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Larger Europe mission for Navy is possible to counter Russian activity, Navy undersecretary says

The Honorable Thomas B. Modly, left, under secretary of the Navy, and the Honorable President Donald J. Trump, middle, 45th President of the United States, listen to U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Walter E. Carter Jr., superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, during the graduation and commissioning ceremony of the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 2018, Annapolis, Md., May 25, 2018. Trump gave a graduation address to the 1,042 graduating midshipmen, along with handing each one their diploma. (Cpl. Hailey D. Clay/U.S. Marine Corps)

The U.S. Navy will need to do more to counter Russia’s increasing military activity, the service’s number two civilian said Tuesday, a move that could increase the service’s profile in a region where the Army and Air Force have stationed large forces for decades.

Given concerns about Russia’s investments in its navy and especially its enhanced undersea capabilities, a larger Europe mission for the Navy is possible, Undersecretary of the Navy Thomas Modly said in Washington after returning from a weeklong overseas tour.

“We are going to have to do some things to meet that challenge,” he said.

A recent decision to reactivate the Navy’s 2nd Fleet, a move to better monitor increased Russian activity in the north Atlantic Ocean, is one way he said the service has adapted.

“My view is we wouldn’t have done that if we didn’t think that there was going to be a renewed emphasis in that area,” Modly said. “How that is going to manifest itself (in Europe), I don’t know. That is one of the things we are thinking about.”

Modly swept through Norway and Romania to tout the service’s mission in regions worried about Russian aggression and eager for more frequent U.S. warship visits as a bulwark.

“I think more so than anything, they are just looking for a firm commitment that we are with them,” Modly said.

In Europe, where the Army and Air Force operate several bases, the Navy and Marines have been adding assets. In Norway, 700 Marines are now training year-round to boost their cold-weather fighting skills. And in Romania, a Navy missile defense mission is fully operational, with additional elements in Poland expected to be up and running next year.

The USS Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group also just wrapped up a Europe deployment, marking its first foray into the Arctic since the end of the Cold War.

Modly’s European swing followed NATO’s recent Trident Juncture exercise in Norway and comes amid provocative moves by Russia in both the Black Sea and Arctic.

On Tuesday, Moscow announced it will build up its military presence in the Arctic in 2019, adding air defense radar units and aviation guidance points. To the south, Russia’s attack on Ukrainian naval ships in the Black Sea last month also has rattled allies in the region.

Romania, a country worried about Russian dominance of the Black Sea, plans to add new warships and submarines to its navy fleet. During his stop there, Modly said the Romanians were touting their modernization efforts.

“They are very serious about building their navy,” he said.


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