Tag Archives: Navy

Counter Influence Activities to U.S. Posture in the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf

By Chad M. Pillai

The year is 2030, five years after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) officially expired, and Iran has made its move to go nuclear. As the United States and its allies attempt to militarily respond, they face a new reality: assured access and freedom of movement (FOM) is no longer guaranteed due to Russian and Chinese counter influence activities in the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf Region. Should this scenario come as a surprise?  The answer is no, because the Russians and Chinese are putting the pieces in position now.  

Since the end of WWII, the most potent aspect of the U.S. military has been its forward posture consisting of a network of forces, footprints, and agreements. With Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran being identified as the four primary state challengers to the U.S.-led global order, the Defense Department is examining its global posture to ensure it has the means to assure allies, deter challengers, and if necessary defeat aggressors. However, Russia and China have not been sitting idle as the U.S. seeks to strengthen its position. In fact, they have studied our doctrine and are implementing their own global posture initiatives to secure their national interests and, if necessary, threaten our interests. Their focus has been around the three critical maritime chokepoints: the Suez Canal, the Bab-el-Mandeb, and the Strait of Hormuz.   

Russia

Russia has been the most visible in re-asserting itself in the Middle East with its military campaign to support the Assad Regime in Syria. Russia’s principal interest in Syria is ensuring its continued access to a warm water port in the Mediterranean. The U.S. and its western allies’ early attempts to prevent Russian support for Syria by denying the Russians the ability to ship helicopters in 2012 motivated Russia to reposition its naval forces in the area and build relationships with countries in the region.

Tartus naval base in Syria. (Google Earth, DigitalGlobe)
Tartus naval base in Syria. (Google Earth, DigitalGlobe)

Its reinforcement of advanced air-defense systems in Syria extended Russia’s Anti-Access/Anti-Denial (A2/AD) network from the Baltic region to the Eastern Mediterranean. Recent reports also indicate that Russia is seeking to re-establish its military presence in Egypt at a former air base abandoned in 1972. If Russia is able to establish a foothold in Egypt, its bases in Syria along with its fleet operating in the Eastern Mediterranean would pose a significant challenge to U.S. and allied forces in a potential future conflict while attempting to conduct strikes or move through the Suez.

China

When it comes to China’s military expansion, most observers focus on events in the East and South China Seas and its susceptibility to the “Malacca Straits” dilemma. Like Russia, China has not been idle in developing a “globalized security posture” to secure its interests abroad. The construction of China’s first military outpost in Djibouti is a clear manifestation of China’s global outlook. This is a worrying development for the U.S., which operates from Camp Lemonier, a military base not too far from where China is establishing their base. The future danger of a Chinese base in Djibouti is demonstrated by the recent attacks against U.S. ships off the coast of Yemen. While the U.S. is capable of defending itself and responding to untrained Houthi rebels in Yemen, it may find a more competent and better equipped Chinese force threatening access to the Bab-el-Mandeb a more difficult challenge.

A People’s Liberation Army Navy soldier stands guard as Chinese citizens board a Chinese naval ship at a port in Aden last year. Photo: Reuters
A People’s Liberation Army Navy sailor stands guard as Chinese citizens board a Chinese naval ship at a port in Aden last year. (Reuters)

Besides Djibouti, China is reaching out to Oman for access and has established an agreement with Pakistan to use the Port of Gwadar. While the Port of Gwadar is viewed by many as a means for China to challenge India’s influence in the region, it could also be used to challenge the U.S. Navy from operating in the region as well, especially to reinforce its position near the Straits of Hormuz. In a nutshell, China in partnership with Russia and Iran, could shut down three of the most important maritime chokepoints in the world.

Conclusion

General Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recognizes the threat of Russia and China along with Iran, North Korea, and Violent Extremists in his 4+1 construct. However, our efforts to deter these actors individually could have the unfortunate consequence of drawing them closer together as an unholy alliance seeking to diminish U.S. influence. The scenario in the beginning is clearly possible if Russia and China in partnership with Iran choose to deny the U.S. assured access and freedom of movement. While the U.S. is developing numerous concepts to defeat various forms of A2/AD in the Pacific and Persian Gulf regions already, it must accept that for future operations against determined enemies who have studied our doctrine of warfare, the cost of winning will be considerably greater.  

Chad M. Pillai, an Army Strategist, is a member of the War on the Rocks (WOTR) Founders Club, the Military Writers Guild, and the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC). He has previously published The Bear, Dragon, and Eagle: Russian, Chinese, and U.S. Military Strategies and India as the Pivotal Power of the 21st Century Security Order for CIMSEC. He has also contributed to the Strategy Bridge, War on the Rocks (WOTR), Infinity Journal, Small Wars Journal, Offizier, and Military Review. He earned his Masters in International Public Policy (MIPP) from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).  

Featured Image: Iranian naval ships conduct an attack on a mock U.S. warship in the Strait of Hormuz (Hamed Jafarnejad/AFP/Getty Images)

9-14 May 2016 Maritime Security Events

This is a roundup of maritime security and national security events that our readers and members might find interesting. As CIMSEC has a global presence, our events list reflects events from around the world. Inclusion does not equal endorsement – those bolded are most apparently related to maritime security. See one we missed?  Email our Director of Operations at operations@cimsec.org.

CIMSEC May 18th Meet-up at Archipelago

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9-14 May 2016 Maritime Security Events

09 May 2016 – Philippines Presidential Election

10 May 2016 – Washington, DC – CSIS – “The State of Defense Acquisition”

10 May 2016 – Canberra, Australia – ANU – “Is the Taiwan Strait still a flash point?”

11 May 2016 – Washington, DC – The Heritage Foundation – “The National Security Implications of Rapid Access to Space”

11-12 May 2016 – Singapore – ACI – “Maritime Security Management” 

11-15 May 2016 – Portland, Maine – Maritime History Conference” 

11-20 May 2016 – New York – UN IMO Maritime Safety Committee Meeting

12 May 2016 – Washington, DC – The Heritage Foundation – “Helping Secure Asia’s Future through Enhanced U.S.-India Defense Partnership”

13 May 2016 – Washington, DC – Defense Entrepreneurs Forum – “DEFxDC”

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Long-Range Maritime Security Events

16-18 May 2016 – Washington, DC – Navy League – “Sea, Air, Space Symposium”

20 May 2016 – Taiwan’s Presidential Inauguration

24-27 May 2016 – Vientiane – ASEAN – 10th ADMM 

26-27 May 2016 – Ise-Shima, Japan – G7 Summit

June-July 2016 – Hawaii – Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Naval Exercise 

June 2016 – Baltic Sea – BALTOPS Naval Exercise

03-05 June 2016 – Singapore – IISS – “Shangri-La Dialogue” 

06-07 June 2016 – Lisbon – G7++ Friends of Gulf of Guinea Meeting

13-15 June 2016 – Ontario, Canada – Queens University – “Engagement Between Peace and War:
How Soldiers and Military Institutions Adapt”

13-15 June 2016 – Newport, RI – USNWC – “Naval Strategist Forum and Current Strategy Forum” 

19-24 June 2016 – Hawaii – U of Hawaii– “International Coral Reef Symposium” 

20-22 June 2016 – Gdansk, Poland – “BaltMilitary Expo”

21 June 2016 – Kiel, Germany – “Maritime Security Challenges and the High North” 

23 June – 02 July 2016 – Aspen, CO – Aspen – “Aspen Ideas Festival”

23 June 2016 – Washington, DC – Booze Allen/CSBA – “Directed Energy Summit 2016” 

27-28 June 2016 – New York City – ICAS/UVA/UN – “Legal Order in the World’s Oceans: UN Convention on the Law of the Sea”

5-7 July 2016 – Norfolk, VA – NATO C2COE – “C2 in Emerging Warfare – Challenges to the Alliance and Coalitions” 

July 2016 – Yaounde Meeting and Operationalization of Interregional Coordination Center (ICC) for Maritime Safety and Security in Central and West Africa

27-30 July – 02 July 2016 – Aspen, CO – Aspen – “Aspen Security Forum”

01-04 Aug 2016 – Aspen, CO – Aspen – “Roundtable on Artificial Intelligence”

02-04 Aug 2016 – Everett, WA – Maritime Security West 2016

08-09 Aug 2016 – Venice, Italy – WASET – “International Conference on Port and Maritime Security”

09-12 Aug 2016 – Hawaii – East-West Center – “North Pacific Arctic Conference on Arctic Futures”

Sep 2016 – Thailand – ASEAN – ADMM-Plus Military Medicine and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Exercise (AM-HEx)

Sep 2016 – Panama – UNITAS Naval Exercise

Sep 2016 – Newport, RI – USNWC – International “Seapower Symposium”

06-09 Sep 2016 – Hamburg, Germany – SMM – “International Conference on Maritime Security and Defense”

07 Sep – Micronesia – Pacific Islands Forum

15-16 Sep 2016 – Washington, DC – State Dept. – Our Ocean Conference 2016 

25-28 Sep 2016 – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – International Sociological Association – “Transformations of the Military Profession”

Oct 2016 – Southeast Asia – U.S. Navy – SEACAT Naval Exercise

Oct 2016 – Indian Navy, U.S. Navy, JMSDF – Malabar Naval Exercise

03-06 Oct 2016 – Vancouver, Canada – Navy League of Canada – “Maritime Security Challenges 2016”

15 Oct 2016 – Lome, Togo – AU – AU Regional Conference: Maritime Security and Development in Africa

17-21 Oct 2016 – Paris, France – “EuroNaval 2016”

01-02 Nov 2016 – Kuala Lampur, Indonesia- “13th Annual Maritime Security and Coastal Surveillance Conference”

02-05 Nov 2016 – Jakarta, Indonesia – IndoDefense Expo 2016”

13-16 Nov 2016 – Auckland, NZ – ASEAN – ADMM-Plus Maritime Security Exercise: Exercise Mahi Tangaroa

21-25 Nov 2016 – New York – UN IMO Maritime Safety Committee Meeting

29 Nov-02 Dec 2016 – Vino del Mar, Chile – “ExpoNaval 2016”

Dec 2016 – Expiration of EUNAVFOR Operation Atalanta and NATO’s Operationa Ocean Shield Counter-Piracy Mandates 

14-15 Jan 2017 – New York City – SMM – “2017 TELOS Conference: Asymmetrical Warfare – The Centrality of the Political to the Strategic” (Call for Papers Deadline: 31 July 2016)

03-05 Oct 2017 – Mumbai, India – SMM – “INMEX“

Sea Control 117 – Niger Delta Pirates Declare War?

seacontrol2Niger Delta violence returns as oil prices plummet and both the Nigerian government’s ability and willingness to pay off former militants decreases. As the Nigerian Navy moves to counter this new violence, a largely unknown group called the “Niger Delta Avengers” has responded by “declaring war” on the Navy. Dirk Steffen, who recently published a CIMSEC article on this development, joins us to discuss the current situation in the Gulf of Guinea, the militant threats, government capabilities & intentions, as well as the methods and background of these pirate operations. 

This is not the podcast to miss! It won’t make you an expert like Dirk, but he’ll have given us enough information to pretend to be one by the end of the podcast.

DOWNLOAD: Niger Delta Pirates Declare War?

Sea Control 114 – South China Sea with CAPT James Fanell

seacontrol2For a discussion on the South China Sea, Sally DeBoer, our Book Review Editor, brings in CAPT James Fannell (USN, Ret), the former Director of Intelligence and Information Operations (N2) for the US Pacific Fleet.  During the course of his thirty year career, CAPT Fanell specialized in Indo-Asia Pacific security affairs, with an emphasis on the Chinese navy and its operations. CAPT Fanell is an experienced public speaker noted for his candor and expertise. He is currently a government fellow for the Geneva Center for Security Policy and the author of Red Star Rising.

Download this week’s episode here!

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