Following a sharp increase in Russian naval activity in the arctic and North Atlantic, the Trump administration has reactivated Navy's 2nd Fleet to deal with "bad actors on the world's stage," according to Vice Adm. Andrew "Woody" Lewis, who took command of the reestablished forces.
In a Friday ceremony aboard the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush, Lewis warned of foreign adversaries who intend to undermine American dominance, referring to (but not naming) Russia - which has vast military assets in the Arctic Circle, a region estimated to contain 15% of the world's remaining oil and up to 30% of natural gas deposits.
“There are some bad actors on the world’s stage,” Lewis told the crowd. “We call them competitors in our strategic documents. They intend to undermine and rewrite the order that America established at the end of world war II and threaten the very birthright freedoms that we hold sacred.” -Navy Times
“Second Fleet has a storied history and we’ll honor that legacy,” Lewis told those in attendance. “However, we will not simply pick up where we left off. We are going to aggressively and quickly rebuild this command into an operational warfighting organization. We will challenge assumptions, recognize, our own vices and learn and adapt from our own failures in order to innovate and build a fleet that’s ready to fight.”
The 2nd Fleet's boundaries will extend "well past the old submarine stomping grounds of the Cold War into waters north of Scandinavia and the Arctic Circle," near the submarine headquarters of Russia's Northern Fleet, according to John Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations.
"A new 2nd Fleet increases our strategic flexibility to respond — from the Eastern Seaboard to the Barents Sea," said Richardson. "Second Fleet will approach the North Atlantic as one continuous operational space, and conduct expeditionary fleet operations where and when needed."
"The days of competition at sea and challenges to our maritime security have returned," said US Fleet Forces Commander Adm. Chris Grady. "We, as a nation, have not had to confront such a competition since the Cold War ended nearly three decades ago," he added.
Russia's arctic forces
The Kremlin, meanwhile, has been increasing their presence in the Arctic region over the last several years - deploying submarines and other assets on a permanent basis. "In the future, we plan to further increase our presence in the Arctic region [as] a matter of national state security," Russian Rear Admiral Viktor Kochemazov told Russian newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda in 2017. Kochemazov is the head of the combat training department of the Russian Navy.
"Along with the modernization and construction of the new submarines, work is underway to create sophisticated submarine-based weapon systems," Kochemazov said, referring to the Kalibr and Oniks missile systems capable of destroying both sea and ground targets.
"Additionally, new samples of underwater naval weapons are being developed," he said, adding that new diesel-electric submarines and nuclear powered submarine cruisers have been equipped with torpedoes with improved tactical and technical characteristics since 2016. -Sputnik
In 2015, Business Insider reported on Russia's increasing northern presence, warning that the Kremlin is "positioning itself to become the dominant player in a resource-rich and strategically positioned region."
In order to capitalize on the oil and gas under the Arctic seabed and exploit new shipping routes as ice cover recedes, Moscow is undertaking a major military upgrade of its northern coast and outlying archipelagos. Its new bases — which include search-and-rescue stations, ports and airstrips, and military headquarters — are meant to project Russian hard power into an emerging strategic frontier.
To support the new military bases, many of which are old Soviet bases that are being reopened or modernized, the Kremlin is upgrading its Northern Fleet.
The fleet will undergo a substantial upgrade starting in 2015 that will last through the end of the decade. -Business Insider
Moscow has plans to open ten Arctic search-and-rescue stations, 16 deep-water ports, 13 airfields and 10 air defense radar stations across the Arctic. Once construction is completed, it will "permit the use of larger and more modern bombers," according to NYU Russia expert Mark Galeotti.
"By 2025, the Arctic waters are to be patrolled by a squadron of next-generation stealthy PAK DA bombers."
In other words, the Trump administration is simply keeping up with the Joneskis after Obama balked in the face of rapid Russian expansion.