Adm. Foggo: China is a Growing Concern for U.S. Naval Forces Europe

Adm. Foggo, right, with Admiral of the Spanish Fleet Adm. Manuel Garat Caramé (left) and Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters, Commander of U.S. European Command (center) (USN)

Published Jun 30, 2020 1:53 PM by Navy Live

It seems counter-intuitive, but China is increasingly a concern for the commander of U.S. Naval Forces in Europe and Africa and NATO's Allied Joint Force Command. Navy Adm. James G. Foggo recently told the participants of a webinar sponsored by the International Institute of Strategic Studies that China is actively working in Europe and Africa to subvert the international rules-based infrastructure that has maintained peace since the end of World War II.

China's whole-of-government approach has expanded out of the Indo-Pacific into the Arctic, Europe and Africa. In this region, China is conducting unsafe intercepts of aircraft and ships, he said. It is threatening nations. China has established an overseas military base in the Horn of Africa, and is looking to control other ports. China is "purchasing news outlets and entertainment companies to push its propaganda and erase any criticism against its government," he said. Chinese leaders are meddling in elections across the world, "restricting information about the coronavirus and donating equipment and personnel, even in Europe, as a way to show that it is a world leader."

The Chinese One Belt, One Road initiative combines economic, diplomatic, military and political arms to change the international rules-based architecture. They are offering financial relief and opportunities to nations, especially in Africa, and then using that to influence the governments. "This type of influence is a security concern, and it could be used to restrict access to key seaports and airport facilities while providing access to sensitive government and military information through the technology of state-owned and state-controlled enterprises," he warned.

Great power competition

In the past decade, a lot has changed. Ten years ago, it was possible for U.S. officials to envision working with China and Russia. But that was before Russia illegally annexed Crimea from Ukraine. That was before China started building and fortifying islands in the South China Sea and East China Sea. That was before both nations began a huge military build-up, and before both nations conducted cyber operations against other nations. Finally, that was before Russia and China meddled in domestic politics.

"China has even labeled itself as a 'near Arctic country,'" Foggo said, complicating an already complicated situation as new sea lanes of communication open in the North. "The diminishing ice coverage is causing competition to emerge in this new area . . . The High North is attracting global interest with abundant natural resources and opening maritime routes that have not been navigable before."

Russia, with its long Arctic coast, is aggressively pursuing its interests in the region. They are building new ice breakers and arming them with offensive weaponry. They are re-occupying old Soviet era bases. "We're seeing a new era of maritime competition in the Arctic, and strong navies are needed to protect common interests and ensure the timely flow of trade," he said.

Russia's North Atlantic presence

The North Atlantic is an integral part of the name of the most successful military alliance in history. Foggo believes NATO is involved in the Fourth Battle of the Atlantic. The first battle was World War I, the second during World War II and the third being the Cold War. Last year, unclassified sources indicated there were 10 Russian submarines underway in the North Atlantic. This is a lot even when compared to Cold War sailings, he said. Russia has also already earmarked five new attack submarines for the Northern Fleet. "We still have the competitive advantage in the undersea domain . . . but they're pretty good at their tradecraft," he said.

The U.S. Second Fleet is meant to counter this development. "The North Atlantic is critical to NATO's collective security, and whoever can exert control over this region could either protect or threaten NATO's northern flank," Foggo said. "The North Atlantic is therefore synonymous with our security and our sovereignty."

Tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean

The Eastern Mediterranean "is becoming one of the most kinetic places in the world," Foggo said. Russian forces are propping up the Syrian regime. They have submarines in the region capable of hitting European capitals with little warning, he said. "Routine violations of sovereign airspace and dangerously … unsafe intercepts have become standard operating procedure for Russia," the admiral said.

Russia occupied Crimea and its strategic bases. It has forces in Syria. They have moved forces into Libya, and Foggo sees this as dangerous. "This highlights the need to maintain a vigilant, highly capable naval presence throughout European waters," he said.

This editorial appears courtesy of the Pentagon, and it is reproduced here in an abbreviated form. It may be found in its original form here