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^ formidable array of diplomatic and mili- tary problems might seem an insurmountable °bstacle to a negotiated consensus regarding tbe utility and desirability of perpetuating presence of a large U. S. Fleet in the Mediterranean. Yet, an agreement of this type is essential, for the United States can no Mnger assume that a continuing naval pres- ence in the strategic ocean areas of Europe— and the Far East—is uncritically welcomed by friends and allies.
the Phantoms and Corsairs of the carrier John F. Kennedy during her recent deployment, every plane and ship ^the Sixth Fleet is heavily dependent on the NATO infra- slrtcture for logistical support and for maintenance and re- ^q'r facilities in friendly ports.
For more than 25 years the continuous presence of large U. S. fleets in the Far East and the Mediterranean has been keyed to alliance responsibilities and to the requirements of collective and regional security. Essential fleet services have been obtained through easy access to foreign bases and facilities provided by allies and other nations friendly to the United States. It has become increasingly apparent that the waning enthusiasm for—and accommodation of—our deployed fleets may require us to unilaterally reduce existing force commitments. Alternatively, it might be preferable to renegotiate existing agreements and to forge a new consensus better attuned to the geostrategic and political realities of the present. The second alternative would also serve to reemphasize the costs of an extensive U. S. naval presence and the attendant need for contributions from nations interested in perpetuating that presence.
A predictable result of the detente between the United States and the great Communist powers is to be seen in the weakened cohesion of alliance systems and security agreements consummated during the Cold War. While this pervasive trend is apparent in the relations among Communist states, it is most clearly manifest in the Free World. Organizations such as NATO and SEATO and bilateral agreements such as the U. S.-Japan Mutual Security Pact and the U. S.-Spanish Base Rights Agreement appeared essential in a bipolar world wherein a large cluster of states could reduce their essential security interests to defending against a well-defined threat from a plausible adversary. It is inevitable that this state of affairs would prove less relevant in a multipolar system characterized by dissonant perceptions of security in-
20 U. S. Naval Institute Proceedings, June 1974
terests. My thesis is that the continued effectiveness of deployed U. S. naval forces will ultimately depend on the resolution of differences between the divergent diplomatic interests of the United States and its allies and the somewhat anachronistic premises on which existing collective security agreements are based.
The urgency of this requirement is most apparent in Western Europe and in the NATO alliance. The Sixth Fleet is heavily dependent on the NATO infrastructure for logistical support and on facilities in friendly ports for ship maintenance and repairs as well as for crew rest and recreation. If we are to maintain current force levels, existing Fleet support arrangements must continue. The most recent Arab-Israeli conflict, the "Yom Kippur War,” has reaffirmed the long-run dependence of the United States on the support of its allies. The case of the Sixth Fleet is particularly instructive because it provides evidence of the tension between the national interests of the United States and the constraints of the NATO alliance. In the Mediterranean, however, this situation is not without historical precedent.
The permanent presence of U. S. naval forces in the Mediterranean is a postwar or, more accurately, a Cold War phenomenon. Indeed, the original decision to maintain a deployed force was a U. S. gesture of solidarity with the Greek and Turkish governments during the crises of 1947-1948. The commitment was formalized in June of 1948 when the Sixth Fleet was formed to provide a credible means of supporting the guarantees embodied in the Truman Doctrine. A significant milestone in the Fleet’s history was reached in February 1952 when Greece and Turkey were admitted to the alliance. This in turn broadened and elaborated the unilateral American commitment to the defense of those countries against Communist aggression. Additionally, the assignment of a contingent NATO mission to the Sixth Fleet gave the Southern European Command added capability as a deterrent force. This development took on added significance after 1954 when the British abandoned the huge Suez base, thereby surrendering much of the responsibility for the defense of NATO’s southern flank.
Although the perceived Soviet attack never materialized, the presence of the United States in the Mediterranean as the predominant naval power was comforting to allies and other friendly littoral nations. In this early era, the most important contribution of the Sixth Fleet was a demonstration of resolute support for anxious Europeans and their traditional interests in the Middle East. The complete absence of a competitive naval presence in the Mediterranean enhanced the Fleet’s image as a guardian of the ancient sea.
The Suez crisis of 1956 disturbed this tranquility
and, in its aftermath, the ostensible mission of the U. S. Navy in the Mediterranean was complicated. The first of two watersheds in the Fleet’s history was reached when it was used as a national instrument to benignly oppose Anglo-French operations during the campaign to reoccupy the Canal. The pressured withdrawal of British and French forces from Egypt had important consequences which assume even sharper significance in retrospect. It is generally accepted that the failure of the Suez operation marked the end of Britain’s ability to take independent action. Of importance to this essay, the experience led to the withdrawal of a large contingent of Royal Navy units previously based in the Mediterranean. The effect on French naval policy was delayed until 1959 when, following the Algerian settlement, President De Gaulle withdrew the French Mediterranean Fleet from the integrated NATO command and redeployed the bulk of the French force from Toulon to Brest on the Atlantic. These actions left the U. S. Fleet with almost complete responsibility for offensive naval operations in the Mediterranean. The Middle East Resolution of 1957 and the Lebanon operation in the following year demonstrated not only the capacity but the willingness of the United States to act unilaterally when it was required. The Suez episode and subsequent events in the Middle East thus marked the transition of the Sixth Fleet from a force structured and primarily committed to a NATO role in the defense of southern Europe to a flexible instrument of national policy which would increasingly find employment outside the NATO context.
The Cyprus crisis of 1964 marked a second and more important watershed. Perhaps because of U. S.-Turkish discord over the prospect of Turkish military intervention, the Soviets dramatically shifted their support fron1 the Greek Cypriots to the Turks, and an immediate improvement in Turkish-Soviet relations was followed by the first extended deployment of Soviet naval force5 through the straits to the Mediterranean. While the size and quality of the early Soviet incursions pose1 little threat to the Sixth Fleet, they marked the ho1 challenge to the absolute naval supremacy of ^ United States and its Mediterranean allies.
The enduring presence of a number of Soviet warships in the Mediterraean has always concerned Am#1' can and NATO commanders, but the full significance of this development did not become apparent until the Arab-Israeli conflict of June 1967. In the wake of the Arab defeat, the Soviets dramatically increased the s|Zf and capabilities of the Mediterranean squadron, intr0 ducing modern units specifically designed to countef the Sixth Fleet’s aircraft carriers. The reaction in ^ capitals of European littoral nations was mixed. Unt the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, the Sov>ct
presence in the Mediterranean had elicited some concern lest the explosive Middle Eastern situation trigger a dangerous confrontation between the superpowers. Following the Czech crisis, however, the Soviet "threat” again became operative and wide support was generated within NATO for increased vigilance and cooperation between the allied navies in the Mediterranean.
In the final analysis, it seems that differing European impressions of the value of a ponderous U. S. presence in the Mediterranean are representative of the general trend in allied politics. So long as the threat of Soviet attack exists, the presence of the United States and the Sixth Fleet is valued for its deterrent effect; simultaneously, the prospect of a Middle Eastern conflagration which might somehow spill over and involve the European littoral states encourages the allies to decouple the superpower rivalry in the Middle East from the question of European security. To understand this complicated issue in NATO politics, a clear distinction should be drawn between the political statements and the military responses of the European allies. Agree- mcnt among the concerned nations is manifestly lack- lng and the proposals advanced vary from the Franco- Spanish design to exclude the navies of both superpowers from the Mediterranean to the more realists Italian attempts to regenerate an allied consensus and to create a consultative mechanism to deal with the implication of the Soviet naval presence.
The Spanish Foreign Minister, Juan Castella, dis- cussed a plan for a "neutralized Mediterranean” with Secretary of State Rusk in November 1968. Interest- lngly, the conversation took place following a meeting °f the NATO Foreign Ministers who had issued a strongly worded warning to the Soviet Union follow- tng the invasion of Czechoslovakia. Spanish accounts suggest that Mr. Rusk’s response was predictably un- enthusiastic, but that measured support for a Monroismo ln the Mediterranean was received from France and the hlahgreb countries of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia.*
termination to be included in negotiations leading a Four Power (with the United States, the Soviet ni°n, and Great Britain) settlement of the Middle
The U. S. Sixth Fleet: Search for Consensus 21
At a meeting with his Spanish counterpart early in ^69, French Foreign Minister Michel Debre nostalgi- j;ally recalled that when Europeans had been responsible 0r the security of the Mediterranean, regional politics Jd been characteristically "peaceful” and relations fruitful.”** M. Debre’s sense of history notwith- standing, the French endorsement complemented a
de Zaval Castella, "El Meditcrranco y su Neutralization”, Retista de t["'Ca htimac'onal, Number 106, (November, 1969), p- 15.
K p. 16.
East problem. It also served to further French interest in defusing the regional crisis by limiting or even excluding the forces of non-littoral countries. On other occasions and to different audiences, French statesmen have chosen to emphasize that the Soviet presence in the Mediterranean constitutes a threat to Europe without calling for the withdrawal of the other superpower. What does appear obvious is that the French are not anxious for a reduction of the U. S. naval presence unless the Soviet presence is commensurately reduced—a prospect they recognize as unlikely.
The Italians, Greeks, and Turks, by contrast, have not opted to follow the Spanish lead, choosing instead to emphasize the need to distinguish the Middle Eastern crisis from the problem of NATO security. The British position has been typically circumspect. Like other European states, Britain’s considerable economic stakes and traditional interests in the Arab world have led to some criticism of the unequivocal U. S. support for Israel. British Mediterranean policy is otherwise generally in accord with that of its closest ally, and British leaders have been among the most vocal proponents of an increased European naval presence in the Mediterranean to offset the growing political influence of Soviet naval power.
As noted, the unsettled Arab-Israeli dispute and the troubling presence of the Soviet Mediterranean squadron have an important bearing on the political significance and role of the Sixth Fleet. In spite of (perhaps because of) the Soviet presence, several of NATO’s Mediterranean members have worried that the Sixth Fleet could, by association, draw them into a head-on confrontation with the Soviet Union. In addition, the obvious preoccupation of the United States with the Middle East has bred some uncertainty in the minds of the allies on the exposed flank (Greece and Turkey) about the Sixth Fleet’s ability to deter and cope with the kind of emergency for which it was ostensibly created. Others, who perceive that NATO’s original mission in the Mediterranean is obsolete, are nevertheless anxious to adapt the existing force structure to a no less significant threat to regional security—the debilitating consequences of Arab "oil diplomacy” and the specter of Soviet hegemony in the Middle East.
While the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 generated some anxiety about the ultimate purpose of the Soviet Navy in the Mediterranean, the Jordanian crisis of 1970 resurrected the divergent perceptions of the proper role of the Sixth Fleet in littoral affairs. The concentration of the Fleet in the Eastern Mediterranean probably served to dissuade the Syrians and their Soviet mentors from actively intervening in the fracas between Jordan and the rebellious Palestinian groups and to restrain Israel which had threatened to enter the conflict
U. S. Naval Institute Proceedings, June 1974
if Syria intervened. As the prospect of the Sixth Fleet’s involvement grew, the reactions of nervous allies were telling: the British made it clear that their participation would be limited to assisting in the evacuation of U. S. citizens; the Turks emphasized that the airfield at In- cirlik was available to American aircraft "for humanitarian purposes only;” the Italians announced that their bases were restricted to NATO use; and the French promptly declared themselves neutral while reserving their sharpest criticism for the United States.
More recently, resolute U. S. support for Israel in the "Yom Kippur War” has further exacerbated relations between the United States and its Mediterranean allies. It has been widely reported that the uncooperative and even obstructive attitude of some allies during the effort to resupply Israel has heightened the divisive trend in the NATO alliance—particularly in the Mediterranean.
Perhaps to compensate for the obvious political disharmony, the NATO Defense Ministers and the several allied navies have, since 1968, undertaken measures to improve the cooperation and friendship which has traditionally characterized allied military relations. NATO exercises in the Mediterranean continue to provide valuable training for the participating forces, and the establishment of two new NATO commands in the Mediterranean serves to demonstrate a degree of solidarity and to coordinate the surveillance of Soviet naval forces. The "on call” Standing Naval Force Mediterranean is valuable as a symbolic demonstration of cooperative intent among the allied navies. The Maritime Air Force, Mediterranean, (MarAirMed) on the other hand, represents a significant stride toward coordinating naval operations on a continuing basis. It must be noted that the success of the latter effort is facilitated by a general consensus on the need for timely intelligence on Soviet fleet movements. The French participation in MarAirMed, for example, demonstrates the distinction which that country makes between its political and military commitments. French forces began cooperating with NATO surveillance efforts in the Mediterranean very soon after the French Chief of Staff had announced a doctrine of "defense torn azimuts" strategy more significant for its political overtones than for its military implications. An even greater paradox was that the French maritime patrol aircraft were contributing to the surveillance of a force which the Foreign Minister had characterized as an expression of the legitimate interests of a regional power.
If a sizeable U. S. presence is to remain in the Mediterranean for the foreseeable future, it will depend ultimately on the support of friendly regional powers as well as on the extent to which the United States considers such a presence warranted by foreign policy
objectives and competing demands on a much smaller U. S. Navy.
Having postulated the need for a consensus among NATO’s Mediterranean powers, a glance at the most divisive issues reveals the formidable challenge at hand The fundamental problem is the persistent Middle East crisis and its derivative, the politics of oil. Most European states are almost entirely dependent on petroleum imports from the Middle East and the Persian Gulf- Mediterranean producers such as Algeria and Libya are important sources for France and Spain. The continuing construction of pipelines from the Persian Gulf r° North African and Near Eastern ports, as well as the prospective reopening of the Suez Canal, add to the importance of the Mediterranean as a channel for trade in an increasingly precious commodity. The virtual dependence on Arab oil naturally dampens European enthusiasm for U. S. policies which prompt Arab &■ porters to retaliate by reducing output and by threatening embargoes against nations which contribute (even ; indirectly) to the support of Israel. An associated concern has to do with the prospect of increasing Soviet influence in the moderate and conservative Arab | states—in view of the unstable relations between the United States and countries such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Other thorny issues which might be included in 3 NATO agenda for the Mediterranean include:
► Extension of the existing NATO basing agreement with the Government of Malta
► The dormant but unresolved Greco-Turkish dispute over Cyprus
► The potential extension of the "Brezhnev Doctrine to post-Tito Yugoslavia if there is a succession crislS
► The desirability of Spanish accession to a revitalize^ NATO alliance
Military considerations bearing on the future of the Sixth Fleet are more easily perceived but may ultimately prove to be problematic. The first of these is domesm pressure for restructuring and reducing the Sixth Fleet This pressure derives in part from the marked dedine in the overall size of the U. S. Navy as well as froh1 a trend evident in Congressional debates which que*' tions the desirability of perpetuating an expensive prcS' ence in Europe in an era of detente with the Sovt£t Union. The issue may appear less pertinent in view the augmentations of the Sixth Fleet during the reccd Arab-Israeli war, but these convictions are deeply held and will likely transcend the current crisis. The Sec re tary of the Navy in published testimony to the Senafl' Armed Services Committee in 1971 argued for a "fle*1' ble” force structure in the Mediterranean which wouW
The U. S. Sixth Fleet: Search for Consensus 23
permit a reduction in the "two carrier” commitment to the Sixth Fleet:
"It’s a tough requirement for us ... I wish we had adopted a more flexible carrier commitment there. Now if we reduce to one carrier, our friends over there become alarmed.”
Congressional concern is best evidenced by the text of the "Mansfield Resolution” of 1969 which specifically alluded to "naval units” in calling for a "substantial reduction of United States forces permanently stationed in Europe.”
A second military consideration is the limited size and structured missions of European navies. If the Sixth Fleet were to be unilaterally reduced, it is not clear that the other regional allies could make up the difference. Proponents of a reduction in the U. S. presence have claimed that either the French or Italian navies could independently match the Soviet Mediterranean squadron. This is perhaps true in terms of aggregate tonnage, but it is certainly not the case if capabilities 2nd ship types are considered. For instance, the Soviet squadron normally includes two or three guided missile crusiers armed with long-range, surface-to-surface missiles with which the European navies would be hard- pressed to cope. Although the French do possess two relatively modern aircraft carriers, they are small and capable of operating only 30 aircraft. It does seem unlikely in any event that, barring a major crisis, the French would be willing to concentrate in the Mediterranean a force sufficiently large to cope with the Soviet Mediterranean squadron. The Italian Fleet is a modern but specialized force which has been tailored t0 coastal defense and to its NATO mission in support °f antisubmarine and convoy support operations. Indeed, "for reasons of economy,” the Italians have recently retired one of their most impressive units, the guided missile cruiser Garibaldi. The Royal Navy, by any measure a first rate force, lacks sufficient depth to commit many more ships to the Mediterranean. In this Vein, it is important to note that in spite of the acknowledged importance of maintaining a naval balance m the Mediterranean, the declining defense expenditures (as a percentage of GNP) of all the NATO Mediterranean powers represents a failure to cope with the teal prospects of a reduction in the U. S. naval presence.
The burgeoning growth and improving capabilities °F the Soviet Black Sea Fleet and the Mediterranean Squadron is the third military consideration. While the ^ATO allies face the prospect of a reduced naval posture m the Mediterranean, the Soviet Union continues to Cxpand and improve the capabilities of its regional torce. An impressive succession of modern surface com-
batants and submarines armed with sophisticated sensors and weapons systems continues to issue from Soviet shipyards. The marked shift in Soviet naval strategy is underlined if one considers that Commander R. W. Herrick could argue convincingly, in a book published five years ago, that Soviet naval strategy was demonstrably defensive. The construction of the first Soviet aircraft carrier, Kiev, should eliminate all conjecture as to the current direction of Soviet strategy.
This formidable array of diplomatic and military problems might seem an insurmountable obstacle to a negotiated consensus regarding the utility and desirability of perpetuating the presence of a large U. S. Fleet in the Mediterranean. And yet, if the thesis is correct, an agreement of this type will eventually prove essential. In a historical era characterized by a jealous concern for national prerogatives, even superpowers must accommodate the interests and sensitivities of nations on which they must rely to project naval power in distant oceans. This is especially true in the most ancient sea.
In general, the United States can no longer assume that a continuing naval presence in the strategic ocean areas of the Far East and Europe is uncritically welcomed by friends and allies. If we are to secure the assistance and hospitality of nations on which this presence depends, we will recognize the need for multilateral accord on regional policies. On the other hand, those states interested in perpetuating a tangible U. S. commitment to regional security will appreciate the political and budgetary constraints which affect our ability to deploy large fleets. They will also recognize that a common approach to regional security entails certain costs and sacrifices to secure an essential and collective good.
A 1965 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, Lieutenant Commander Dur received his commission through the NROTC Program. He remained at Notre Dame for his initial assignment to duty under instruction and earned the M.A. in Government and International Studies in September of 1966. From 1966 to 1968 he was assigned to the guided missile cruiser USS Little Rock (CLG-4) where he served as Communications Division Officer and as the Assistant Fleet Schedules Officer on the embarked staff of the Commander, Sixth Fleet. Following a tour at the Headquarters, Naval Intelligence Command, he was assigned to the Naval Destroyer School, and in July 1970 he reported to the USS Knox (DE-1052) as Operations Officer. Since September 1972, Lieutenant Commander Dur has been assigned to duty under instruction at Harvard University as a scholarship recipient. He received the M.P.A. degree in June 1973 and he is currently a candidate for the Ph.D. in Political Economy and Government.