US Navy seeks ‘long-term’ presence in the Med, warns of Russia’s increased capabilities

Three Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, the USS McCampbell (DDG 85), USS Lassen (DDG 82) and USS Shoup (DDG 86) steam in formation during a photo exercise (PHOTOEX) for Valiant Shield 2006 in the Pacific Ocean, June 18, 2006. © Todd P. Cichonowicz
US Navy weighs permanent deployment in the Mediterranean to respond to Russia’s increased naval capabilities, a senior Navy official said. As part of global rivalry, not countering Moscow at sea entails the “risk of falling behind,” another Navy chief warned.

The US Navy is considering “long-term” deployments in the Mediterranean in addition to the ongoing use of four guided missile destroyers stationed in Rota, Spain, the senior Navy official told Sputnik on Tuesday.

“You could say it’s because of the migrant issue and the tax that that has put on European navies, and then certainly because of the increased Russian naval presence and capability,” he added. Washington is also in touch with its NATO allies to see what amount of naval capacities the Europeans are able to stand up.

“The reason for those discussions… at the top of that list, again, is the increased Russian presence and what it means,” the official reiterated.

Since the mid-1990s, Washington has had no permanent presence in the Mediterranean. However, over the past year, the US Navy has moved four Arleigh Burke-class destroyers into the Mediterranean as part of its ballistic missile defense (BMD) program in Europe, which Moscow has described as dangerous and destabilizing.

Earlier Monday, another top Navy officer, Chief of Naval Operations Adm John Richardson, said during a speech at the National Press Club that the 25-year period of America’s absolute dominance at sea has now gone, as both Russia and China have advanced their military potential dramatically. 

“When the Soviet Union dissolved, the Cold War ended, we really entered a period where we were not … challenged at sea, not in a very meaningful way. That era is over,” Adm Richardson warned.

As for Moscow’s military power, the Russian Navy “is operating at a frequency and pace not seen for more than two decades,” Richardson said, citing Russia’s naval task force in the Mediterranean consisting of up to 10 combat and support vessels since the end of 2012, including the Varyag guided-missile cruiser that joined the mission last week.

In early 2015, Vice Admiral Joseph Mulloy, US deputy chief of naval operations for capabilities and resources, said the Chinese Navy has more diesel and nuclear attack submarines than America does. Some of them are “fairly amazing” and the Chinese “submarine forces are growing at a tremendous rate."

READ MORE: China outpaces America in sub numbers – US admiral

Richardson did not provide any details of possible countermeasures the US Navy may take. In the Navy’s new strategy, dubbed “A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority” and released in early January, says Washington’s adversaries – notably Moscow and Beijing – are seeking to exploit what Richardson called the “three global forces”: traffic in the ocean, the global information system and the increasing rate of innovation.

Moscow’s revised maritime strategy, introduced in July 2015, specifically addressed stepping up Russian naval presence in the Black Sea, as well as in the Arctic and the Atlantic. New warships and submarines are also being commissioned for the Russian Navy to extend its regional and global reach.

“If we do not recognize and adapt to the changing character of the game, we are a navy that is at risk of falling behind … our competitors,” Richardson said.