The Navy's top admiral in charge of the service's forces in Europe acknowledged the upcoming Trident Juncture 18 NATO exercise is, in part, aimed at deterring potential Russian actions against the alliance.
Adm. James Foggo, commander of Allied Joint Forces Command, U.S. Naval Forces Europe, and U.S. Naval Forces Africa, emphasized in a press briefing on Friday that while this is a training exercise, it is real and is meant to help resiliency and have a deterrent effect on any actors considering crossing a sovereign NATO member border or damage the NATO alliance.
He also emphasized that NATO is a defensive alliance and he values transparency, so under international rules and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the exercise is inviting observers, including from Russia. Foggo said the invitation to Russia went out a few weeks ago, although he is not aware of Russia responding affirmatively yet.
NATO is billing the exercise as one of the largest since 2002. The Navy said this exercise will involve about 45,000 people, 150 aircraft, 60 ships, and up to 10,000 vehicles from 31 NATO and partner nations. Non-member partners participating will include Australia, Finland, Jordan, Georgia, Sweden, and Ukraine.
Trident Juncture is set to start on Oct. 25 with live training and maneuvers on land, at sea, and in the air lasting through Nov. 7. Then from Nov. 14-23, it will be a command post exercise. Trident Juncture will take place in Norway and the nearby areas of the North Atlantic and Baltic Sea, including Iceland and the airspace of Finland and Sweden. This will be a collective defense exercise, essentially testing NATO’s ability to repel an invasion of one member-state by an outside force.
While Foggo was reluctant to name Russia as the primary actor it means to deter, he said “you can draw your own conclusions but there’s an adversary that comes across NATO allies’ border.”
When asked if this could mean anything but Russia given his emphasis on deterrence, he admitted “so you’re right. There’s a strong deterrent message here that will be sent.”
Foggo said he thinks Russian leaders make a serious calculus that if they are unsure if an action will achieve its objectives, they will not take the risk. This translates into NATO having to be very strong, increasing member-nation defense spending, maintaining and building interoperability, and conducting exercises like Trident Juncture.
He noted NATO members have marked the goal to increase member nations’ defense spending up to a minimum of two percent of GDP per country by 2024.
“Which is why I’m happy that we have observers, because they’re going to see that we’re very good at what we do, and that will have a deterrent effect on anybody who might want to cross those borders, but one nation in particular.”
Foggo added, “Russia is not 10 feet tall, but they do have capabilities that keep me vigilant, concerned.”
He does not see anything near parity in the surface fleets, because Russia’s single aircraft carrier, the Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov, is no match for one Nimitz-class or Ford-class carrier and they are now only building smaller surface ship classes.
Foggo said that while Russia does not have the robust capital ship capability, “they have continued to do research and development and recapitalize in the undersea domain. They see that as asymmetric. They see it as one in which there is a challenge, and that challenge is the United States Navy and the United States submarine force.”
In the undersea space, Foggo said the “margins to victory are razor thin so we have to continue to put a capital effort into the development of our technologies in anti-submarine warfare.”
This means not only submarines but maritime patrol aircraft, sensors, surface ship multi-function towed arrays, and proper training.
He said Russia has six new Kilo submarines operating in the Black Sea or eastern Mediterranean Sea right now that can fire the “very capable” Kalibr anti-ship and land attack cruise missiles.
“That’s a concern to me and it’s a concern to my NATO partners and friends. So we should know where they are at all times.”