Intelligence Forecast
16-31 August 2018

1. US Second Fleet to be formally re-established

In May of 2018, a plan to re-establish the United States Second Fleet was officially brought to the desk of Admiral John Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations. This plan would bring back the US Navy’s fleet in charge of the east coast and north Atlantic. The fleet was reactivated in Norfolk on 1 July 2018 and is set to have a formal establishment ceremony later this month with admiral Richardson presiding. The Second fleet command structure was eliminated due to cost-saving measures in 2011. This left the forces on the east coast not reporting to any numbered fleet, leaving gaps in communication and cohesion. However, the threat from Russia has continued to grow to force the United States to rethink its military strategies in coalition with its NATO allies.

This plan comes in conjunction with a new push from NATO, as the commander of the second fleet will also serve as the new NATO joint forces commander of the Atlantic. The plan to create the new NATO command was established earlier this year and will be headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia. The command is designed to increase communications between NATO allies. In the case of war with Russia or China, communications between the United States and our European allies could get cut off. This new command will ensure that joint operations between NATO allies will be successful in the chaos of war. This is just one more point in the increase of military preparedness that the United States and its European allies have been partaking in.

All of these new commands come as the threat from Russia continues to grow. The strategic location of the command center in Norfolk is no coincidence. After a rash of Russian military surveillance ships being spotted off the east coast of the United States, specifically around Norfolk (a major Naval base), the United States is looking to protect our shores from enemy surveillance and possible military operations. NATO has also been under extreme pressure from the rising Russian threat. The NATO defence ministers have taken note of the increase in military activities of Russia including the 2014 invasion of Crimea, the 2017 ZAPAD military exercises that put thousands of Russian soldier on the border of several NATO nations, and the increase of Russian maritime and submarine activities in waters around the northern Atlantic and off the coast of the United States.

Because of the increase in threat from Russia, the United States, and its NATO allies have felt the need to increase military preparedness. This is a good sign that this administration is finally taking national security seriously and will not be caught off guard if and when war breaks out.

2. The United States Space Force is starting to take shape

For the first time since the mention of a new branch of the armed forces, the White House has opened up about its plan to create a Space Force. In a speech by Vice President Mike Pence at the Pentagon, it was revealed that the White House is pushing for the creation of the Space Force by the year 2020. They are seeking funding in the congressional budget for that year, allowing for the creation of this new branch.

In the meantime, the Trump administration is continuing to work on laying the groundwork for when funding becomes available including creating a civilian position, Assistant Secretary of Defense of Space, but did not name a nominee for the position. The speech by the Vice President also outlined several other combatant commands including the U.S. Space Command, the Space Operations Force and a joint organization called the Space Development Agency.

The creation of this new branch is ultimately dependent upon congressional approval. As of right now, there are a lot of mixed views on the new Space Force, primarily divided between party lines. However several key Republicans (including the number two Republican in charge of the Senate Armed Services Committee, James Inhofe) are opposed to the idea of creating the Space Force. If Senator John McCain (who is the current chair of the committee) is unable to perform his duties next year and the Republicans remain in power in the Senate, it would be up to Senator Inhofe to manage the bill through Senate. This would leave the management of the bill up to a senator who has been opposed to the idea.

There is still a long way before the United States has a Space Force, but it is reassuring that this issue is still at the pinnacle of the government’s attention. Space is a growing issue for national security, and if the United States does not take it seriously, they will soon be outgunned by our adversaries in the final frontier.

3. NATO – Turkish Relations on the Decline

The relationship between Turkey and the other members of NATO, to include the United States, has been on rocky soil since current Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan took power in 2014. Today, the connections between Turkey and its allies seem to be dwindling, with the most recent quarrels coming from economic sanctions imposed by the United States.

The US sanctions were imposed by the Trump Administration in an attempt to free Pastor Andrew Brunson from Turkish authorities. Brunson, an American Christian pastor, has been held since 2016 as a pawn for Erdoğan to use in his attempt to gain leverage over the United States. The results of the imposed sanctions have been devastating to the Turkish economy, causing the Lira to hit record lows. Though these actions give the United States a “leg up,” they have significant implications.

(Kabul, Afghanistan) Two Turkish soldiers salute while the Afghan National Army band plays the national anthems of Turkey and Afghanistan. Turkey has an outstanding relationship with Afghanistan and continues to support recovery and sustainment. (U.S. Navy photo by MC2 (SW) Christopher Hall)

The United States and other NATO nations have used Turkey as their middle ground for the wars raging in the Middle East, finding safe haven for military equipment and personnel. Today, an anti-ISIS coalition still runs out of Incirlik Air Base, a location which has only ever been used for NATO staging an intervention. If Turkey were to withdraw from NATO, it would put Incirlik in a bind and likely result in Turkey expelling the forces operating there. Stepping away from NATO would also give leeway to Erdoğan to further his own radical actions, domestic and international, which stem from his desire to recreate the Ottoman empire.

Though Turkey removing itself from NATO in most likely far from fruition, the degrading of Turkish relations with the US and others are rapidly evolving. Erdoğan is not a rational leader, as seen by both his past and present, refusing to accept accountability for his actions. The fundamentalist Islamic dictator cannot be trusted as an international actor, especially when he maintains nuclear weapons capabilities which could easily be turned on his “allies.” Also dangerous is the Russia-Turkey connection, which has been growing stronger seemingly due to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s disdain for NATO. The delicate situation of Turkey is something which could have massive implications and cannot be taken lightly.