US Navy to reestablish Second Fleet to counter Russia
Chief of U.S. Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson said on Friday that in order to confront a security situation that is growing "more challenging and complex,” the Navy would reestablish the Second Fleet, which will "exercise operational and administrative authorities over assigned ships, aircraft and landing forces on the East Coast and northern Atlantic Ocean,” Richardson said.
The command, which will be based in Norfolk, Virginia, will initially have 15 personnel and will eventually grow to over 200 people, officials said. A number of decisions, like who would command Second Fleet and what assets it would include, have not yet been made.
In 2011, the fleet was disbanded for cost-saving and organizational structure reasons.
Since then, however, Russia has become more assertive, flexing its military muscles in conflicts like those in Ukraine and Syria, and tensions between Moscow and Washington have increased.
Earlier this year, the U.S. military said in a new national defense strategy that countering Russia, along with China, would be a priority, the latest sign of shifting priorities after more than a decade and a half of focusing on the fight against Islamist militants.
In presenting the new strategy, which will set priorities for the Pentagon for years to come, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called China and Russia “revisionist powers” that “seek to create a world consistent with their authoritarian models.”
Russia has increased its naval patrols in the Baltic Sea, the North Atlantic and the Arctic, NATO officials say, although the size of its navy is smaller now than during the Cold War era.
Is this move really necessary? Some might even call it "provocative." In reality, it's simple prudence.
The Navy's jobs is to confront possible threats to US security wherever they arise. The possibility of a conventional war with Russia that would include protecting shipping in the North Atlantic is remote but not impossible. In that context, it makes sense to be prepared for any eventuality.
With an expanding defense budget, the move is not expected to put pressure on expenditures. And with other moves being made by the military in Europe, a clear signal is being sent to Russian President Vladimir Putin that the US will not sit idly by while he threatens the Baltic states and NATO.