LT DIXON: In today’s podcast, "On the Horizon: Navigating the European and African Theaters," Admiral Foggo and I will talk about his time at the Munich Security Conference and his thoughts on the security environment in Europe and Africa.
Admiral Foggo, thank you for joining us.
ADM FOGGO: Hey, Lieutenant Dixon, it's great to see you again. And I look forward to our continuing conversation.
And, yes, the Munich Security Conference was an important engagement to discuss today's security challenges and how we can, as a collective group, i.e. NATO, address these mutual challenges, both in Europe and across the globe.
LT DIXON: At the Munich Security Conference in February, we heard speakers like U.S. Vice President Pence, acting secretary of defense and many other U.S. and NATO leaders. What can you tell us about your time there?
ADM FOGGO: Well, Lieutenant Dixon, the Munich Security Conference debates the world's most relevant security challenges. And it draws attention to issues that might not yet be at the top of the security community's agenda.
So coming together in this type of forum, we're able to emphasize the necessity of a unified response to challenges. And we highlight our actions in response to our own national security priorities and those of NATO and NATO's responses to these challenges.
Now, the U.S. military presence at the conference and that includes General Scaparrotti, General Waldhauser, commander of AFRICOM, and myself; we were privileged to be there in person, assured our friends and partners of our strong support for NATO, our strong support for our activities in Africa through AFRICOM, and our unwavering commitment to the transatlantic alliance.
But let me leave you with this, Lieutenant Dixon. From a NATO commander's perspective, when addressing security concerns from Russia or China, I always like to highlight the following things.
One, NATO is the most powerful and successful alliance in history. It's the cornerstone of European defense and transatlantic security for the last 70 years.
Two, every NATO ally realizes that Russia remains a key security threat that seeks to divide NATO.
And, three, the U.S., our NATO allies and our partners stand together to ensure Europe is whole, free and prosperous.
And lastly, we stand united with our NATO allies and partners against Russian aggression and a big disinformation campaign.
So as a U.S. Navy commander and a NATO commander, as I've said many times before, the United States will defend its allies, the principled international order and the positive future that this order provides.
In my opinion, NATO continues to be the most successful alliance in history. NATO has been and will continue to be the cornerstone of European defense and transatlantic security for the next 70 years. "It's not time to retire yet," as my friend Admiral Jim Stavridis, has said in the past.
LT DIXON: And Sir, during the conference, you were part of a few panels that discussed the security environment. What can you tell us about what was said in those panels?
ADM FOGGO: Yeah, there were some terrific panels led by some very experienced people. And of course, the Chatham House Rule applies. So I'm not going to quote anybody.
But I will tell you that one of the really interesting panels I participated in and I was flattered that General Petraeus, former CENTCOM commander who ran the panel, asked me for comment concerning the future force structure, you know, of the Joint Force, both for the United States of America and also our allies and partners.
It's a really interesting question because, you know, there's a lot of new systems out there that are in development. Hypersonic. There was a separate panel on hypersonic missiles. And those can be very scary. Very little reaction time.
Unmanned systems, which are all over the place now. And you see drones operating throughout the theater, and even shutting down airports in Europe as a function of their unauthorized presence over the tarmac.
Lasers. And we're trying to fast-track laser weapons systems out into the fleet. Railguns with an infinite magazine. No powder charge. Very important. Cyber-effects.
All of these are transformational. And not just evolutionary, but disruptive technologies that we need to get into the Joint Force. So we need to fast-track the research and development, and the delivery to the fleet.
That said, you know, we've talked about this in the past, using terms like "the Third Offset strategy." And back during my first assignment in the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, you know, I worked for General Myers, an Air Force general who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
People would ask him about the terms of art at that time frame, back in the early 2000s. One of them was the revolution in military affairs. And another was transformation.
And when he answered the question about transformation or the revolution in military affairs, General Myers would say sometimes, "Hey, this is like wing-walking in the flying circus of old," you know? Back in the in the era of the First World War with biplanes, where people actually used to walk the wings on those biplanes.
And he said, "You know, one of the key attributes to success if you're a wing-walker is, you don't let go of that firm grip that you have on a strut to reach out for the next one, until you've got a firm grip on the next strut." Otherwise, you fall off the airplane.
And so if you put that in context, we need to ensure that we are rapidly developing new systems in the 21st century, and getting them out to the fleet.
But the way I answered the question in the room about future force structure is, we have to maintain our ability to mass forces anywhere.
LT DIXON: And, Sir, if you don’t mind, what is a good recent instance of this, or an example for our audience?
ADM FOGGO: And I use Trident Juncture as an example, 50,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines in or off the coast of Norway or in the air over the airspace of Norway and Scandinavia. Two hundred and fifty aircraft, 70 ships.
Some of those ships were big flat decks like the USS Harry S. Truman and her strike group. Hadn't operated that high north since the Cold War.
Expeditionary Strike Group 2 from Norfolk, the II Marine Expeditionary Force from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and 10,000 tractor rolling vehicles in an Article 5 operation to push an adversary out of the sovereign territory of Norway.
We moved seven equivalent brigades in about 30 days. That was mass. That's important in the here and now, today.
But in the future, I agree that we've got to fund R&D and fast-track these systems to get them out there. But I want to hold a firm grip on that strut before I grab the next one, if you know what I mean.
LT DIXON: And, Sir, what was the discussion concerning Russia and China in relation to the security environment?
ADM FOGGO: Other things discussed threats that both Russia and China present. We're certainly facing a resurgent Russia here in Europe, which is becoming, unfortunately, more and more aggressive each day.
And in the past few years, Russia has sought to change borders by force and undertaken a rather significant military build-up. Biggest example of this is Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea from the Ukraine, and their attempt to take control of the Sea of Azov. And that is disturbing to me.
What you're seeing now is an attempt by Russia to control the Sea of Azov, not just in denying access to the Ukrainians but also restricting access to shipping traffic from other parts of the world.
Aside from its aggressive behavior, the verbal threats from Russia are also increasing. Russia is threatening to conduct strikes against U.S. targets, and is threatening ships in the northern sea route of the Arctic Ocean, if Russia doesn't receive 45 days' advance notice of the intent to transit the Northwest Passage.
That's just not in accordance with innocent passage in the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. So from the arctic, the Black Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean, Russian rhetoric and actions are more provocative than ever.
So, to summarize, continued aggression in Georgia, Ukraine, and Sea of Azov. Violation of arms control treaties like INF, and other international agreements and, above all, nuclear saber-rattling, are not what the world expects or needs from a responsible power in the 21st century.
LT DIXON: And with China making inroads into Africa, what are you seeing change in the region and what is the balance to this shift?
ADM FOGGO: And as far as China's concerned, we see China attempting to gain regional influence throughout the African theater of operations, and that is of concern to both me as the commander of Naval Forces Africa, and the commander of AFRICOM, General Waldhauser. I think we'd prefer a peaceful rise of the People's Republic of China. And quite frankly, the jury is still out on that.
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NARRATOR: During Admiral Foggo’s participation in the Munich Security Counsel he spoke with members of the Pentagon press corps about his perspective of the security environment in Europe and Africa. The follow audio clip is from that discussion:
ADM FOGGO: So presence operations in the Black Sea to show solidarity not only with the Ukrainians, I just had the Black Sea conference. I did one in 2015 when I was Sixth Fleet, I did another one in the fall of last year and invited all of the CNOs to come.
And RADM Mitko Petev from Bulgaria, who's a great friend, came. He's got a number of staff officers on his staff that are all Naval War College English speakers, terrific guy, understands the maritime and the importance of the Black Sea.
VADM Alexandru Mirsu from Romania came, CAPT Temur Kvantaliani, who's the Coast Guard Commander from Georgia came, VADM Ihor Voronchenko, who is the CNO of the Ukrainian Navy came, and ADM Adnan Ozbal, who is the Turkish CNO and just got his fourth star, came.
And we all had a very robust discussion about security in the Black Sea. And what we all want, including me, is a safe and secure environment in an international body of water where there could be a free flow across the sea lines of communication and commerce so that it generates prosperity for everybody involved there.
And that would include the Russians too, if they played the game the way you would expect them to as a responsible power. But that whole episode in the Sea of Azov was extremely bothersome to me.
LT DIXON: Now, sir, we just heard an audio clip from when you spoke to the media at the Munich Security Conference, concerning the Black Sea being a major security challenge for the global community.
What is the U.S. Navy and NATO response to the security challenge in and around the Black Sea?
ADM FOGGO: Well, Lieutenant Dixon, the U.S. is committed to maintaining freedom of movement within international waters for all nations.
The Black Sea is an international waterway, access through which is governed by international law including the Montreux Convention. And the country of Turkey does an excellent job of regulating traffic through the Straits of the Bosporus in and out of the Black Sea.
The United States and NATO are active, with more ships in the Black Sea region. We provide deterrence through our military presence, our exercises and the training we conduct with allies and partners there.
We will continue to conduct these exercises and operations in the Black Sea, to maintain a credible and capable deterrent capability.
Just recently for example, we had the USS Donald Cook in the Black Sea twice, first conducting a WASEX, or a war at sea exercises, with our Turkish allies.
The ship also pulled into Odesa, Ukraine, where the president of Ukraine and numerous U.S. and European ambassadors, including the United States Special Envoy to the Ukraine, Ambassador Kurt Volker, came down to the ship. He's a former NATO ambassador and he's now trying to work out a solution to the crisis on the border in Ukraine.
All of these diplomats met to discuss security matters aboard a U.S.-guided missile destroyer alongside the pier. Now, that, in my humble opinion, is the epitome of the Navy as an extended arm of diplomacy.
Ambassador Volker said it best just before he came on board Donald Cook. "Our visit here is to strengthen our partnership and show support for the principles of freedom, of navigation in the Black Sea."
Additionally, while the Donald Cook was up there in the Black Sea, the Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 was operating there as well. This group of multinational ships serve a similar mission to our presence in the area. They demonstrate alliance resolve and they foster solidarity.
This was Donald Cook's second time to operate in the Black Sea this year, as well as the third time that U.S. ships were in the Black Sea.
So the bottom line, Lieutenant Dixon, is Russia continues to push the envelope in trying to expand their borders and influence. I mentioned that this year is the 70th anniversary of NATO. Sadly, it's also the fifth anniversary since Crimea was illegally annexed by Russia.
It's important, now more than ever, that we show support for our friends and partners in the Ukraine.
AUDIO BREAK #2
NARRATOR: This is an audio clip that comes from the same discussion Admiral Foggo had with members of the Pentagon Press pool.
ADM FOGGO: Well you know there's an agreement between Russia and the Ukraine that dates back to 2003 on how to operate peacefully and civilly between two nations in Sea of Azov. It's connected to the Black Sea through the Kerch Straits, but is not an area, for example in which NATO would operate, right? This is between two sovereign nations Ukraine and Russia who came up with this agreement.
Then fast-forward to Sochi Olympics in 2014 and illegal annexation of Crimea, and then the Russians built quickly the Kerch Bridge to seal the connection between Mother Russia and Crimea so they don't have to go over water, or they don't have to drive around a very long distance.
And in the middle of all of that, in the Sea of Azov this is the Mariupol, which is a very important economic hub for the Ukrainians. And Russian activity in the last year has become progressively more aggressive and restrictive, and access through the Kerch Straits, in to the Sea of Azov and to Mariupol, particularly for the Ukrainians, and so they've done it on purpose, it's economic strangulation.
And so I think the Ukrainians had enough, and they challenged the Russians and you saw what happened, three of their ships have been seized, and 24 sailors have been put in prison in Moscow, and let me tell you that irritates me to no end. There are uniformed Ukrainian sailors and officers, and chiefs; they're not criminals and they're being charged under criminal code.
They should be protected under the Geneva Convention, which is why the United States and other NATO allies have come to the table and said, "Release them immediately." And they still continue to hold them that is just absolutely wrong. And it is not the kind of behavior that you would expect from a major power, which Russia wants to be.
So they should release those sailors; those sailors didn't do anything wrong. They were sailing in international waters.
LT DIXON: We just heard your reaction to when the Ukrainian sailors were captured by the Russians as they were trying to sail in international waters through the Kerch Strait into the Sea of Azov. Why does this bother you so much and why should the U.S. and NATO demand their release?
ADM FOGGO: Well, Russia's actions to impede maritime transit in a place like the Sea of Azov undermines and destabilizes the Ukraine as well as violates international norms and standards of behavior. It's just not the kind of behavior that you would expect from a nation, i.e. Russia, that wants to be a responsible player in the international domain.
So aside from the military actions forcefully seizing three Ukrainian vessels and 24 sailors, Russia is also using its military power to hurt the Ukrainian economy, and in particular traffic in and out of the city of Mariupol. Russia is using various methods to punish the Ukrainians through its economy, restriction of shipping traffic into and out of the Sea of Azov. And it's costing the Ukrainians upwards of millions of euros a year.
There's a binding agreement from 2003 between Russia and Ukraine on how to regulate shipping traffic and commerce there. I urge restraint on the part of both parties. And I would urge the Russians to release those Ukrainian sailors and return them home immediately.
LT DIXON: And, sir, during the conference we heard a lot of new policy and major decisions concerning the INF treaty and the potential for an arms race. What are your thoughts on this as the commander of all U.S. naval forces in Europe and Africa and a NATO commander?
ADM FOGGO: That's a great question. To start off with the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, Russia's violation of the INF treaty poses a direct threat to the United States and our allies. It's simple. As President Trump stated, Russia has left us no choice but to withdraw from the treaty. The United States cannot be the only country effectively bound by this treaty or any other.
Regrettably, the INF treaty is no longer an example of such an effective arms control agreement due to Russia's ongoing material breach.
Our NATO allies understand that INF is an important component to European security. The U.S. government and our NATO allies are working to bring Russia back into compliance before the end of a six-month grace period. So, Lieutenant Dixon, let me just take a quick moment here to highlight a few differences between the United States and Russia.
Our deployments and military presence are intended to deter and defend, to prevent, not provoke a conflict. Our efforts are transparent. With Russia there's little transparency. It is taking land from other countries and has seized another country's sovereign ships and sailors. It's acting irresponsibly.
And my concern is the continued aggression and increased tension will lead to a miscalculation.
So we're concerned about Russian behavior. And we must be prepared to ensure a stable and prosperous Europe and North America. The one constant that guides our policies, our operations, and our forces is that regardless of whatever regional challenges it is addressing, it must also be prepared to deter the most capable adversary.
And, of course, this doesn't mean that such a conflict is likely. Our hope has always been that Russia will be fully and peacefully integrated into the rules-based and prosperous global system established after World War II.
With all of this, NATO and the United States Navy have been training and participating in over 50 major exercises a year for decades. This is not so we can invade another country and take away its territory, but to defend our allies and partners and keep peace and stability in Europe.
Russia's words and actions are quite the opposite of ours as they look to destabilize regions, cause confrontation in the hopes of expanding their borders, and bringing chaos and division to Europe and NATO. This is not just a regional threat, but a global threat. And European countries understand this as I do.
LT DIXON: Admiral, as always, thank you for your time.
ADM FOGGO: Thank you, Lieutenant Dixon, see you next time.
LT DIXON: “We hope you have enjoyed this episode of “On the Horizon; Navigating the European and African Theaters.” Please share the Podcast with your friends and family. And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.
Join us next time to hear what the U.S. Navy is doing throughout Europe and Africa. Until next time, thank you.