Wednesday, October 2, 2019

More Ships For Europe? Why?

Has any naval commander, anywhere, ever, said he needed less ships?  Of course not!  Commanders always want more ships whether they need them or not.  If nothing else, command of more ships enhances their personal prestige.  So, in a stunning utterly predictable development, the commander of US naval forces in Europe, Admiral James Foggo (Commander, Allied Joint Force Command Naples/Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe/Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Africa – how’s that for a title?) has announced that he wants more ships.

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 prestige 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,


  1. Russia needs an enemy, Russia always needs an enemy.
    Enemies are much cheaper and simpler than building civil society, and they play better on RT.
    Adm. Foggo can keeps his DDs (BMD yes ?)
    , the EPFs could be parked back at home.
    If the US wants to pull Russia's chain, ask the Poles if they like some nukes.

    1. Russia didn't need to be an enemy. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, we had the opportunity to help them rebuild, as we did Germany and Japan after WWII, in a cooperative fashion. We failed to do that and, instead, maintained an antagonistic relationship.

      Would they have turned into our very best buddies? Probably not but they didn't have to turn into enemies.

      Yes, now they need enemies for internal political consumption but there was a time when we could have been a friend or, at least, a not-enemy. A lost opportunity for us.

    2. The irony is - China is a big problem for the West and Russia, but it suits Russia to have the West confront China and keep China's attention.
      Also - what did China learn from Japan's foray? If anything happens there will be bite sized efforts then consolidate (bite sized so as not to start a conflagration too big).
      China can wait, except for energy resources. That is China's growth limiting problem.

  2. Wow, so Russian militarized Kaliningrad, wonder how demilitarized it was under the Soviet Union!!! SO 1 or 2 more DDGs will solve the problem? LOL! Just curious though, are we going to invade Kaliningrad anytime soon? Why the hell should we care how much they have armed the region? I'm pretty sure our SOP is we wouldn't bother with anything under 100kt MIRVs, realistically, we would need better ICBMs to deal with Kaliningrad then more DDGs in the region....

  3. "four destroyers, two expeditionary fast transports, and a command vessel..."
    Doesnt 6th Fleet have a carrier (two??)anymore? My trips to the Med always saw multiple carriers there....

    1. Deployments. Nowadays carriers would be in slow transit to the Gulf...or in a hurry as the case may be.
      The 4 DDG at Rota on Spains Atlantic coast and Mount Whitney is based in the Naples area .

  4. Just send a LCS with NSMs onboard, military blogs going gaga over it. I'm sure Russians will behave from now on once they see the threat....

  5. You are spot on—we don’t have a geopolitical strategy.

    We’re still stuck in the Cold War. At Bretton Woods, at the end of WWII, we told our allies that they could have one-way access to our markets so they could rebuild their war-torn economies, and we would protect their sea lines of communication so they wouldn’t have to rebuild their war-destroyed military forces. In return, they had to take our side in the Cold War. We basically bribed up an alliance.

    The problem is that it worked, and once the Berlin Wall fell, we didn’t know what to do next. In 1992, Ross Perot said something that I had been thinking for years, “In the post-Cold-War world, economic power will be more important than military power.” It was a major paradigm shift, but we didn’t shift, and we have spent the 30 years since clinging to a strategy that is no longer valid.

    So now we have trade deficits not just with China but also with Europe and most of the world, and in our world policeman role we are fighting a bunch of winless wars with rules of engagement that guarantee failure. We have forgotten lesson one from Vietnam—Never fight a war that you don’t intend to win.

    While we are tied down in the Middle East, China has been using its economic power to create spheres of influence all over Africa, and is starting to work on South America. And not one Chinese soldier has lost life or limb to make it happen. While we are defending the oil supply chain upon which China is totally dependent, they are buying ports and influence all over South Asia, Africa, and Europe. Give them a country with a distressed economy, and they show up with checkbooks. It is not sustainable, but for now it is working.

    Here’s the way I see it. There are three potential hot spots in the world, each with its own would-be hegemon—Eastern Europe with Russia, the Middle East with Iran, and the China Sea with China. Each of those would-be hegemons has demographic and economic issues that threaten or doom their prospects for long-term success. If we can hold on long enough, like we did with the Soviets in the Cold War, they will self-destruct. So it seems to me that a reasonable strategy is help our allies maintain a balance of power to restrain each of the would-be hegemons, and use our global power to keep any regional conflict confined, rather than getting directly involved. I don’t see us invading Russia, or Iran, or China. It is basically a containment military strategy, with a strategy to use our economic might to win.

    As Perot suggested, and as China is doing now, I think we need to use our economic leverage to influence the world, instead of trying to assert ourselves by fighting no-win wars. We should have the strongest military in the world, by miles, and never have to use it—because nobody dares pick on us, and we don’t go around picking on them. Reagan basically won the Cold War by putting more pressure on the Soviet economy than they could handle. I think it’s there for us to do it again.

    Sorry if this is too political, but it is the approach that I think fits the world today instead of the world of 1945-1989. It’s not a fully comprehensive grand strategy, but it’s at least some principles that I think are worth considering.

    1. You know what's really sad CDR: you did a better job, more succinct and to the point of summing up and giving a solution to something that has ALLUDED USG and all DC think tanks for the last 30 years!!!! Bravo!!!!!

  6. NICO, since I'm the only person identified as CDR on this thread, I'm going to guess that your comments were directed at me. If so, thank you.

    I don't know that I have it figured out, but I do think my ideas deserve consideration.


Comments will be moderated for posts older than 7 days in order to reduce spam.