Kyiv hosted the other day the International Maritime Security Conference, one of the participants of which was Rear Admiral Daniel W. DWYER, Chief of Staff, Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategy, Policy, and Requirements, US Naval Forces Europe-Africa/US 6th Fleet. We began an interview with the rear admiral, who came to Ukraine for the first time, with asking him about his impressions of our country. “Ukraine is a very proud nation with a very proud history, it’s a nation of people that want to determine their own way of life, how they want to govern themselves and how they want to interact with the international community,” RDML Dwyer said.
“BLACK SEA IS A FREE AND OPEN INTERNATIONAL WATERWAYS, NO NATION CAN INFLUENCE THE FREE FLOW OF COMMERCE AND TRADING”
Sir, what are your impressions of the Ukrainian Navy? Have you contacted with the Ukrainian naval command yet?
“I had a couple of opportunities outside of Ukraine to meet with Vice Admiral Voronchenko and his staff. We recently met at the regional sea power symposium in Venice just two months ago. And my commander, Admiral Foggo, had an opportunity to sit down and have a one-on-one discussion with Vice Admiral Voronchenko. Actually, it was his first meeting at the conference, showing importance that commander of US naval forces in Europe and Africa places with Ukraine and Ukrainian Navy.
“Ukrainian frigate Hetman Sahaidachny recently participated in operational exercise Sea Breeze that we conducted in the Black Sea, very important exercise, it is held annually to bring all NATO nations part of Black Sea region as well as other nations outside the Black Sea to come together to work closely, increase their own interoperability, to increase their capability, and to encourage navies and other regional actors to show that the Black Sea is a free and open international waterways, that no nation can influence the free flow of commerce and trading.”
“IT’S VERY REFRESHING AND IMPORTANT TO SEE THAT UKRAINIAN NAVY CONTINUES TO DEVELOP ITS MARITIME 2035 STRATEGY”
In what way do you think the US can help Ukraine rebuild its Navy?
“First, you know, individual navy or nation has to take the first step. They have to show that they are committed to increasing their own capability. And it’s very refreshing and important to see that Ukrainian Navy has a vision as it continues to develop its own command and control, to look at the internal organization, to modernize their organization, to approve the lines of communication to other command structures, as well as start to develop their own maritime strategy. As Ukrainian Navy continues to develop its maritime strategy, I believe they call it the maritime 2035 strategy, it’s what they want to see in the navy in 20 years, it’s very refreshing to see these first steps. You have to know where you want to get to, and set a course to get there. And so from the United States Navy standpoint, we certainly encourage that and we look to assist Ukrainian Navy in developing this strategy and continue to provide any guides and internship that we can offer to help them achieve their goals and vision.”
It’s common knowledge that Ukraine is unable to build new warships immediately. What about the leasing of US ships?
“We have a very robust program at the Navy International Program Office, where we take former United States vessels that still have service life remaining, and we look to provide those to our allies and partners if they have a need, or they have a capability gap that they need to fill with one of these vessels.
“Currently, the United States has a couple of vessels that we can offer to the Ukrainian Navy to fill some of those capability gaps, and we are very hopeful that we can provide these excess defense ships to the Ukrainian government and Ukrainian Navy for their own use, for their own self-defense.”
At what stage is this process of transfer? What does the Ukrainian side have to do to receive these ships?
“I am not an expert on this process, I know it very basically. It requests from the Ukrainian government to write US government requesting those vessels, and then there is a certain price to refurbish those vessels and bring to operational capability and transfer them to the government that wishes to take the possession of those vessels. So, it involves your Ministry of Defense and our Ministry of Defense, and an agreement made between the two governments to make that transfer happen. It’s a very common practice, we have many NATO nations and many partner nations that we make this available to. It offers a much lower price than building a new ship, it’s about substantial savings to use these excess ships that we have.
“Several Black Sea nations operate former US Navy Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, and it’s very productive, and it’s very good to see that those nations are taking advantage of that program.”
“EVERY NAVY NEEDS TO LOOK INTO TECHNOLOGIES THAT COULD GIVE THEM THE COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE”
Ukroboronprom director general Roman Romanov emphasized at the panel “Regional and Global Sociopolitical and Economic Consequences of Challenges to Security in the Black Sea Region” that more attention should be paid to unmanned systems to provide security, particularly at sea. What do you think of this?
“I think every navy needs to look into technologies that could give them the competitive advantage in the environment they are operating in, whether it is the Ukrainian Navy or United States Navy. I think it all gets us back to what Ukraine’s overarching maritime strategy is. Knowing the professional nature of the Ukrainian Navy staff, their very strategic vision, I would assume they would look at this kind of opportunities and make their own assessment if it has viability in the Ukrainian Navy.”
Can you say what role the US Navy is playing in the Black Sea region after Russia’s illegal annexation of Crime and the ongoing Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine?
“US is part of NATO, obviously, and NATO has quickly come out to condemn the annexation of Crimea as an illegal act, and established a rapid action plan as well as a quick reaction force to increase controls on air, land and at the sea under the NATO contract, and we fully support that as a NATO member. And the US Navy in particular has increased our patrols in the Black Sea as we continue to work with our NATO partners in the Black Sea as well as our other partners, including the Ukrainian Navy. We hold joint patrols and work to increase the Black Sea nations’ navies’ capability and capacity to ensure the safe transport and access to international markets.”
In 2008 several US warships entered the Black Sea to support Georgia and stop the offensive of Russian troops on Tbilisi. So, can we consider US warships as sort of a deterrent to the aggressor?
“We always come invited: we come at the invitation of other Black Sea navies to take part in joint patrols. None of our patrols are unilateral, they are always in conjunction with another Black Sea navy. Just today, we have the USS James E. Williams in the Black Sea conducting operations with the Ukrainian Navy. In 2017 alone, the US Navy has spent over a hundred days in the Black Sea, and we do it in partnership with other Black Sea nations.”
What role do you think the US armed forces can play to force Russia to observe the norms of international law and retreat from Ukraine?
“I think you know that NATO came up very quickly and stated that aggressive, illegal, illegitimate action will not to be allowed for any aggressive nation, and we will not stand by and allow that to happen. And I think NATO has shown that they can react quickly.”