Guest author William Bayless: William spent 9 years on active duty Navy as an analyst with 2 years aboard the USS John F. Kennedy and duty stations in Maryland and the United Kingdom. He has an MBA as well as a two year degree in Information Systems and a solid foundation of basic cyber security principles and concepts.
The U.S. Navy’s 2nd fleet will be back and operational as of July 1, 2018 to counter a resurgent Russian Navy that has been on the rise for a number of years. The United States, along with NATO, seeks to counter this rise in Russian military power by shifting their focus from counterinsurgency, which has been the main focus of the United States since 9/11, to a strategy of containing a Russia and China that have had the advantage of catching up with American and NATO forces in terms of military strength, capabilities and global reach.
The U.S. Navy has divided areas of responsibility to different numbered fleets. Its 2nd fleet is operating out of Norfolk, VA, and has an area of responsibility that stretches from the East Coast of the United States to approximately halfway across the Atlantic where it meets with U.S. 6th Fleet based in Naples, Italy. Navy 5th fleet is based out of Bahrain, and 3rd fleet is based out of San Diego while 7th fleet is based out of Japan.
According to both American and Russian sources, the level of activity of Russian naval vessels and patrols has reached levels that have not been seen since the Cold War. Admiral Vladimir Korolyov, former Commander of Russia’s Northern Fleet, is on record saying that his submarines are spending as much time on patrols as they were just before the end of the Cold War. Admiral Korolyov is now in charge of the Russian Navy and has stated that the priority of the Northern Fleet is the exploration of the Arctic and safeguarding the interests of Russia in that region of the world.
The Arctic is a region that may become more and more strategically important as time passes. There are vast natural resources and of course the Northern Route which could potentially rival other sea routes for shipping, so Russia has a large interest in both the Arctic and in naval dominance. Countering the United States is also a high national priority for the Russians. The United States is the largest threat to their interests, so it seems we may be headed into another Cold War-type scenario where both forces are trying to gather intelligence, testing, and harassing one another.
Chief of Naval Forces Europe, James Foggo III, has stated that, “Once again, an effective, skilled, and technologically advanced Russian submarine force is challenging us. Russian submarines are prowling the Atlantic, testing our defenses, confronting our command of the seas, and preparing the complex underwater battlespace to give them an edge in any future conflict.”
The rise in Russian naval power is part of Russia’s interest in having their own capable naval force to project power from the sea to serve several purposes. First, to counter the American Navy and to project an image of strength from the sea much like the United States is able to project power by deploying capable and technologically sophisticated attacks anywhere in the world. The uptick in Russian naval activity is consistent with an overall strategy of Russia to be a more influential force in world politics and conflicts.
What exactly can they gain from these patrols? There is a lot to be gained by having regular maritime submarine and ship patrols. Intelligence gathering of all kinds can take place as well as testing the boundaries of what or how the United States will react if Russians come within close physical proximity to U.S. and allied ships. Submarines and naval warships are not the only Russian vessels on patrol. Russia has an actual spy ship, the SSV Victor Leonov, which has been spotted patrolling up and down the East Coast, most likely gathering intelligence on U.S. forces.
Both Russia and China have been increasingly active; levels of activity with Russian ships along the East Coast fall in line with trends happening with major military powers in general, hearkening back to Cold War-era hostilities with no slowdown in site. Keep in mind that Chinese military spending has skyrocketed and the Chinese look to be challenging our military dominance in the Pacific so these trends look like they may very well continue and should be countered by strategic shifting, like bringing back 2nd Fleet.
Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.