reps, people from Europe that are interested in security on the African continent.
And we are looking for any gaps in security force assistance. What is it that our African partners need?
And we gave them an opportunity to tell us that and to compile a list of things that we could do to help them.
LT DIXON: And sir, going back to the CFMCC held this December, what can you tell us about the conference and what is the way forward?
ADM FOGGO: So the CFMCC course in December brought everybody together to talk about shared experiences and look for innovative solutions to the challenges in the maritime.
When I was here in 2015, we talked about sea blindness along the coast of Africa. We don't talk about that anymore. I think everybody's pretty much aware how important maritime security is. And it's so important that we actually had the combatant commander, General Thomas Waldhauser, come down from Stuttgart for the day and meet with all these African leaders, as well as the U.S. ambassador to the African Union, Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard.
We had 16 African nations present and nine European nations and two North American nations and one South American nation. So, of the 55 countries in Africa, I don't know that you know this, but 38 actually have a coastline. And so maritime domain plays a key role in the overall security and stability of the continent.
Immediately following the course, we held a seminar on security force assistance, a roundtable in which European navies and the African navies that were interested attended, and we discussed their needs and what we might be able to do about it in 2019.
LT DIXON: And Sir, what was the final product of the conference and the seminar?
ADM FOGGO: So the final product from the conference and the security force assistance roundtable was what's our blueprint; what's our road map for 2019? How are we going to meld this series of exercises and relationships and engagements on the continent with ship visits and requirements to assist the African nations to become better at maintaining their own security?
And so, I'm looking forward to continued engagement in the Gulf of Guinea, continued engagement off the coast of North Africa, and I'll be in the area for the beginning of the Cutlass Express exercise early in the year, when we kick that off in East Africa.
LT DIXON: As we bring this podcast to a close, Admiral, do you have any final thoughts on 2018?
ADM FOGGO: Yeah. I think, you know, one of the things that strikes me is the fact that the maritime is becoming more and more and more important in the 21st Century.
And we see that every year, as we evolve, and we see other nations making capital investments in ships, not just container ships but war ships and not just war ships that float on the surface of the ocean, but submarines, which carry their own form of weapons systems and lethality.
And so, we've got to be very cognizant of that.
I've got a reading list that I update and vary from time to time, but one of my favorite authors is Robert Kaplan. He's got a book called "Asia's Cauldron." And in that book, he says that this is not just the maritime decade; it's the maritime century.
He's not just talking about the Pacific; he's talking about bodies of water everywhere, the importance of the maritime, the importance of the receding polar ice caps, as more maritime traffic and more war ship traffic occurs up north of the Arctic circle; the importance of the approach as to choke points, Straits of Gibraltar, the Suez Canal; the importance of sea lines of communication.
So, navies are important, and maritime security is important to commerce and prosperity, and that's important to all of us.
So, I look forward to another rewarding year in 2019 thanks to the men and women of the United States Naval Forces Europe and Africa. And I am very proud of their contribution to everything that we're doing here in this theater. And as the holiday season is upon us now, I hope that everyone will have a little time with their families to get a little R&R, and take a break and reset, because it's going to be a busy year in 2019, just like it was in 2018. And that goes for you, too, Lieutenant Dixon. I hope you have a good holiday.
LT DIXON: Thank you sir for the overview of 2018, the discussion on the accomplishments and challenges we face here in Europe and Africa. And as always, thank you for your time today. I hope you have a Merry Christmas and a great New Year. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
ADM FOGGO: Beat Army. (Laughter.)
LT DIXON: Thank you for listening to our 5th podcast as we continue the conversation about what has happened and what is on the horizon for Naval Forces Europe and Africa. The podcast is available on iTunes, Sound Cloud, Stitcher and Speaker. Please share this podcast with your friends and family. From our U.S. Navy family to yours, Happy Holidays. Until next time.