“The Importance of Poland’s Navy to the Baltics” by Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet

Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet

As the commander of the newly established U.S. 2nd Fleet, I am honored to have led the 47th iteration of the annual Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) exercise.  I want to thank Poland, our steadfast ally, for being one of our hosts during the exercise. BALTOPS 2019 was an opportunity to work together and build on our interoperability and collective commitment to maritime security in the region. The U.S. Navy appreciates and values Poland’s continued participation in BALTOPS, and we are thrilled to work with your naval force.  You hosted landing forces from other countries on the ORP GNIEZNO, demonstrating true integration; a force multiplier in the modern age.

I firmly believe every ally and partner contributes to the collective security of Europe – Poland has demonstrated their commitment to maintaining a robust and professional naval capability.   Poland contributed to BALTOPS with an amphibious vessel, surface combatant, mine countermeasure vessels, as well as several fixed and rotary wing aircraft.  This represents a true multi-mission capability to the BALTOPS force, and directly supports NATO operations in the region.

First, a little context is in order. U.S. 2nd Fleet was re-established last year in Norfolk, Virginia, to counter threats in the maritime domain. We have an outstanding, dynamic and agile Navy that enables us to call on any number of ships, aircraft, Sailors and Marines that will accomplish any given mission we are tasked with.  At times, this will mean working closely with our parent command U.S. Fleet Forces back in Norfolk, Virginia. At other times, we will serve in a more expeditionary capacity and work under U.S. Naval Forces Europe in Naples, Italy and seamlessly with U.S. 6th Fleet, as is the case during BALTOPS 2019. At the same time, leaders in the U.S. envisioned the return of 2nd Fleet, NATO leadership also recognized the same changing security environment in the maritime, and as such, the NATO defense ministers approved the creation of Joint Force Command Norfolk, one of three joint commands within NATO – the other being Joint Force Command, Brunssum, and Joint Force Command, Naples. My role in this new environment will be important as I will be dual-hatted commanding both 2nd Fleet and Joint Force Command Norfolk ensuring that both commands are aligned in order to conduct operations in the maritime domain.

As a new command, this is 2nd Fleet’s first opportunity to exercise command and control of maritime operations during this long-standing, multi-national maritime exercise. Poland is playing a key role in the exercise, offering a multi mission force, and hosting landing forces from Romania on their landing ship, demonstrating its unwavering commitment to NATO allies, partners and regional security.

Since 1972, BALTOPS has continued to strengthen the deterrence and defense capabilities of participating nations. To our Polish friends, we know the Baltic Sea is your backyard, and we looked to you as the experts in these waters. By working with your modernizing maritime forces, we built up our collective knowledge in this area, as we worked toward maintaining regional stability and preserving freedom of navigation and keeping global trade routes open.

This year’s BALTOPS focused on reinforcing and enhancing existing partnerships among our militaries, showed presence and projecting our combined maritime power, while we always adhered to international laws and operating as professionals. It is imperative that like-minded allies and partners unite to deter aggression and stop those who seek to disrupt or undermine the rule of law at sea.  We carried out various maritime operations while strictly adhering to international rules and norms. This training ha no target or enemy, but it demonstrated that NATO can and will defend itself against any adversary.

By operating together, we enhance our interoperability, and we show our collective commitment to deterring potential adversaries while ensuring our shared strategic interests are preserved. Together, we are part of the strongest military alliance the world has even known. This is why we integrate our operations with our NATO allies and partners: to contribute to the security of the globe on behalf of our nations.  It is a pleasure and an honor to serve alongside Poland’s military. I applaud its efforts to modernize its capabilities. We are stronger when we work together.

Thank you, again, for your support. I congratulate you on another successful BALTOPS!