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US and NATO Forces: Deterrence through Combined Capabilities
In the latest edition of his podcast “On the Horizon: Navigating the European and African Theaters,” Adm. James G. Foggo III, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa and commander, Allied Joint Force Command Naples, Italy, discusses the start of exercise Trident Juncture 2018 and the concerns voiced by the Russian Federation, the importance of the NATO alliance, as well as Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group operating in the Norwegian Sea, and his recent publications concerning the challenges in the North Atlantic and Arctic.
Foggo also discussed NATO relationship with Iceland and why this island nation is pivotal in protecting Europe and North America. Foggo ends the podcast with his concerns about threats to Europe’s security.
“NATO must be prepared to deter the most capable adversaries,” said Foggo. In this episode he reinforces the importance of NATO adjusting to the changing security environment.
Trident Juncture and NATO Alliance
Trident Juncture officially started, Oct. 25, with 50,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, and more than 150 aircraft, 65 ships, and 10,000 vehicles from 31 participating allies and partners.
It is the largest NATO exercises since the Cold War. In addition to all the NATO-member military units, the U.S. Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group and the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group are participating.
To provide context, Foggo said, “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.”
He said the exercise “encourages relationship building” and “allows us to conduct interoperability of our communication systems,” while acknowledging austere weather conditions and the logistical challenges, which he noted logistics as “the sixth domain of warfare.”
NATO has come together, bringing its military might, to demonstrate it can “plan and conduct a major collective defense operation, from troop training at the tactical level, to command over large numbers of forces,” Foggo said about the exercise. Tying all of this together, Foggo said that this will help deter future aggression from those who would try to violate the sovereignty of anyone of NATO’s members.
“I Don’t Buy It”
When asked about reports that Russian Federation officials said the exercise increases tension in the region, he said “I don’t buy it.” He explained Russia has been formally briefed that this a defensive exercise. NATO has invited Russian observers, and NATO leaders have been transparent about the exercise throughout the stages of its development.
Foggo and other NATO leaders have assured Russia that they have nothing to fear. The exercise is defensive and meant to restore the sovereignty of a NATO member nation. The scenario is fictitious, but will provide very real lessons to learn and strengthen the alliance’s resilience.
Truman Strike Group Makes History
Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group is the first strike group in decades to operate in the Norwegian Sea above the Arctic Circle.
Foggo said, “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.”
“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 are rebuilding our muscle memory. It's very important that we take those lessons back home for other future strike group deployments,” he said.
Foggo said the reason for this more unconventional deployment stems from the U.S. secretary of defense’s new concept, Dynamic Force Employment. This will “keep opponents back on their heels, be a little bit unpredictable,” he said.
While the carrier was in the Norwegian Sea, NATO Secretary General Jus Stoltenberg, a former prime minister of Norway, and U.S. Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, commander of U.S. European Command, and NATO Supreme Allied Commander, visited the carrier to observe strike group operations and hear how the ships and air wing will contribute to Trident Juncture.
Foggo, throughout the podcast, referenced the Truman Carrier Strike Group as part of that same message to deter future aggression.
Gatekeeper of the High North
Foggo also discussed his recent visit to Iceland ahead of Trident Juncture to commemorate the Battle of the Atlantic and witness U.S. Marines practicing an amphibious landing and air assault. On his return, he published a blog on the importance of the North Atlantic and by extension Iceland’s importance to the security of the North Atlantic, Arctic and NATO.
The amphibious exercise had to be modified due to weather, but the Marines were able to conduct the air assault. Foggo embarked the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) operating off the coast of Iceland and observed the air assault from the ship and ashore. He said “the Marines prepared and performed spectacularly.”
During the Battle of the Atlantic commemoration, Foggo stressed Iceland was strategically located and the Icelanders kept watch over the Atlantic to this very day. He continued that “it is at a crossroads and a gateway between Europe and North America.”
In the podcast he then described the history of the Greenland, Iceland and United Kingdom gap during WWII and its significance today. The convoys that resupplied the Allies and Russian units that faced the Axis powers had to stop or go by Iceland. Thus, making this maritime environment critical to the success of the war effort, tilted in favor of the Allies. The battle lasted 68 months and claimed more than 110,000 lives before finally ending May 4, 1945.
Today, Iceland remains a critical NATO ally not only because of its location in the North Atlantic as the gateway between North America and Europe, but also its commitment to peace and stability – a commitment shared by the NATO alliance.
Foggo emphasized that these waterways are essential to answering the call of an Article 5 where the movement of supplies and troops would need to happen.
Answering the Call
Foggo and Dr. Alavik Fritz, of Center for Naval Analyses, coauthored a chapter called, “NATO and the Challenge in the North Atlantic and the Arctic.” The chapter was recently published in the Royal United Services Institute White Hall Papers.
The chapter was a follow up to a 2016 article the two coauthored about “The Fourth Battle of the Atlantic.” Foggo described the 2016 article as “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… Arctic Ocean, the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, and even the Black Sea.”
In the new chapter, they provide how the United States and NATO are answering the call. Echoing his remarks at a Pentagon Press Conference, Foggo stated “Russia is not 10 feet tall…” and “U.S. submarines are superior to Russians and we hold the acoustic advantage.”
He advised that we have to keep this advantage moving forward.
The second part of his chapter discussed anti-submarine warfare and how it is a team sport to include not just submarines, but surface, air, cyber and highlighted what “our allies and our partners bring to bear in this game of cat and mouse in the undersea domain.”
Foggo then shifted to discuss recent aggressive behavior by groups outside of NATO and how they “clearly place more emphasis on escalation dominance than escalation avoidance.”
“Our NATO forces sticking together are significantly capable, postured and ready to deter and, if necessary, defeat any aggression that we face,” said Foggo.
“We operate forward across the globe, but always with our allies and partners as the U.S. Navy,” he said. “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.”
He ended with, “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.”
U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, 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.