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Winter Is Coming

Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson, announced the establishment of U.S. 2nd Fleet during a change of command ceremony for U.S. Fleet Forces Command (USFF) in Norfolk, May 4.

"Our National Defense Strategy makes clear that we're back in an era of great power competition as the security environment continues to grow more challenging and complex," said Richardson. "That's why today, we're standing up Second Fleet to address these changes, particularly in the north Atlantic."

Russian subSecond Fleet was disestablished in 2011 by President Barack Obama and many of its personnel, assets and responsibilities were merged into USFF.

The reactivation of 2nd Fleet signals the Navy's desire to "operate more powerfully and credibly in the North Atlantic," Bryan McGrath, a former destroyer commander and deputy director of the Center of American Seapower at the Hudson Institute, told Alex Horton of The Washington Post.

"To quote Ned Stark: 'Winter is coming,' " McGrath said, referring to a "Game of Thrones" character who warns of approaching conflict. "There is a general sense a revisionist power in Russia is dedicated to opposing the U.S. in many arenas, and military opposition is increasingly one of them."

In January a P-8A Poseidon was launched from Naval Air Station Jacksonville to track a Russian ship, the Viktor Leonov, just 24 nautical miles (27 miles) off the coast of Nolfolk, America’s great naval base in southeastern Virginia, according to military flight trackers.

According to the UK’s Daily Star, the Viktor Leonov, a Vishnya class intelligence collection ship designed to intercept communications signals, has also been spotted operating in the Caribbean, according to a US defense official.

In the past, the spy ship has traveled up the eastern seaboard near Cape Canaveral, King's Bay, Norfolk and New London, CNN reported.

US naval bases are situated in all of these locations.

According to The Business Insider’s Christopher Woody, in a December 26, 2017 article posted on naval affairs website TaskAndPurpose.com, Moscow has steadily pursued naval expansion, with a focus on undersea capabilities. A modernization program announced in 2011 – the same time Obama stood-down the 2nd Fleet – directed more money toward submarines, producing quieter, more lethal designs. Moscow has brought online or overhauled 13 subs since 2014, according to The Post.

Among them was the Krasnodar, which Russian officials boasted could avoid the West’s most sophisticated radars. US and NATO ships tracked the Krasnodar intently this summer, as it traveled from Russia to the Black Sea, stopping along the way to fire missiles into Syria. More advanced subs are reportedly in production.

Stephen Johnson, writing for BigThink.com reports Russian submarines have been lurking thousands of meters deep in the North Atlantic near the communications cables that connect phone calls, texts, and internet service from North America to overseas nations.

The motive for the increased submarine activity is unclear, says Johnson, though it’s possible Russia is researching ways it could disrupt, destroy, or tap into the data lines in the future.

“We are now seeing Russian underwater activity in the vicinity of undersea cables that I don’t believe we have ever seen,” said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Andrew Lennon, the commander of NATO’s submarine forces. “Russia is clearly taking an interest in NATO and NATO nations’ undersea infrastructure.”

There’s estimated to be more than 400 garden hose-sized fiber-optic cables running a total of 620,000 miles under the sea reports Johnson. Most of the cables are owned by private telecommunications companies like Microsoft and Google, and together they carry the bulk of the world’s calls, emails, and $10 trillion in daily financial transactions.

The 354-foot Russian ship Yantar, part of the Main Directorate of Deep Sea Research, a government organization that conducts reconnaissance, underwater salvage, and other tasks, is one ship that’s been spotted over the underwater cables.

Johnson reports a Russian state TV network has said the ship can “jam underwater sensors with a special system” and connect to top-secret cables.

Steffan Watkins, an information technology security consultant in Canada tracking the ship, told the Associated Press there’s no evidence the Yantar is doing anything nefarious, though he wonders what it’s up to when floating over the cables or when its Automatic Identification System tracking transponder is off.

“I don't think these are the actual guys who are doing any sabotage,” he said of the ship’s crew. “I think they're laying the groundwork for future operations.”

Moscow has brought online or overhauled 13 subs since 2014 and Russian spy ships float over undersea telecommunications cables with their Automatic Identification System tracking transponders off? Like Bryan McGrath said, “Winter is coming.”

George Rasley is editor of Richard Viguerie's ConservativeHQ.com and is a veteran of over 300 political campaigns. A member of American MENSA, he served on the staff of Vice President Dan Quayle, as Director of Policy and Communication for Congressman Adam Putnam (FL-12) then Vice Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee's Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, and as spokesman for Rep. Mac Thornberry now-Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

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