US Re-Launches Navy’s Second Fleet, With an Eye on Russia

August 26, 2018 Updated: August 27, 2018

As Russia expands its military activity in the North Atlantic and Europe, the United States is responding by reactivating the Navy’s storied Second Fleet.

“There are some bad actors on the world’s stage,” fleet commander Vice Adm. Andrew “Woody” Lewis said during a ceremony at the fleet’s home port of Norfolk, Virginia, according to the Navy Times.

“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.”

The Second Fleet was created after World War II to counter Russia during the Cold War. Its most famous exploit was the blockade of Cuba ordered by President John F. Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

In 2011, during the Obama administration’s efforts to “reset” relations with Russia, the fleet was deactivated and its ships were reassigned to other commands.

At the Norfolk ceremony, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said, “A new Second Fleet increases our strategic flexibility to respond—from the Eastern Seaboard to the Barents Sea.”

This ability to respond is in line with the National Defense Strategy. In remarks presenting the strategy, Defense Secretary Gen. Jim Mattis said in January, “Though we will continue to prosecute the campaign against terrorists that we are engaged in today, but Great Power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of U.S. national security.”

Of concern to the United States are the large amounts of oil and natural gas available to be exploited in the Arctic, the development of new sea lanes as Arctic ice melts, and Russia’s wide-ranging and sophisticated submarines, armed with new missiles meant for striking land targets.

“We’re not looking for a fight,” Richardson said. “But the best way to avoid a fight is develop the most powerful and deadly and competitive Navy possible.”