Tag Archives: NATO

The Baltic: Grey-Zone Threats on NATO’s Northern Flank

European Maritime Security Topic Week

By Martin N. Murphy, PhD and Gary Schaub, Jr. PhD

Hybrid Warfare

The governments and peoples of the Baltic States recognize that, following Russia’s takeover of Crimea and intervention in eastern Ukraine, they are once again in the Kremlin’s sights facing the prospect of Russian destabilization and even outright invasion.

NATO’s leadership termed Russian strategy “hybrid warfare,” defining it as warfare in which “a wide range of overt and covert military, paramilitary, and civilian measures are employed in a highly integrated design.”1  Questions were raised immediately about the suitability of the designation, as the label NATO adopted fails to adequately capture the reality of what Russia inflicted on Ukraine—and may inflict on states in the Baltic Sea Region (BSR) in the near future.

Russian successes in Crimea reinvigorated two longstanding instruments of its power: its armed forces and its capacity for intensive information warfare.2 “Grey-zone” perhaps captures the orchestrated multidimensional nature of Russian actions calibrated to gain specified strategic objectives without crossing the threshold of overt conflict and exploit Western concepts of war and peace as two distinct conditions.3 Any conflict between NATO and Russia will likely occur at the Article 4 rather than the Article 5 level, complicating any Western response.4

Hybrid War in the BSR: Political and Information Warfare Dimensions          

It is possible to count all the fighters, bombers, troops and ships in the Baltic and arrive at a correlation of forces. But the BSR is a peripheral region, and only three things matter when it comes to its security:

  • The commitment of core NATO powers – especially the U.S. – to the region’s defense;
  • Russia’s determination to restore its sphere of influence in the region; and
  • Russia’s desire to probe for Western weakness.

Russia is interested less in territory than in effect. NATO’s focus on military measures to defend the Baltic States may overlook the challenge posed by all arms of Russian power to identify and exploit political, social, economic, and military vulnerabilities in its target states and the Western alliance.

These dimensions have been underplayed in NATO thinking, a tendency reinforced by the military nature of its Charter and institutional culture. Questions remain as to whether NATO’s own legal framework and traditional instruments are sufficient to deal with these non-military challenges, and certainly whether they can respond to a fast-changing situation. The means Russia is prepared to use in order to deceive and confuse NATO are based on the same tools it used during the Cold War, but it has adapted them to the mores of the social media age, which lacks the experience to judge the import of Russian messaging or actions.

Applying the Hybrid Model to Warfare at Sea

Russia’s high-end forces would not constitute the first movers in a hybrid conflict. They should be regarded as deterrents to local resistance and intervention by NATO and other Nordic states. It would rather pursue more ambiguous methods.

Broadly speaking, two scenarios for a Russian campaign in the BSR appear possible:

1. A low-key, possibly opportunistic, campaign that exploits real or manufactured discontent among Russian compatriots to destabilize one or more of the Baltic States, creating a “frozen conflict” that undermines NATO’s credibility; or

2. A more structured, high-tempo campaign to achieve the same objectives against NATO power in the BSR and also render Nordic defense cooperation redundant.

It is reasonable to assume that the Baltic Sea Fleet and other organs of Russian maritime power will play supporting rather than leading roles in any such conflict.

Aside from Moscow’s ability to manipulate the loyalty of Russian expatriate communities in the Baltic states, many of the points where it can apply pressure lie on or under the Baltic Sea itself. These include:

Geographically Isolated Islands and Disputed Borders

The Bornholm, Gotland and the Aland group are respectably Danish, Swedish, and Finnish islands that have considerable strategic significance in the BSR. Many are ideal as bases, supply points, staging areas, and jumping off points for SOF operations and ambushes, while bays, fjords, and peninsulas provide hiding places and launch points for fast raiders.

Map indicating large islands within the Baltic Sea. (Heritage Foundation)

Undersea Cables

Modern economies depend upon a remarkably vulnerable information and communications infrastructure. Roughly 95 percent of intercontinental communications traffic—e-mails, phone calls, money transfers, and so on—pass through fiber-optic cables that “lack even basic defenses, both on the seabed and at a small number of poorly guarded landing points.”5

When it comes to the Baltic Sea particularly, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia have only a few nodes that need be severed, while Estonia, the Nordic countries, and Germany have much more redundancy in their connections. Still, the economic disruption caused by severing these undersea cables would be considerable in time and cost and be difficult to mitigate, even for those countries with multiple nodes. They would therefore be a prime target in a hybrid warfare campaign.            

Energy Supplies

It has long been recognized that Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland depend upon Russian energy. This exposes them to the possibility of economic coercion. These states have reduced their dependence on Russian supplies, but diversification has been difficult given the cost of replacing existing infrastructure and vulnerabilities remain.

Port and Supply Chain

Ports and ships could be subject to sabotage and strikes using SOF as part of a hybrid offensive. Yet the most serious threat could come from cyberattacks, a concern that already animates much of the landward resilience debate. Modern ports could not operate absent sophisticated computer systems, while modern ships are increasingly automated to cut crew costs. Any prolonged interference with the region’s maritime trade could severely impact industrial production flows and economic security.

Why Would Russia Disrupt the BSR?

Russia is a revisionist power. Internationally, it wants to revise the existing regional order at the least possible political and military cost to itself, diminish U.S. power, and further a multipolar world. Domestically, Putin’s government requires an enemy to divert attention from internal troubles. The Baltic States lie at the point where American power is most extended and Russian power can be concentrated most easily. As Russia is under no illusion it can fight the U.S. directly, or a coalition of America’s core allies, its challenges will stay below the level of direct confrontation.

The Soviet Union invested around fifty percent of its shipbuilding capacity in the St. Petersburg area. A second vital facility is located in the Kaliningrad Oblast. The Baltic Sea has also become a vital conduit for Russian trade. Prolonged interruptions in flows of energy and goods would inflict considerable damage on Russia’s poorly diversified economy. During 2015, 52 percent of Russian container traffic passed through St. Petersburg. Europe remains a major customer for Russian crude oil shipped by tanker from ports near St. Petersburg. On the seabed is the Nord Stream gas pipeline. A second pipeline–Nord Stream 2–has been proposed that would double the capacity. This connection reinforces the dependency and mutual interest that already exists between the EU and Russia and risks compromising Western European responses to possible Russian aggression in CEE.

The Baltic Sea Region has plentiful points of vulnerability where Russia can test Western resolve. While these are not confined to the Baltic States, the most obvious point of leverage is the Russian minorities who reside in each one with concentrations in port cities and other maritime areas.Nor are the Baltics removed from Russia’s deeply ingrained sense of insecurity arising out of its loss of strategic depth. Advancing the Russian right flank to the Baltic Sea would right a perceived wrong, prevent the encirclement of Kaliningrad, the main base of the Russian Baltic Sea Fleet, and provide a platform from where Russia could threaten the entire Baltic Sea littoral.

Sweden and Finland are clearly concerned about this possibility. Sweden has returned its army garrison to the strategically important island of Gotland, while towns and cities across Sweden have been told to make preparations against a possible military attack.Conscription has also been reintroduced.However, any move by either to join NATO could “provoke Russia to launch a pre-emptive provocation in order to demonstrate the alliance’s weakness” and deter either country from proceeding with its application.9

Russian Military Capability

Despite the importance of the Baltic Sea routes, the Russian Baltic Sea Fleet is the weakest of Russia’s four fleets (Baltic, Black Sea, Pacific, and Northern). It continues to have the lowest priority for new units.

That does not mean modernization has not taken place. Since 2007, the fleet has been upgraded with two new classes of corvette equipped with land-attack missiles, a capability that is new to the Baltic Sea fleet.10 However, the fleet’s submarines have not been modernized and remain inferior to German and Swedish boats. Lacking AIP propulsion, which Russian industry is having problems mastering, they are also likely to be noisier. The fleet’s anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and mine counter-measures (MCM) capabilities are also limited.

Three Buyan-class Corvettes, seen above, are expected to augment the Baltic Fleet by 2020. (Murad Sezer/Reuters)

That said, the Baltic Sea is relatively small with an average width of only 193km (120 mi). The sea and surrounding littoral can–and almost certainly would–be dominated by air power and air-deployable ground forces in any high intensity conflict. In particular, Russia is able to effectively dominate large areas of the Baltic Sea and air space using missile forces based in the Kaliningrad and Leningrad oblasts.11 The Iskander-M mobile ballistic missile is capable of hitting targets in much of Sweden and from southern Poland to central Finland, whether fixed or mobile.

NATO movement would be affected in all environments: air transports bringing reinforcements into theater would be at risk from manned interceptors and a layered, air-and-missile defensive system equipped with the S-300 and the highly-capable S-400 systems. Movements by sea would be threatened by the Bastion-P coastal defense system based on the supersonic 300km-range P-800 Yakhont anti-ship missile, which Russia has announced will shortly be deployed to the Kaliningrad Oblast.12

NATO ground forces, meanwhile, would need to travel further than Russian units to reach the capitals of the Baltic states and throughout the transit could be subjected to long-range air and ground-based bombardment.

Naval “Hybrid Warfare”

Hybrid warfare as deployed by Russia in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine has received considerable analytical coverage; hybrid warfare at sea less so.13 The geography of the Crimea and Ukrainian theaters, and the circumstances of the incursions, meant the naval role was limited in both. However, Russia appears to have taken note of the success China has achieved with hybrid warfare tactics in the South China Sea, including its harassing behavior as multiple incidents have taken place on and over the Baltic and Black Seas.14 At the same time, Russia has resumed Soviet-style probing missions against NATO countries, while the Baltic states, Sweden, and Finland have all had their territorial waters and airspace compromised.15

The Chinese have made extensive use of their maritime paramilitary forces to assert maritime claims and to deny neighboring states access to waters for fishing and resource extraction purposes. The opportunities for the disruptive use of coast guard and border forces appear to be less in the BSR yet Russian behavior–for instance withholding ratification of the Narva Bay and Gulf of Finland Treaty–demonstrates that they are maintaining the potential for disruption inherent in the handful of disputes that remain.16

Mitigation Measures

Given the essentially political nature of hybrid war, mitigation measures should focus on political, economic, and information outcomes. Still, Russia needs to be convinced that all BSR states are committed to challenging Russian aggression at sea. The maritime component of NATO’s 2014 Readiness Action Plan includes intensified naval patrols in the Baltic built around the Standing NATO Maritime and Mine Countermeasures Groups, increased sorties by maritime patrol aircraft, and an expansion of the annual BALTOPS naval and amphibious exercise.17 However, BALTOPS in large measure still reflects the Alliance’s focus on high-end military operations. Changes have been made that broaden its focus and these need to be maintained and expanded in order to continuing raising maritime readiness and interoperability standards at all stages along the deterrence-to-conflict continuum. In addition, both Baltic and NATO navies need to exercise lower-end maritime security, VBSS, fishery protection, and SAR missions, while regional navies need to demonstrate they can act seamlessly with regional coast guards and border forces, port authorities and other maritime agencies, police forces and intelligence services. Furthermore, cooperation in intelligence sharing and analysis through a BSR Hybrid Threats Fusion Cell coupled with a strategic communications response capability to provide swift and consistent factual responses to false narratives would contribute to building societal resilience.

Societal resilience also requires less dependence on Russian energy supplies. A new facility for the import and regasification of liquefied natural gas (LNG) has been built at Klaipeda in Lithuania. Ensuring its security is vital. Further diversification could be achieved if additional terminals were to be built in Estonia and Latvia with reversible-flow pipelines linking all three. Ideally, a trans-Baltic pipeline should be built to link the Baltic States with the Swedish system.18 These pipelines would supplement the “NordBalt” power cable laid between Sweden and Lithuania. Notably, this link was interfered with by Russian warships on three occasions during the course of its construction. Finally, BSR states need to place a strong emphasis on port and supply chain security. This must include defenses against cyber-attacks. Protecting this largely maritime infrastructure would place a premium on effective Baltic Sea maritime domain awareness (MDA).

Conclusion

Russia considers itself to be a maritime power. It has always sought to control the seas that give it access to the world ocean. The Baltic Sea is vital in this regard. Despite this perception, Russian power, when compared to its Soviet predecessor, is sadly diminished. It is therefore understandable that it should continue to augment its remaining military power with the measures of influence, deception, and covert action that were so characteristic of the Soviet approach to inter-state relations.

Any repetition of the Crimean model is likely to be a whole-of-government effort of political subversion and destabilization in which the conventional military—as opposed to SOF and proxy militia—will play a largely passive role until the last minute, or unless the political campaign fails and can only be redeemed using conventional military force. Whole-of-government aggression demands a whole-of-government response.

In this sense, there is no such thing as maritime hybrid warfare, certainly in Russian political or military doctrine or practice. What states in the BSR may be confronting even now, however, is a long-term campaign of politically motivated societal disruption, aspects of which may occur in, through, or from the maritime domain. The seaborne aspects of the campaign will be maritime rather than exclusively naval in that what takes place could involve any of the ways people use the sea, the seabed, and the airspace over the sea. It will involve warships, submarines, and military aircraft but also include fisheries, shipping and ports, coast guards, and border forces along the way. Conventional naval forces are likely to play an analogous background role in any disruptive campaign at sea in the Baltic, as they did during the Crimea invasion and Ukraine intervention.

Martin N. Murphy, PhD is a Visiting Fellow at Corbett Centre for Maritime Studies at King’s College London. He has held similar positions with CSBA and the Atlantic Council in the U.S. He is the author of three books and numerous book chapters and articles on maritime security and unconventional warfare at sea. His next book, On Maritime Power, is due for publication in 2018.

Gary Schaub, Jr., PhD, is a Senior Researcher at the Centre for Military Studies, Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen. Before that he held a number of academic positions in the U.S. including Assistant Professor of Strategy at the U.S. Air War College.

References

1. NATO. ‘Wales Summit Declaration’. Issued by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Wales, 5th September 2014.

2. Kier Giles, et al. ‘The Russian Challenge’, Chatham House Report, June 2015, p. 46. NATO Article 4 states that “The Parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened.” NATO, ‘The North Atlantic Treaty’, last updated 21st March 2016.

3. For clear definitions of “hybrid” and “grey-zone” conflicts, and comparisons between the two, see Frank Hoffman. ‘The Evolution of Hybrid Warfare and Key Challenges’. Statement before the House Armed Services Committee, 22nd March 2017.

4. Stephen F. Larrabee, et al. Russia and the West after the Ukrainian Crisis: European Vulnerabilities to Russian Pressures. Santa Monica: RAND, 2017, pp. 10-11.

5. Robert Martinage. “Under the Sea: The Vulnerability of the Commons,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 94, No. 1, January/February 2015, p. 117.

6. Martin N. Murphy, Frank G. Hoffman and Gary Schaub, Jr. ‘Hybrid Maritime Warfare and the Baltic Sea Region’. Copenhagen: Centre for Military Studies, University of Copenhagen, November 2016, pp. 11-14.

7. Richard Orange. ‘Swedish towns told to “make preparations regarding the threat of war and conflict” with Russia’. Daily Telegraph, 15th December 2016.

8. Daniel Dickson; and Bjorn Rundstrom. ‘Sweden returns draft amid security worries and soldier shortage’. Reuters, 2nd March 2017.

9. Edward Lucas. ‘The Coming Storm: Baltic Sea Security Report’. Washington, DC: Center for European Policy Analysis, June 2015, p. 4.

10. ‘Russia reinforces Baltic Fleet with ships armed with long-range cruise missiles in ‘worrying’ response to Nato build-up’. Daily Telegraph, 26th October 2016.

11. Kaas. ‘Russian Armed Forces in the Baltic Sea Region’.

12. ‘Russia deploys “Bastion” coastal missile complex to the Kaliningrad region’. UAWire, 22nd November 2016.

13. Charles K. Bartles and Roger N. McDermott. ‘Russia’s Military Operation in Crimea: Road-Testing Rapid Reaction Capabilities’. Problems of Post-Communism, Vol. 61, No. 6, November–December 2014, pp. 46–63; Admiral James Stavridis, USN (rtd.). ‘Maritime Hybrid Warfare is Coming’. U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, Vol. 142, No. 12, December 2016, pp. 30-33.

14. For example, Julian E. Barnes and Gordon Lubold. ‘Russian Warplanes Buzz U.S. Navy Destroyer, Polish Helicopter’. Wall Street Journal, 13th April 2016.

15. Thomas Frear, Łukasz Kulesa and Ian Kearns. ‘Dangerous Brinkmanship: Close Military Encounters between Russia and the West in 2014’. European Leadership Network Policy Brief, November 2014.

16. ‘Russian envoy: Ratification of border treaty with Estonia obstructed by bad relations’. The Baltic Times, 9th July 2016.

17. NATO. ‘NATO’s Readiness Action Plan’. NATO Fact Sheet, May 2015; Megan Eckstein. ‘U.S. Led BALTOPS 2015 begins with heftier presence than last year’s exercise,” USNI News, 5th June 2015; Megan Eckstein.‘Foggo: BALTOPS 2016 includes more anti-sub, more challenging amphibious operations’. USNI News, 15th June 2016.

18. Milda Seputyte. ‘Lithuania grabs LNG in effort to curb Russian dominance’. Bloomberg, 27th October 2014; ‘Sweden gets new LNG terminal’. World Maritime News, 20th October 2014.

Featured Image: Soldiers sit atop of amphibious vehicles as NATO troops participate in the NATO sea exercises BALTOPS 2015 that are to reassure the Baltic Sea region allies in the face of a resurgent Russia, in Ustka, Poland, Wednesday, June 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Integrating Maritime Security Operations in the Mediterranean

Maritime Security Topic Week

By Evmorfia-Chrysovalantou Seiti

Introduction

The European Union represents the latest stage of the larger European integration that began at the end of the World War II, initially by six Western European countries to promote peace, security and economic development. Undoubtedly, European countries managed to overcome their dark past and the cruelty of World War II; today, the European Union has 28 member states, including former communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Member states have pooled sovereignty in certain policy areas and harmonized laws on a wide range of economic, social, and political issues. These developments prove that European countries realize that the things that unite them are more than the things that divide them, and only through strengthening cooperation and promoting dialogue can they establish the peace and security in European continent and beyond.1

The EU project can be characterized as successful and a cornerstone of European stability and prosperity. The European Union, beyond other areas of cooperation, has developed common foreign and security policies. From 2003 until the present date, the European Union has executed around thirty civilian and military operations on three continents. Their aim was to deal effectively with crises in those regions. Significant examples include peace-building after the tsunami disaster in Indonesia, operations for protecting refugees in Mali and the Central African Republic, and combating piracy in Somalia and the Horn of Africa.

Despite this, a paradox exists. Under the existence of this ambitious policy and after more than thirty operations through the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP), political interest in national capitals in acting through the EU’s CSDP has been declining.2 It is important to point out that the reasons member states should have high political interest in acting through the CSDP are more compelling that those that limit shared interest.

Additionally, some European policymakers and analysts have characterized the European integration project as a bicycle, which must keep going forward to avoid falling over. Imbalance can cause a number of problems, such as the Greek debt crisis, the migration and refugee crisis, the June 23, 2016, United Kingdom referendum on EU membership, a resurgent Russia, and heightened terrorism. These are some of the factors that caused the increase of unemployment in many EU countries, economic and political pressures, and the rise of political parties with “Eurosceptic” ideas.In one of the toughest periods of its history, some members of the European Union are creating dividing lines instead of trying to provide a common and effective response. Also, the voices and opinions on the future of European Union and the vision of European integration remain divided between those who are supporting the European project (and believe that it will be continue to exist despite the serious challenges it is facing) and, from the other side, those who believe that those challenges would bring the collapse of the European project.

This article will focus on the current challenges in the Mediterranean, and how those challenges can be a pillar of integration for the Common Security and Defense Policy of the European Union.

The European Union and the Mediterranean

Why the Mediterranean? The Mediterranean region is characterized by crises and revolutionary changes that affect the Middle East, North Africa, and Southern Europe, as well as trans-Atlantic stakes in these regions. In the meantime, the strategic environment in the Mediterranean is increasingly shaped by forces emanating from outside the region, more specifically from the Levant and the Eurasian and African hinterlands, the Black Sea, and from the Atlantic Basin. As a result, these shifts in the strategic environment have brought the progressive globalization of Mediterranean security.4

The Mediterranean Sea is connected with the Atlantic Ocean through the Strait of Gibraltar and the Red Sea through the Suez Canal. Traditionally, it was a sea passage for internal European trade and imports from Africa and Asia. A powerful coalition and multilateral body such as the EU should adapt to the new challenges and threats, which are a result from the systemic context. The EU’s aim is to ensure stability and to avoid any kind of activities that could damage maritime security or bring danger to the life of individuals.

Although the European Union is not the only interested party, the involvement of external actors is inevitable. This work will analyze the external actors present in the Mediterranean and the schemes of cooperation for preventing a spillover effect, which can not only impact the European continent but global affairs.

The Main Challenges in the Mediterranean

Maritime Terrorism

After September 11, 2001, NATO initiated Operation Active Endeavor. This operation has achieved a high degree of visibility and contributed to “good governance” in the Mediterranean Sea and the straits of Gibraltar.Despite this progress, there have been setbacks, including the 2014 hijacking of an Egyptian Navy patrol craft, which took place along the Mediterranean coast 40 miles north of the Seaport of Damietta, and again when 21 Egyptian Christians were kidnapped in two separate incidents in the coastal city of Sirte.6 Both criminal activities were posed by militant groups that have declared allegiance to Islamic State, raising the concern for terrorist activities in Mediterranean Sea, which could cause damage to international shipping and port infrastructure.7

Expanding their activities at sea, terrorists could attack unguarded cruise ships plying Mediterranean waters. Only one attack like this would be enough to spread images of western tourists being murdered and provide the powerful publicity desired. At equal risk are vessels and ports from which terrorists would gain publicity and financial gain. For instance, hijacking a cruise ship provides only one potential scenario. Ungoverned coastal areas of Libya would make a good launch pad for terrorists, although the incidents in Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia can show that much of the Maghreb could provide a point of origin for attackers.8

Irregular Migration

Concurrent conflicts and turbulence from sub-Saharan Africa to Pakistan are generating waves of economic and political migrants desperate to reach the relative prosperity of southern Europe.9 The range of their mobility is striking. Almost 2 million refugees have fled to or though Turkey since the start of the war in Syria, and many more have crossed to Jordan and Lebanon. Over one million Christians have fled Iraq, and over half of a million more have fled from Syria. The annual number of migrants registered as having been arrested and deported in the EU; the figure is somewhere around 500,000. However, there are only estimates of the total number of irregular migrants that reached European maritime borders. The number ranges from 4,000,000 up to 8,000,000.10 Tens of thousands of migrants have crossed the Mediterranean by sea in recent years, 6,000 to Italy alone. Over 3,000 died in the Mediterranean in 2014, comprising the vast majority of the estimated 4,000 migration deaths worldwide in the same period. The Mediterranean region is in the grips of a human security crisis, a crisis affecting the security and the welfare of individuals, unprecedented since the end of World War II.11

Piracy

The International Maritime Organization’s 2011 annual report on acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships identified 10 different regions prone to maritime piracy and armed robbery against ships of the world:

  • East Africa
  • Indian Ocean
  • West Africa
  • Arabian Sea
  • Malacca Strait
  • South China Sea
  • Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Mediterranean Sea
  • North Atlantic
  • Regions that are classified “Others”

Regarding “others,” in these regions, the occurrence of the two crimes are at a very low rate or even rare. Moreover, incidents such as the 2009 hijacking of “M/V Arctic Sea” in the Baltic prove that even the most secure maritime spaces in the world can be affected by maritime piracy and armed robbery against ships.12

The Mediterranean Sea doesn’t currently sustain a realistic threat in terms of modern-day piracy as we now know it. Unlike the Indian Ocean, it is enclosed and very well policed, surveyed, and trafficked. The entire area is also within easy rapid reach of sophisticated military and naval resources. However, more clandestine (and arguably more damaging) operations are perfectly feasible. It is no secret that obvious targets include port facilities, berthed vessels, outlying transport structures, and logistical hubs.

Other challenges arise from the Atlantic approaches to the Mediterranean, where new trafficking routes from Latin America to West Africa are bringing drugs, arms, and money onward through the Maghreb to Europe. Drawn to West Africa’s penetrable borders and anemic state and security institutions, new distribution routes have been created by drug traffickers, resulting in an inflow of cocaine into the region.13

Cooperation with External Actors

EU-NATO Joint Declaration

A Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Police was adopted on June 2016. On November 14, 2016, ministers agreed on a new level of ambition in security and defense. 16 days later, on November 30, 2016, the European Commission adopted the European Defense Action Plan. This plan “comprises a European Defense Fund and other actions to help member states boost research and spend more efficiently on joint defense capabilities, thus fostering a competitive and innovative defense industrial base and contributing to enhance European citizens’ security.”14

Royal Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Charlottetown conducted a cooperative boarding on the Togolese flag merchant vessel (MV) Byblos as part of NATO’s counter-terrorism Operation Active Endeavour. (MARFOR)

On December 6, 2016, the Council of the European Union and Foreign Ministers of NATO adopted a common set of proposals for EU-NATO cooperation. This follows from the Joint Declaration signed by EU leaders and the NATO Secretary General on July 2016. They agreed on a set of actions, including 42 concrete proposals for implementation in seven areas of cooperation: “Countering hybrid threats, operational cooperation including maritime issues; cyber security and defence, defence capabilities, parallel and coordinated exercises and defence, defence industry and research and security capacity-building.”15 Facing common challenges, the cooperation between European Union and NATO is more important than ever.

In particular, in December of 2016, the European Union and NATO agreed to enhance the cooperation and coordination between Operation Sea Guardian, a flexible maritime operation created by NATO that can perform a wide range of maritime security tasks,16 and EU NAVFOR MED Sophia, which started on June 22, 2015 and will be operational until July 27, 2017 and was formed to disrupt the business of human smuggling and trafficking in the Mediterranean and prevent loss of life at sea.17 The EU and NATO agreed to enhance the cooperation of these operations through information sharing, logistical support, and practical interaction.

Moreover, they agreed to build upon synergies between the EU operation and NATO in the Aegean. In support of the above goals, the EU and NATO will continue to make full use of the mechanism of Shared Awareness and Deconfliction in the Mediterranean (SHADE MED). SHADE MED is a forum where stakeholders, nations, or organizations that are affected by migratory phenomenon in the Mediterranean can meet, de-conflict, and coordinate their maritime security operations. This can be achieved by sharing situational awareness as well as assessing the evolution of trends and best practices.18 Furthermore, seminars will be held in the early part of 2017 to build on experiences from the fight against piracy in the Indian Ocean and on interactions in the Mediterranean.19

Integrating Mediterranean Maritime Security

And finally, why can maritime security in the Mediterranean be an integration pillar for the Common Security and Defense Policy? First, continued fiscal austerity could possibly impact the already limited defense expenditures in Southern Europe and give rise to new security concerns. Having an integrated approach can prevent and efficiently manage the existing threats in the Mediterranean which became even more challenging and complicated after the outbreak of the Arab Spring. The percentage of refugees and migrants who are trying to reach Europe by crossing Mediterranean has skyrocketed.20 Also, the incidents of terrorist activities in Mediterranean coasts, the threat of piracy attacks, as well as the fact that the Mediterranean has become a route of trafficking, drugs, arms, people, and money.

Another important factor which should increase efforts for further cooperation within the CSDP is the circulation of foreign fighters from Europe and elsewhere to the battlefields of the Levant and back. This phenomenon is not new, although the sheer size and widespread nature of the problem has given it a totally new dimension. Terrorist attacks and counterterrorism operations in France, Belgium, Denmark and Germany, highlight the nature of the threat.21 Terrorists could find a number of other ways to use the sea to carry out threats, such as using explosives to damage vessels, passengers and crews, or surrounding areas. They could also use vessels to transport explosives and other chemical, biological, or nuclear materials, including fissile material to use ashore.

Related to the external actors in the region, European Union member states should enhance their cooperation within the CDSP due to the declining interest of the United States in maintaining a strong presence in the Mediterranean due to competing priorities elsewhere. Washington has always put pressure on Europe to do more for its own security, and will likely increase this pressure in the future.22

From the other side, in June 2013, Russia announced that it would permanently maintain about a dozen warships in the Mediterranean for its national security. After a period of weakness and instability during the 1990s, the Federation is reappearing on the international scene as a major security player, claiming the status of a great power. The Russian Federation is affirming its global role and its activities in the Mediterranean as a part of a wider strategy shaped by a flowing interplay of internal and external influences. Russia has many ‘cards to play’ and it is playing some of them expertly.23

Russia, as the other actors in the region, is seeking some combination of economic and security gains in the Mediterranean while also trying to build or rebuild economic and security ties. According to General Philip Breedlove, then NATO’s top commander: “Tartus may also be part of a Russian effort to establish an anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) bubble over Syria, designed to prevent NATO forces from taking offensive action against Russia and its allies in the region.” These ambitions are illustrated by the Russia’s new Maritime Strategy, the Maritime Doctrine of Russian Federation 2020. This strategy includes the Mediterranean Sea, claiming that the aim of the Russian Federation is to re-establish a Russian Navy presence there.24 

Conclusion

Based on these developments the European Union, a global maritime player, cannot remain uninvolved, and especially when its own interests and the peace and security of its citizens are affected directly by the situation in Mediterranean basin. The above examples shows that this threat cannot be tackled effectively when each member state is acting individually and there is a lack of compromise. Cooperation under the CSDP is linked to military deployment, and the CSDP creates fertile ground for cooperation and dialogue between the EU member states and cooperation with external actors.

The European Union as a security and defense actor cannot remain a distant viewer when security challenges in the Mediterranean are more rapidly emerging. Those threats do not concern only the countries of the “front line” but all the EU member states. Maritime security in the Mediterranean region can be an integration pillar for the Common Security and Defense Policy as recent events prove, although many more challenges are still yet to come.

Evmorfia-Chrysovalantou Seiti is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Political Science and International Studies in University of Warsaw, Poland and she is working in a multinational corporation dealing with banking and financial services. She holds an MA in Political, Economic and International Relations in the Mediterranean from the University of the Aegean. Her primary areas of research are European Security, European Maritime Security Strategy towards Mediterranean and Euro-Mediterranean Politics.

References

1. Kristin Archick, ‘’The European Union: Current Challenges and Future Prospects’’, Congressional Research Service, June 2016, available at https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R44249.pdf

2. Daniele Keohane, ‘’The Paradox of  EU Defence Policy’’, European Geostrategy, Vol. 8, No.9 (2016) available at http://www.europeangeostrategy.org/2016/03/the-paradox-of-eu-defence-policy/

3. Available at https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R44249.pdf

4. Ian O. Lesser, ‘’The United States and the Future of Mediterranean Security: Reflections from GMF’s Mediterranean Strategy Group’’, Policy Brief Mediterranean Policy Program, April 2015, The German Marshall Fund of the United States

5. ‘’Maritime Security in the Mediterranean: Challenges and Policy Responses’’, Security and Defence Agenda Discussion Paper, June 2011 available at https://www.files.ethz.ch/isn/130716/Maritime_Discussion_Paper_FINAL.pdf

6. ‘’ISIS video appears to show beheadings of Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya’’, CNN, February 16, 2015 available at http://edition.cnn.com/2015/02/15/middleeast/isis-video-beheadings-christians/

7. Mark William Lowe, ‘’MSS in depth: The Threat of Maritime Terrorism’’, Med Security Summit, September 16-18, 2015 available at http://www.medsecuritysummit.com/wp-content/uploads/MSS-InDepth-May-2015.pdf

8. Mark William Lowe, ‘’MSS in depth: The Threat of Maritime Terrorism’’, Med Security Summit, September 16-18, 2015 available at http://www.medsecuritysummit.com/wp-content/uploads/MSS-InDepth-May-2015.pdf

9. Ian O. Lesser, ‘’The United States and the Future of Mediterranean Security: Reflections from GMF’s Mediterranean Strategy Group’’, Policy Brief Mediterranean Policy Program, April 2015, The German Marshall Fund of the United States

10. Ian O. Lesser, ‘’The United States and the Future of Mediterranean Security: Reflections from GMF’s Mediterranean Strategy Group’’, Policy Brief Mediterranean Policy Program, April 2015, The German Marshall Fund of the United StatesClandestino Project, Final Report, November 23, 2009, available at http://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_147171_en.pdf

11. Clandestino Project, Final Report, November 23, 2009, available at http://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_147171_en.pdf

12. Jean Edmond Randriananteinaina, ‘’Maritime Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships: Exploring the Legal and the Operational Solutions. The case of Madagascar’’, Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea Office for Legal Affairs , the United Nations, New York 2013, available at  http://www.un.org/Depts/los/nippon/unnff_programme_home/fellows_pages/fellows_papers/Randrianantenaina_1213_Madagascar.pdf

13. ‘’West Africa drug trade, new transit hub for cocaine trafficking fuels corruption’’, United Nations, available at http://www.un.org/en/events/tenstories/08/westafrica.shtml

14. ‘’EU Security and Defence Package’’, European Union External Action, December 2016, available at https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/16693/eu-security-and-defence-package_en

15. ‘’EU NATO start new era of cooperation’’ European Union External Action, December 2016, available at https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage_en/16643/EU%20and%20NATO%20start%20new%20era%20of%20cooperation

16. ‘’Operation Sea Guardian’’, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, October 2016, available at http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_136233.htm

17. ‘’EU NAVFOR MED Operation Sophia’’, European Union External Action Service, September 2016, available at https://eeas.europa.eu/csdp-missions-operations/eunavfor-med/12193_en

18. ‘’Shared Awareness and Deconfliction in the Mediterranean’’, available at http://eeas.europa.eu/archives/docs/csdp/missions-and-operations/eunavfor-med/shade/pdf/2015/terms_of_reference.pdf

19. ‘’EU-NATO Cooperation: Council adopt conclusions to implement Joint Declaration’’, Council of the European Union, December 2016, available at http://dsms.consilium.europa.eu/952/Actions/Newsletter.aspx?messageid=9551&customerid=36699&password=enc_52517859324E68794E576B6E_enc

20. ‘’UN Refugee Agency: 2016 is the deadliest year for refugees crossing to Europe via Central Mediterranean’’, available at https://refugeesmigrants.un.org/un-refugee-agency-2016-deadliest-year-refugees-crossing-europe-central-mediterranean

21. Boutin B., Chanzal G., Dorsey J., Jegerings M., Paulussen C., Pohl J., Reed A., Zavagli S., ‘’The Foreign Fighters Phenomenon in the European Union: Profiles, Threats & Policies’’, International Centre for Counter -Terrorism- The Hague-Research Paper April 2016

22. Michael Codner ‘’The Security of the Mediterranean Sea’’, LSE Ideas, A Strategy of Southern Europe, Special Report 2013, available at https://sarahwolffeu.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/lse_ideas_report_southerneur_lores.pdf

23. Rajan Menon and S. Enders Wimbush, ‘New players in the Mediterranean’, Mediterranean Paper Series 2010, The German Marshall Fund of the United States, May 2010

24. Edward Delman, ‘’The link between Putin’s military campaigns in Syria and Ukraine,The Atlantic, http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/10/navy-base-syria-crimea-putin/408694/

Featured Image: The boarding team from Spanish EU-Naval Force warship ESPS Rayo board a suspicious skiff. (EUNAVFOR)

The Case for a Constant NATO CSG Presence in the Mediterranean

European Maritime Security Topic Week

By Jason Chuma

The Carrier Strike Group (CSG), with its air wing, surface escorts, and auxiliary support vessels, provides capabilities with great flexibility and presents an overt symbol of modern naval power. From sea control to strike to humanitarian assistance, it can respond anywhere in the 71 percent of the world which is covered by oceans, and with staying power.

The Mediterranean has been one of the most strategically significant bodies of water throughout all of history. The Persians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, and all of the European nations that amassed great fortunes using it as a trade route from the Middle Ages through the modern era have understood this. Even in very recent history, states have projected naval power from the Mediterranean into Iraq, Libya, and Syria.

The Persians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, and all of the European nations that amassed great fortunes using it as a trade route from the Middle Ages through the modern era have understood this. Even in very recent history, states have projected naval power from the Mediterranean into Iraq, Libya, and Syria.

The Russian Move

Russia has remained well aware of the strategic significance of the Mediterranean through its history. As it has been attempting to do for over 300 years, the modern Russian Federation established a permanent naval presence in the Mediterranean. Vladimir Putin’s ally, the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has allowed Russia to maintain a navy base in Tartus, which includes replenishment and repair facilities.

This is in some ways a return to Cold War positioning. The Soviet Union was able to project influence in the Mediterranean through ports in Syria, Egypt, and Libya. But following the end of the Cold War and fall of the Soviet Union, the Soviet Fleet returned to its home bases within Russia and virtually ceded the Mediterranean as NATO territory for the next 20 years.

Russia’s primary means of projecting naval power into the Mediterranean is the Black Sea Fleet. For this fleet to reach the Mediterranean, it must pass through the strategic straits of the Bosphorus and Dardanelles, which are under the control of Turkey, a NATO member.

After the Mediterranean was safely in western hands, NATO was able to withdraw forces from it. With the Black Sea Fleet essentially trapped behind the Turkish Straits, a great NATO naval force was not necessary to counter Russian influence within the Mediterranean. The U.S. Sixth Fleet became a shell of what it once was and the U.S. abandoned the Mediterranean as a strategic naval hub altogether. With the establishment of a permanent naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean, Russia has made a strategic move and this warrants a counter-move by NATO.

Russian aircraft carrier Kuznetsov takes part in operations against insurgents in Syria. (RT via Russian Ministry of Defense)

NATO naval presence within the Mediterranean is made up of Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2), formerly known as Standing Naval Force Mediterranean (STANAVFORMED). This is an integrated force made up of vessels from allied nations which is available for tasking from Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM). Its tasking mostly consists of exercises, strategic port calls, and occasional disaster response. The size and makeup of SNMG2 varies depending on what is provided by contributing nations, but it is normally comprised of 4-8 destroyers, frigates, corvettes, or even small fast-attack craft, and one support vessel. This force is a far cry from the sea control, power projection, and disaster response capabilities inherently present in a CSG.

The NATO Counter-Move

NATO should maintain a continuous Carrier Strike Group (CSG) presence in the Mediterranean. A CSG patrolling the Mediterranean, especially in the eastern Mediterranean near Tartus, would be an overt display to Russia that NATO has not forgotten about the Mediterranean.

In the October 2015 policy study “Sharpening the Spear” from the Hudson Institute, the authors conclude that for the United States to maintain a naval hub in the Mediterranean, in addition to the current hubs in the
Middle East and Western Pacific, they would need 16 aircraft carriers. That would require six additional carriers to complement the current ten. 
Where could these additional carriers come from? The United States’ allies in Europe with navies that boast aircraft carriers and have similar reservations about Russian proclivities in the region offer a viable and cost-effective option. This is starting to sound like NATO.

For simplicity, we will assume that based on the Hudson Institute policy study referenced above, given that NATO has 16 aircraft carriers between them, a constant CSG presence can be maintained in the Mediterranean while the United States maintains the other two naval hubs.

Assembling a NATO Strike Group

The United States currently has 10 aircraft carriers in service, Italy has two, and France and Spain both have one. That puts the total count for NATO at 14, two short of the required 16. However, the U.S. carrier Ford is scheduled to be commissioned in April 2017 and likely to enter service in 2020, while the UK carrier Queen Elizabeth is scheduled to be commissioned in May 2017 and is likely to also enter service in 2020. So, nominally, in about three years, NATO could have continuous CSG coverage within the Mediterranean.

NATO can coordinate a requirement for certain ships to be in a surge-ready status. Over the next three years, this surging of CSGs could be periodically performed to demonstrate the ability of NATO to surge naval power in a crisis. This would be useful as a stopgap measure while additional aircraft carriers are being built, but this would not constitute a continuous presence. Virtual presence is actual absence.

However, demonstrated surges of naval force can still have influence. Demonstrating the ability to surge a CSG, especially a multinational CSG, can send a powerful message to an adversary. Luckily, surging an aircraft carrier from Toulon, Taranto, or even Portsmouth, UK to the Mediterranean is much more reasonable than surging one from Norfolk, Virginia.

Type 45 destroyer HMS Defender with French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. (Crown Copyright)

The majority of the above discussion has revolved around the aircraft carrier, and though it is a centerpiece, it is not the only component to a CSG. Not only should NATO members coordinate the deployment of their CSGs to provide continuous coverage of the Mediterranean, but should also shoulder the integration of surface combatants into combined NATO CSGs. This can enable even more flexibility and burden sharing.

In 2016, FS Forbin was attached to the USS Harry S. Truman CSG, and then USS Ross was attached to the Charles de Gaulle CSG. Both CSGs were conducting operations into Syria from the eastern Mediterranean. These are perfect examples of burden sharing and are a testament to the present day relevance of the NATO alliance.

Conclusion

NATO is predominately a defensive alliance, but this level of naval cooperation constitutes defense through conventional deterrence by showing that for any move the Russian Federation may make in the Mediterranean, NATO has a counter-move ready.

LT Jason H. Chuma is a U.S. Navy submarine officer. He is a graduate of the Citadel, holds a master’s degree from Old Dominion University, and has completed the Intermediate Command and Staff Course from the U.S. Naval War College. He can be followed on Twitter @Jason_ChumaThe opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy.

Featured Image: The USS Lincoln and Charles De Gaulle steam alongside one and other in the Arabian Gulf. U.S. Navy Photo. Source. 

Lessons and Activities of the Maritime Expeditionary Operations Conference 2016

By Clarissa Butler

During the third week of July, Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO), together with Combined Joint Operations from the Sea, Centre of Excellence (CJOS COE), hosted the bi-annual Maritime Expeditionary Operations Conference (MEOC) in Oeiras, Portugal. The timing of the conference was opportune – the Warsaw Summit was held the week before, reaffirming the Alliance’s three core tasks: collective defense, crisis management, and cooperative security. The MEOC was able to capitalize on a maritime theme and contribute to the Summit’s two key pillars: protecting citizens through modern deterrence and defense, and projecting stability beyond borders. 

The conference brought together over 170 representatives from NATO Command and Force structures, academia, and national military commands from Allied and Partner Nations. Over the two days, attendees listened to five panels evolving from current threat, application of maritime expeditionary warfare, exercises and training, and the role of maritime partnerships.

Each panel featured four distinguished Officers and/or Senior Executives and the highlight of the conference were three Keynote Speakers [i]: General Petr Pavel, CZE-A, Chairman of the Military Committee (MC), Admiral Michele Howard, USA-N, COM Allied Joint Forces Command Naples (JFCNP), and Admiral Manfred Nielson, DEU-N, Dep Supreme Allied Command Transformation (SACT).

The goals of MEOC 16 were to define the future role of Maritime Expeditionary Operations (MEO) and how the capability can best be delivered to contribute to assurance and adaption measures in the evolving geopolitical sphere in light of emerging security challenges faced by the Alliance. During the five panel discussions, three themes came to the forefront: sources of instability, importance of joint and combined training, and partnership inside and outside the Alliance.

Sources of Instability in the East

Day 1 was largely dedicated to the maritime element of NATO’s adaptation to the surrounding borders of the Alliance. Arguably, Russia maintains a competitive advantage over the Alliance through rapid decision-making, strong public support of military actions, and the use of operations in the perceived grey space below the threshold of war. Recent moves by Russia have tested NATO’s unity and the Alliance should pay particular attention to the Baltic and Black Sea regions. 

To counter this aggressive posture, the first panel recommended the Alliance adapt a posture of constraint and engagement while maintaining the moral high ground through transparency. Credible and visible deterrence can be achieved through intensified Maritime Expeditionary Operational exercises such as the recent BALTOPS exercise, in which 14 NATO nations participated along with partners Finland and Sweden. 

A presenter speaks before gathered leaders. (STRIKFORNATO)
A presenter speaks before gathered leaders. (STRIKFORNATO)

Both the Baltic and Black Sea regions require a tailored solution that takes into account regional diversity while providing a cooperative and inclusive approach. In particular, the Black Sea’s importance as a strategic crossroads and cradle of Russian aggression requires cooperation with as many nations as possible including partners Ukraine and Georgia. 

Sources of Instability in the South

Socioeconomic instability along the southern peripheries of the Alliance has caused mass migration and terrorist attacks to rise to an unprecedented level. The second panel focused on the effects of the deteriorating security situation in the Middle East and Africa and how the impact on NATO members will necessitate a review of NATO’s Area of Responsibility.

As evolving threats continue to put new pressures on resources and priorities, NATO cannot act unilaterally in the region; it must cooperate with regional partners such as the African Union and Arab League to provide support. In the context of Maritime Expeditionary Operations, NATO can best provide a supporting role in functions such as maritime domain awareness, freedom of navigation, and port security. However, in a relatively new strategic direction for the Alliance, NATO must commit to understanding the complex environment to the south prior to proposing specific means of engagement. 

Importance of Training

Day 2 focused on maritime exercises, training, and the role of maritime partnerships. NATO’s two primary maritime objectives are to deny use of the sea by adversaries and to deliver effects ashore. The former is an easily understood mission, but the latter includes multiple missions to include power projection, humanitarian assistance, noncombatant evacuation, and newer effects such as cyber warfare. In the event of invoking Article V, the most difficult situation for the Alliance at sea is operating Carrier Strike and Amphibious Tasking simultaneously with an appropriately agile and interoperable Command and Control Structure.

Attendants listen to a presenter. (STRIKFORNATO)
Attendants listen to a presenter. (STRIKFORNATO)

Without the historical context of a past Article V mission at sea, the Alliance is left to develop trust and interoperability through training and exercises. One senior official was quoted, “trust cannot be surged,” it must be developed over time with quality training opportunities. All but 10 out of the 25 Alliance navies have fewer days at sea than planned per year. Allied navies must increase the number of large scale, unscripted combined and joint exercises while maximizing return on investment for the time and money spent by individual nations. Integrating the maritime and land forces of allied countries will allow the Alliance to train how it will fight.

Partnership

Partners offer regional expertise and experience that NATO can leverage to execute the Alliance Maritime Strategy. For example, Sweden’s in depth understanding of operations in the littoral environment or Japan’s grasp of the shifting military balance in East Asia can benefit Alliance security. Each potential maritime partner will have a unique relationship with the Alliance, each with its own political guidance and tailored cooperative engagements.

Potential areas of cooperation with partners in the maritime domain include supporting rule of law, joint exercises, deeper intelligence sharing, capacity building, defense of sea lines of communications, joint capability development, and participation and training in NATO’s Centres of Excellence.

Ultimately, partnering with other nations will drive the Alliance to be globally aware, agile, and enable NATO Maritime Expeditionary Operations to face emerging threats within and beyond  the traditional NATO Area of Responsibility.

LT Clarissa Butler is an E-2C Naval Flight Officer who has deployed in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. She is currently working at Combined Joint Operations from the Sea, Centre of Excellence.

[i] Key note speakers and panelists

  • General Petr Pavel, Chairman of the Military Committee
  • Admiral Michelle Howard, Commander, Joint Force Command Naples
  • Admiral Manfred Nielson, Deputy Commander, Allied Command Transformation
  • Ambassador Masafumi Ishii, Ambassador of Japan to Belgium and NATO
  • Ambassador Stefano Stefanini, Atlantic Council
  • Vice Admiral James Foggo, Commander, SFN
  • Vice Admiral Rainer Brinkmann, Vice Chief of German Navy
  • Vice Admiral Clive Johnstone CB CBE, Commander, NATO Allied Maritime Command
  • Vice Admiral Eric Chaperon, Commander of French Reaction Force
  • Vice Admiral Richard Breckenridge, DCOM USFFC & Director, CJOS COE
  • Major General Rob Magowan CBE, Commandant General, Royal Marines
  • Brigadier General Patrick Hermesmann, Commanding General, 4th Marine Logistics Group
  • Rear Admiral Alexandru Mirsu, Commander, Romanian Navy
  • Rear Admiral John Clink OBE, Commander, Flag Officer Sea Training
  • Rear Admiral Luis Carlos de Sousa Pereira, Commandant, Portuguese Marines
  • Rear Admiral Jens Nykvist, Chief of Staff of Royal Swedish Navy
  • Rear Admiral Peter Gumataotao, Deputy Chief of Staff, Allied Command Transformation
  • Rear Admiral Paddy McAlpine CBE, Deputy Commander, SFN
  • Commodore Kees-Boelema Robertus, Commander, Netherlands Maritime Forces
  • Commodore Phil Titterton OBE, Deputy Director, CJOS COE
  • Assis Malaquias, Africa Center for Strategic Studies
  • Professor Spyridon Litsas, University of Macedonia
  • James Bergeron, Chief Political Advisor, NATO Allied Maritime Command

Featured Image: Gathered leaders at MEOC 2016. (STRIKFORNATO)