Press briefing on Exercise Trident Juncture 2018

with Admiral James G. Foggo III, Commander of Joint Force Command Naples and Vice Admiral Ketil Olsen, Military Representative of Norway to the NATO Military Committee

  • 11 Jun. 2018 -
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  • Mis à jour le: 12 Jun. 2018 12:16

Press briefing by James G. Foggo, Commander of Joint Force Command Naples and Vice Admiral Ketil Olsen, Military Representative of Norway to the NATO Military Committee

Piers Cazalet, NATO Deputy Spokesperson: Good afternoon. This is a briefing about Exercise Trident Juncture 18. With more than 30 Allies and partners participating, it will be one of the biggest NATO exercises in recent years. It will take place in Norway, on land, sea and in the airspace, in October and November. The exercise is designed to make sure that NATO forces are trained, able to operate together, and ready to respond to any threat from any direction. So we thought it’s a good opportunity today to brief you, well in advance, of the activity. Because of the importance of the exercise to NATO, but also because we are committed to be transparent about our military activities.

So, we are very lucky today, we have two senior military officials to provide details and to answer any questions. They are happy to go into further details about the scenario, the locations, the participation and the reach of the exercise. We will start in a minute with Admiral James Foggo, who is Commander of NATO’s Joint Force Command in Naples. He will be the Commanding Officer of the exercise. And then we also have Vice Admiral Ketil Olsen, Military Representative of Norway to the NATO Military Committee, representing Norway, the host nation.

Before I give the two admirals the floor, I just want to run through a couple of the basics.

Trident Juncture 18 is one of a series of long-planned exercises to ensure that NATO Allies are ready to deal with any emerging crisis from any direction, and that they are able to work effectively with partners in tackling any crisis. It’s one of the largest exercises we have, although it’s not the only exercise; most of you will be familiar with other exercises that we run in various domains, including table-top exercises. This is part of NATO’s continuing response to the changed security environment, and of our adaptation to it. And in addition to all the Allies, we have a number of partners taking part, including Finland and Sweden. This will train and demonstrate NATO’s ability to work with two close and important partners.

Finally, as with all NATO exercises, Trident Juncture 18 has been planned in open, transparent and predictable way. You will have seen details about it on our website for some time. We’ve also briefed Russia about it at the recent meeting of the NATO-Russia Council on the 31st of May. And of course, international observers will be invited, as they are to all major Allied exercises; this is through the Vienna Document process. You journalists are also invited; there will be a media day, on the 30th of October, and we are working on creating opportunities for you to attend the exercise throughout.

With that, let me pass the floor to Admiral Foggo.

Admiral Foggo: Thank you. And thank you to the members of the media showing interest in Trident Juncture. The Trident Juncture LIVEX will take place in and around Norway from about 25 October to 07 November, with advanced activities in and around Iceland from October 15th to 17th. It will be my privilege as the Commander of Joint Force Command Naples to go up to Norway and be in command of more than 40,000 participants from 30 different countries. But I want to emphasise the relationship that I have in my headquarters with my deputy commander, and that is Lieutenant General Christian Juneau, Canadian Officer of the Vingt-deux Regiment; General Juneau will be on the ground and he is an army officer, extraordinarily talented, and so he will be in between Stavanger and Bodo. I am going to be where I belong in this navy-blue uniform; at sea. And so, I'm going to work at… General Juneau is the land commander for the better part of this exercise, while I am providing oversight and monitoring at sea.

I'm a huge believer in the Alliance and quite frankly this is my fifth job on the continent of Europe. I feel very comfortable here. I've had three NATO commands and it's my eighth year in the European theatre. I'm a submariner. I've spent 12 years of my life at sea, better part of my career in the Pentagon bouncing back and forth between at sea assignments and European assignments. And, as a I tell my friends in the Alliance, I was born into NATO. My father was a Canadian officer, not unlike General Juneau, and he served in the Canadian Armed Forces and at the NATO Land Component Command Headquarters in Germany. And I'm very proud of that heritage. I carry a copy of the NATO Charter with me at all times in my briefcase and I refer to it periodically, because this is going to be an Article 5 operation. And I can tell you that I love the Alliance and the greater international community with which we partner.

First and foremost, the purpose of the exercise is NATO is a defensive Alliance. So we're never looking for a fight, but we are committed to defence and deter. And those are two terms that I hear the Secretary General use a great deal in his conferences with you in the media and with Allies and partners. And that’s what this exercise is all about; training to defend and providing a deterrent effect, ready to respond to any threat, from any direction at any time.

Trident Juncture will show the world that NATO is relevant, united and ready to defend itself in this Article 5 scenario, testing our collective defence. At the core of the exercise is the NATO Response Force, and that’s what we are qualifying to take responsibility for. There are two Joint Force Headquarters right now, the NRF responsibility resides with my counterparts in Brunssum, and we are about to embark on the certification so that we can receive that responsibility back in 2019.

And within this exercise we will have the 5,000 person Spearhead Force, otherwise known as the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, or the VJTF, exercising in Norway.

All in all, we've got 29 member nations participating, plus partners Sweden and Finland. And those are two of NATO's closest and most capable partners in the region. I've always enjoyed working with them and I look forward to this opportunity as well. And I look forward to working with Norway and Admiral Olsen and Admiral Bruun-Hanssen and their team, as fellow NATO members and hosts of the exercise. They're a very capable and committed NATO Ally and have done a lot of work already to make Trident Juncture a huge success for the Alliance.

I was up there a couple of months ago, in Bodo and Stavanger, and was very impressed with the preparations that went on and the post crisis response planning phase of the exercise. I met with Norway's Chief of Defence, Admiral Haakon Bruun-Hanssen, in February in Oslo, and he will come to see me for a counterpart visit in Naples in July. We have a fantastic relationship, not just between the Chief and myself, but with the forces and the Joint Force in Norway, and our Joint Force Command Headquarters in Naples. And… well, I know he wishes that he could be part of this event with you. He was unable to do so, so I'm pleased to be here with Vice Admiral Ketil Olsen, wears the same colour uniform that I do.

And with that, I will turn over to Admiral Olsen to talk about Norway's role in the exercise. Sir?

Vice Admiral Olsen: Thank you, Admiral, for those kind words. Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen. I will take you to Norway then, in the October/November timeframe. Statistically there will be rain and/or snow and wind, and there actually might be a lot of it. The temperature will be around freezing point, which means that when you wake up in the morning there will be a thin layer of ice on your water bucket and on the roads as well.

The consequence of exercising so far north, just below the Arctic Circle, is that on day one of the exercise you will be wet and you will stay wet until the end, unless you learn how to deal with it. And that’s what it's all about, coming to Norway and doing the exercise up there. But as we say in Norway, we say it's worth defending and that is what this exercise also is about; deterrence as defence, as the Admiral talked about. And Norway is very much looking forward to welcome our Allies and partners in October and we appreciate that NATO decided to challenge us as a host nation, which is a demanding test.

NATO is the cornerstone of Norwegian security and defence policy. We are currently putting a lot of effort into modernising the Norwegian armed forces, but as a small nation we rely on NATO for collective defence. And a large scale exercise, as the Trident Juncture, enhances NATO's capability to operate together as an Alliance and further strengthen our cohesion. It demonstrates NATO commitment to reinforce and defence all Allies in times of crisis, as well as NATO's ability to collective defence in the High North.

In 2014, when Norway accepted to host Trident Juncture, we knew the exercise would demand extensive planning and preparations, both from the NATO side as well as from the Norwegian side as host nation. I am pleased to say, Admiral, that we are on track. We work really closely with NATO on all levels, and especially well with your Headquarters. We have a common goal in keeping the pressure on civil society to a minimum.

Trident Juncture 18 gives Norway a unique chance to test our total defence concept. The total defence describes the sum of pre-planned civilian and military efforts to handle a crisis. The Norwegian armed forces will cooperate and coordinate closely with civilian authorities, as well as private business, in order to handle the logistical aspects of deployment and sustainment of such a large force. The sheer size of the exercise gives Norway, as host nation, an excellent opportunity to realistically train reception and support of substantial Allied reinforcements. And NATO, on the other side, gets to test their plans for the reinforcement of Norway.

In sum, this strengthens our common capability to handle a crisis should it ever come to that. And again, thank you, Admiral, we're looking forward to hosting NATO in October.

Admiral Foggo: Thank you. Look forward to it.

Piers Cazalet: Thanks. And with that, we can take some questions. If you can just announce your full name and your outlet. Robin, please?

Question [Reuters]: Could you say a bit more about the scenario? So, you're going to be in Norway, you’ve got a 40,000 strong… what sort of attack is NATO going to command there and what sort of timeframe to respond? And why these dates? Is it some kind of [inaudible] over a certain period of time?

Admiral Foggo: Why the dates? I think, as we look at our exercise plan and we space things out through the year, you’ve watched in the last week or so as we have conducted BALTOPS in the Baltic Sea, up north, and one of my commanders, Vice Admiral Lisa Franchetti, has followed in the footsteps of NATO Commanders in command, she's the Commander of Strike Force NATO, as well as the Commander of 6th Fleet, and is exercising there now with 50 ships, about 5,000 personnel and about 70 aircraft. And so, as we look to connect to the fall exercise timeframe, there's a couple of reasons why we do this at this time of year, and that is to stress the force. As the Admiral said, it's cold and it's tough conditions up there, and that is challenging for the troops across the Joint Force, whether you're at sea… I'll be out on a flat bottomed ship in the late October, in the North Atlantic, and it will be challenging for us as well as those troops who are on the ground or those who are flying aircraft throughout Norway.

I don’t want to go into the actual plan for the scenario, but sufficed to say that it's a response to an Article 5 scenario, a violation of sovereignty of a close Ally, Norway, and NATO will respond. And we are testing our ability to get the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force there in a timely manner. In fact, the large size of the force is going to be a test and taxing on the entire Alliance, as well as the country of Norway.

One of the things that we’re doing in adaptation is we have realised that there is another domain of warfare, and that is the logistics domain, which in past decades has gone… or we've taken it for granted, it's been relatively ignored. Plan is to upsize the Joint Force Headquarters with a larger contingent of logisticians. I have a J4 who is a very capable Croatian General who is helping me with the support for these troops up there, and so it will be very taxing on him and taxing as the troops as well, as we move this force into the defence of Norway's strategic and sovereign territory. Sir, did you want to add anything to that?

Vice Admiral Olsen: Well, I just want to point out that, from the Norwegian perspective, this is sort of a stress test of what we are able to… or capable of do, concerning the receiving… the Alliance and all the forces coming in. So, this has been a long time planning to get to where we are, both together with NATO, but also internally in Norway between the civilian and the military side, to make sure that we are able to receive it. And as I said, it will be a stress test to make us understand better how it works and make sure that we are able to receive a force of this size, should that be necessary.

Admiral Foggo: Let me add to that too because I was really impressed when I was in Norway with the total defence concept for the country of Norway. And Norway has a very strong conscription and training programme, and now there will be people in key nodes, aviation points of departure and in sea points of departure, APODs and SPODs, who will be facilitating us, not necessarily wearing a uniform. These are folks in the tower, Air Traffic Controllers, people that are on the ground controlling, switching networks for trains as we manoeuvre around the country, people that are on the highways and maintaining traffic safety and security. So, pretty impressive what the Norwegians are going to bring to bear here in a seamless transition between the arrival of the larger force and the defence of their country.

And they're on the pointy end of the spear, and that’s something that I think the rest of the Alliance, and especially the American force, will get an opportunity to understand. And we’re very excited, and I know that the United States Marines that are participating in this exercise are extremely excited about being here. We've got a small contingent that’s on the ground now in Værnes and those Marines have been there for better of a year now.

Vice Admiral Olsen: A year, yes.

Admiral Foggo: Yeah. And that force will augment as the force from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force comes to bear as part of this exercise.

Moderator: Yes, please?

Question [Kuwait News Agency]: From the Kuwait News Agency. So, will you be inviting, as observers, from country partners, countries from other parts of the world, like Kuwait and Asia?

Vice Admiral Olsen: Yes, thank you for that. Yes, as according to the Vienna Document, as we go above 13,000 participants, we have to invite observers to the exercise, and we’re very happy to do that. So, whoever wants to come along, as part of that Vienna Document, it's… you're invited and can come along and look at it. And there's a formal procedure for doing that, but as we said the number of forces actually say that there will be observers invited. I don’t know if you want to…

Piers Cazalet: Just to clarify, it's OSCE member nations who are part of that process who are invited, not people outside the OSCE.

Admiral Foggo: I might add that in the spirit of openness, this press conference is indicative of transparency on the part of the Alliance. As I said, the Alliance is about defend and deter. We don’t look for reasons to conduct offensive operations anywhere. We are a defensive Alliance, that’s what Article 5 is all about. And we’re transparent and open. A lot of our planning has taken place in the unclassified domain. We have given you the dates of the exercise today. We have told you the relative size of the contingent, and it continues to grow because there is significant interest in being a part of this.

And so I think that’s one of NATO's strengths, is we have no secrets, nothing to hide. This is a demonstration, in a very transparent way, of a capability. And we want people to know that. And you bet there will be some of our partners from very important Middle Eastern nations who will be there in observer status and also for DV Day.

Question: [Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty] I have a question whether this is the biggest NATO exercise of all the years, recent years. Do you have an exact date when you have such a large exercise the last time?

Admiral Foggo, you say that NATO's never looking for a fight, but yet maybe with Moscow side seeing, you know, NATO plus Sweden and Finland practising violation of Article 5, they might beg to differ. How would you answer Moscow, saying that this is actually a defensive rather than offensive thing?

And finally, do we expect… do you actually expect Russian officials to be there and observe? I know they’ve been invited, but do you expect them to come? Thank you.

Admiral Foggo: So, I'll defer to my friends in the office of public diplomacy on the last time that we had an exercise of this size.

I will take the second part of your question in that no, we are definitely not looking for a fight. We are a defensive Alliance and you mentioned how would the Russians receive this exercise; I think that’s the value of transparency and we have been open and we have talked about what we are doing and why we are doing it. Certainly there are security concerns on the part of valued partners, particularly Sweden and Finland, and this is about interoperability and training their very capable and credible joint force as well. They are not members of the Alliance, but they're very capable of defending themselves.

And I would kind of turn the question around and say, where's the transparency on the other side, from Moscow? So, during Zapad, do we get this kind of a press conference and do you see this kind of openness from the Russians? Is a SNAPEX something that builds confidence in the west when the Russians do a large 50,000 person snap exercise? And what are the motives behind that? I think it's… this is a much more deliberate approach. It has a particular end state and that is the training, interoperability and qualification of a force to assume the NATO Response Force mantel of leadership for another year. So, I think that’s all goodness.

As to whether or not the Russians come, I hope they do. They're invited. One of the things that we do in our Headquarters once a year is sit down in dialogue with the Russians across the table at the Incidents at Sea agreement. I think that’s a very valuable exchange of information of things that have happened in the maritime domain over the course of the last year, that we may not like or we may consider as not professional or safe behaviour. They have their list as well. And we lay these on the table, we talk about it, and we try to figure out ways of avoiding these kinds of things in the future year and on confidence building measures between our forces.

So, you saw recently that Chairman Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sat down with General Gerasimov in Helsinki last week and that was on the heels of a similar meeting between my boss, General Scaparrotti, and General Gerasimov in Baku. And I think those kinds of dialogue are very important. As Secretary General says, this is a two track approach. So, we want to show that the Alliance can deter and defend and that we are strong, and at the same time we're willing to have a dialogue.

Vice Admiral Olsen: Yeah, if I just may add, because I think the key word here is transparency and at the last… as was mentioned by Piers, at the last NATO-Russia Council on 31st May, there was an exchange of exercises, or briefing some exercises. And of course we talked about Trident Juncture and the Russians talked about the exercise Vostok. So, I think that was a great way of doing it and exchanging views. And we also, from the Norwegian side, had a Norwegian delegation to Moscow to make sure that we could say a few things about the exercise and make sure that it is transparent. So, it works both way.

Piers Cazalet: Just on the first question about the size, the last Trident Juncture, which was in 2015, was about 36,000 personnel. But the biggest, the one that reached the level of 40,000, the last one was in 2002, an exercise called Strong Resolve which was in Norway and Poland.

Question: So, it's the biggest one in almost… yeah…

Vice Admiral Olsen [NATO Military Representative of Norway]: 16 years, yeah.

Question: And may I ask, I know that you probably won't be able to tell anything, but when you had this exchange of views at the NATO-Russia Council about the different exercises, were there any objections raised by the Russians?

Vice Admiral Olsen: To… as in far as…

Question: To Trident Juncture. I mean were there any questions, any question marks, objections? Sorry. Yeah, so I'll take the question again. At the NATO-Russia Council on 31st May, were there any objections or question marks raised from the Russian side when it comes to Trident Juncture?

Vice Admiral Olsen: No, there was no questions raised. Though there was a discussion on a couple of things, an exchange of understanding what the exercise was all about. But no objections, nothing coming out of that, no.

Piers Cazalet: Yes, please?

Question [Finnish News Agency]: Hi, I'm Anniina Luotonen from the Finnish News Agency. I want to ask about cooperation, what Finland and Sweden are bringing to this exercise. And, as a follow up, when you think about this, the security situation of this whole region, would you work on the idea that these countries would be part of NATO? Thank you.

Vice Admiral Olsen: That’s politics.

Admiral Foggo: Right. So, what are they bringing? They're bringing elements of the joint force of both very capable militaries to the maritime domain and to the land domain. Again, the whole point is to be interoperable with these very capable partners and not members of the Alliance. There are of course some limitations as a member of the Alliance. It can be advantageous to you in some domains, but in the war fighting domain I think that we’re going to try to seamlessly integrate the forces of Sweden and Finland. And I've been in both countries during BALTOPS 2015, BALTOPS 2016, I've been on both sets of platforms, on a Finnish mine countermeasures and minelaying ship, with some of your naval cadets on board, and on a very capable Swedish Corvette, and got underway and submerged on a Swedish submarine. The Finns and the Swedes are very good friends of mine, I welcome them to this exercise and I look forward to their continued partnership.

As to the question of NATO membership, that is really a question for the Swedish and the Finnish people and their governments to resolve. Quite frankly, we’re very happy to have such active partners in both countries and I look forward to their contribution to the exercise. Norway may have some additional things to add.

Vice Admiral Olsen: Yes, thank you. I just want to mention that the regional understanding, the situational awareness, is something that we share in that part of the world and I think it's important that we cooperate so that we understand. And that’s also part of the transparency actually, to make sure that we understand that we are doing. So, we do very frequently cross border training already between Norway, Finland and Sweden, good cooperation and there's also this Nordic defence cooperation, Nordefco, that’s going on in the area. So, we have a good basis and a good understanding for what we’re doing.

So, as such, it's easy to bring them in and I think, as the Admiral mentioned, interoperability is really an important thing in this, to be able to cooperate and to work together.

Admiral Foggo: Let me just add one thing too. This is an opportunity for us to give Swedish and Finnish forces something that they gave us in BALTOPS 15 and 16, and that is the ability for our forces, and in particular some members of the Alliance, like the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps, to operate inside the Baltic in a very challenging archipelago. And we don’t get the chance to do that very often. And those marines who were ashore with me absolutely loved it. It was tremendous experience for them. You know that they’ve had their boots on the ground and in the sand for a period of decades, in wars in Iraq and conflict in Afghanistan, and so this was refreshing for them to get back to sea and to be on a different kind of a turf and a different kind of environment, very challenging environment.

This one is also going to be tough because of weather. You know, BALTOPS is in the summertime, so it's fairly pleasant up in the Baltic. It won't be so pleasant at this time of year in Norway and that’s part of the toughness training for the troops. In addition, I don’t think there'll be any problem on the Swedes and the Finns, you guys are used to it and you'll probably teach us a thing or two.

Puers Cazalet: Time for one more question, if there are any more questions? Okay, Robin again?

Question [Reuters]: When it comes to the exercise itself, it sounds like it's a conventional attack. Would you also factor in any electronic warfare or any hybrid attacks? And then, more in the real world, perhaps a question for Vice Admiral Olsen, what is the nature of the threat in Norway? We know in the Baltics that the Russian speaking community is almost often giving us a reason why they might be vulnerable to an attack? What's the risk to Norway? Thank you.

Admiral Foggo: I'll take a stab at the first part of the question, Robin. Great question! And I think the Alliance has come of age in it's embracing of cyber and space as two additional very important domains in warfare. Centres of Excellence throughout the theatre, particularly in Estonia, that deal with cyberspace and we cannot ignore that precursor to an Article 5 violation. The Deputy Supreme Allied Commander, General Everard, and I were travelling in the Balkans recently. He said, "Hey, have you read this book? It's called ‘War in 140 characters’ by David Patrick Patrikarakos, and it talks about a new way of warfare and if in fact the precursor to war becomes the war itself, we have to think through how we fight in the 21st century?" So, that’s very much part of our thinking and our planning for this particular exercise, without me going into any great detail on the operational side.

But that was a great question. And as to the second part, I'll yield to my Norwegian friend.

Vice Admiral Olsen: Thank you. I think that as of today we don’t see a real threat to Norway, a day to day threat. We don’t feel it that way. On the other hand, Norway is a very small country, living next to a very big country, Russia, and of course as such we have to live with that, which we do quite professionally I would say. We cooperate with the Russians very well on the borderline, with the fishery protection up north in the Bering Sea, and also Search and Rescue issues. I think we have a professional neighbourhood and the way we deal with things.

So, we see a more assertive Russia than we have seen for quite a few years, but from day to day we don’t feel it as a threat, no.

Piers Cazalet: OK, thank you very much, Admiral Foggo, Admiral Olsen, thank you very much for your time. And thank you colleagues, journalists and colleagues who have come. Do stay in touch with us over the coming months and we'll let you know more as time moves on, as we get closer to the exercise. Thank you very much.