A top admiral in the U.S. Navy warned on Tuesday that U.S. ships docked at ports on the Atlantic are no longer safe from foreign enemy attacks.
The three-star helming the Navy’s 2nd Fleet, Vice Adm. Andrew “Woody” Lewis, said that places that were once safe are no longer so due to increased submarine activity from Russia and China, the Washington Examiner reported.
“The homeland is not a sanctuary,” Lewis warned at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “Our ships can no longer expect to operate in a safe haven off the east coast or merely cross the Atlantic unhindered to operate in another location.”
“Our new reality is that when our sailors toss lines over and set sail, they can expect to be operating in a contested space once they leave Norfolk,” he said. “We are seeing an ever-increasing number of Russian submarines deploy in the Atlantic. And these submarines are more capable than ever, deploying for longer periods of time with more lethal weapons systems.”
Lewis’ warning comes after the U.S. Coast Guard reported in December that a Russian spy ship was suspected to be operating in the Atlantic with apparent disregard for safety near the Georgia and South Carolina coasts.
The Russian ship, Viktor Leonov, was seen operating near a U.S. nuclear sub base. Issuing a safety warning, the Coast Guard noted the Leonov’s activity included erratic movements, not powering running lights in low visibility conditions and not responding to ships attempting to coordinate safe passage.
“We have seen some of our ships, the USS Mahan for example, in the early stages of their training cycle operating on station in the Atlantic with a Russian intelligence ship when it visited our coastline late last year,” Lewis said. “Real world requirements do not discriminate. The intelligence ship did not care at what phase of training our ships were in or if it had achieved its full certification.”
The U.S. military needs to get creative in planning how to undermine Russian and Chinese threats because the Navy no longer has the overwhelming technological edge against them, according to Lewis.
“I believe that there’s an awakening amongst our sailors that there are real bad things, potentially. … Where we take a lot of risk nowadays is in our cybersloppiness, for lack of a better term.”
The Pentagon has echoed the admiral’s warnings, saying that China and Russia are developing plans to block U.S. forces from entering key ports around the world, threatening U.S. troops.
“If we were to look at how great power competition will be driven, it will be driven by investments in gray matter as much as gray hulls,” Lewis added. “The gap that we’ll have on a technological basis, weapons systems, will not be that great. It’s how we fight.”