The head of Naval Forces Europe is making a pitch for more ships to provide presence, training and crisis response capability in his area of the world, even as tensions are rising globally.
Adm. James Foggo told USNI News that he’s seeing more Russian ships, submarines and aircraft in the Atlantic and Arctic oceans and the Baltic, Black and Mediterranean seas, as well as words and actions from Russians that can ratchet up tensions in the region.
U.S. 6th Fleet, which falls under Naval Forces Europe, has four destroyers, two expeditionary fast transports and a command ship at its disposal on a routine basis. Foggo said he needs more. (1)
So, the good Admiral needs more ships? Why? What will more ships do that we can’t do now?
From what I’ve observed, our ships are doing nothing productive now. We’re not physically confronting Russia. We’re not drawing any lines and then enforcing them. We’re not preventing their presence anywhere. We’re not harassing their submarines. We’re not harassing their aircraft. We’re not employing any countermeasures, whatever form that might take. Thus, more ships would just mean more ships being unproductive and racking up maintenance wear and tear.
Instead, we just sail around, raising tensions by our very presence.
Foggo cites 125 days of 6th Fleet naval presence in the Black Sea as something positive. How, specifically, is that of benefit? Have we modified Russian behavior, in a positive direction, by being there? I know we’ve angered them so we’ve modified their behavior in a negative direction. I’m not against angering or confronting the Russians but only if we gain something from it and I can’t see anything we gain from mere presence with no force backing it up. Our default policy is appeasement, as we’ve discussed many times. Well, appeasement combined with presence merely produces resentment by the target with absolutely no benefit.
Would more ships in the area have prevented the Russian annexation of Crimea? Would more ships in the are have prevented the Russian invasion of Ukraine? Would more ships in the area have persuaded the Russians not to violate the INF treaty? Would more ships in the stop the ongoing unsafe harassments of US ships and aircraft by Russian aircraft?
… Foggo said, the threats in the region are serious and growing … (1)
So, Foggo acknowledges that the threats are growing. Wait a minute … We have a permanent naval presence there that was supposed to prevent threats from growing and yet they obviously did not. So, having proven, by Foggo’s own statement, that the presence of naval assets doesn’t diminish threats and, instead, actually increases them, why would more ships produce a better result?
“They have militarized Kaliningrad, there is a lot of hardware in the form of anti-access/area-denial capability, anti-ship cruise missiles and [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] systems that allow targeting of NATO forces while they’re in the Baltic,” he [Foggo] said.
The Russians have done the same thing in Crimea after annexing it from Ukraine. (1)
Again, we had a naval presence and it clearly accomplished nothing as far as reducing threats and may well have provided the motivation for the Russians to increase the number, type, and prevalence of threats. So why would we want to send more ships to accomplish nothing? Can’t we accomplish nothing with the ships we already have there?
He [Foggo] came back to the need for more ships as a remedy, saying, “our strong presence in the theater is a deterrent in and of itself.” (1)
Clearly, Admiral, our presence is deterring nothing. More ships are not the answer – a better geopolitical strategy is the answer. We need specific, achievable objectives. If ships can contribute to the accomplishment of those objectives then, sure, we’ll give you more ships. However, absent any coherent strategy or objectives, more ships are pointless and a good argument can be made that they are counterproductive.
Having thoroughly debunked the Admiral’s desire for more
ships, let’s now turn our attention to another major reason why more ships is a
bad idea: Europe should defend Europe.
While we needed to support Europe as they recovered from the carnage of
WWII, that time is now gone. It’s long
past time for Europe to defend itself. If
Admiral Foggo is genuinely concerned about Russian threats to Europe, he should
be calling for Europe to step up and defend itself. I won’t belabor this because we’ve covered
this in previous posts (see, “Europe – Why?”).
In short, absent a viable strategy and specific, achievable objectives, there is no good reason to ask for or grant more ships for Europe.
(1)USNI News website, “Admiral: U.S. Needs More Ships in Europe to Counter Growing Russian Threats”, Megan Eckstein, 1-Oct-2019,https://news.usni.org/2019/10/01/admiral-u-s-needs-more-ships-in-europe-to-counter-growing-russian-threats