NEWS | May 1, 2020

Top Admiral in Europe and Africa Talks Alliances, Great Power Competition, and Pandemics

By U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa Public Affairs

Adm. James G. Foggo III, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, and commander, Allied Joint Force Command Naples, was the guest speaker for U.S. Naval Institute’s 147th annual meeting, held virtually, April 30, 2020.

During his remarks, Foggo discussed the great power competition with Russia and China and the importance of working with allies and partners to come up with creative solutions to counter new threats.

He began by attesting to the significance of having a professional platform for Sailors to read, think, speak, and write.

“I encourage our younger leaders – especially the junior officers, chief petty officers, and [other] Sailors out there – to join the debate, share your insights and innovative approaches,” said Foggo. “We have much to learn from each other.”

The admiral discussed the importance of the European and African theaters and their place in the great power competition with Russia and China.

“Competition can be good,” said Foggo. “It keeps us innovating and makes us better. If we rise to the challenge, prosperity and success will follow. We, as Americans, must continue leading the way as technology leaders and innovators, as well as guarantors of the global economic system.”

He also addressed the current crisis with COVID-19 and the important work the U.S. Navy is doing to help counter the new seventh domain of warfare – germs.

“We are now facing unprecedented times as we adapt to the new normal of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Foggo. “Your Navy is leading the way... [We have] provided 70 percent of the Department of Defense’s deployed medical forces.”

Part of the response to COVID-19 has been an increased use of electronic media to ensure people remain socially connected though remaining physically distant. The admiral praised the accessibility of virtual meetings such as USNI’s annual meeting, emphasizing the importance of coming up with creative solutions to minimize exposure.

“We have made excellent use of information technology and virtual meetings,” said Foggo.

“This kind of technology that connects us virtually is worthy of additional investment, and part of that investment must be protection of the networks.”

In addition to the protection of virtual assets, Foggo highlighted the importance of ensuring freedom of navigation to protect the global economy.

“Maritime trade is crucial to economic prosperity,” said Foggo. “The world’s oceans are economic superhighways; free and open trade routes are critical. More than 90 percent of trade by volume transits the seas… If maritime access is cut, global commerce will be devastated.”

While nations focus on the global pandemic, Foggo asserted that the U.S. can’t let down its guard. He referenced Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps ships harassing U.S. warships in the Middle East and unsafe Russian intercepts of U.S. Navy aircraft in the Mediterranean Sea.

He highlighted three guided-missile destroyers operating throughout the European theater – from the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean to the Black Sea – over the past month, partnering with France, Italy, Lithuania, and the United Kingdom.

“We sent a powerful message – we’re open for business,” said Foggo. “We’re seeing the importance of presence, as we work together to fight the coronavirus pandemic. Countries look to America for help and leadership.”

The admiral compared U.S. efforts to Chinese efforts, particularly on the African continent, assuring those participating in the virtual meeting that it is crucial to foster relationships with our partners in the region.

“We’re seeing tremendous investments [in Africa], but on Chinese terms,” said Foggo. “They bring their own support structure, their own workers. This is in complete contrast to how we do business… The Chinese aren’t focused on improving the local economy – they’re gaining access.”

The biggest edge for U.S. forces in the great power competition is the partnerships we forge with regional allies and partners, according to Foggo.

“Our advantage is that we’re the ‘friend of choice,’” said Foggo. “They respect our values, our commitment to freedom, and the quality of our equipment and services… They know we don’t have strings attached to partnership; we’re there to help them sail ships, to help fix ships. I ask only for friendship!”

He discussed the disinformation being pushed by adversaries regarding the coronavirus and how they are using the ‘infodemic’ as a weapon.

“A big part of this will be strategic communications, [and] that includes social media,” said Foggo. “We need to ensure the right messages are getting out. Others aren’t bound to the same ethics and rules that we adhere to.”

Foggo concluded his remarks by reiterating the importance of fostering relationships with those who share common goals and interests to improve collective operations and counter potential threats.

“Building alliances and partnerships improves global security and stability,” said Foggo. “Alliances and partnerships allow us to remain competitive and interoperable.”

The admiral was joined by Fleet Master Chief Derrick “Wally” Walters, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa Fleet Master Chief. He spoke to the virtual group about Sailor resiliency.

U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.