Severe episode in the Black Sea: Russian ships have been armed by NATO – Intended to be the “Ritsos” (P71)

 

A serious episode in the Black Sea as Russian warships and airplanes encamped NATO ships with the “Ritsos” (P-71) TKK is also targeting.

According to the Russian Ministry of Defense’s announcement, Russian warships entered the Black Sea to conduct naval exercises while the NATO Maritime Shield 2019 is under way and “practiced in realistic combat conditions thanks to NATO exercises,” as he attributes.

This is stated in a statement from the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

“The Black Sea Fleet warships sailed from their base to join the naval formation of the other Russian naval units located in the same sea area.

The development of Russian warships took place in pre-determined areas, in order to control and supervise the situation on the seabed, the surface and the air.

In the Russian military mobilization, the Russian A-50 fighter radar, Su-27SM and Su-30 fighters, along with strategic bombers. (they also released video with strategic Tu-160 bombers along with Su-27 fighters flying over the Crimea amid heavy rains)

The South Military Region is ready and the Bal-and-Bastion missiles are activated.

About 50 fighters and helicopters participate in the military exercise, while the 5-hour patrol radars reported 20 targets on the Russian Su-27SM and Su-30 aircraft (20 are also NATO ships).

This is due to NATO’s “Sea Shield 2019” exercise that gave us the opportunity to exercise (!) The Black Sea Fleet at a realistic level of combat, “ says the Russian Defense Ministry.

Earlier, the Russian Navy also made missile shots. The “Ivanovets” and “R-60” corvettes performed drills by launching ultrasonic missiles “Moskit” into surface targets, 30 nautical miles away.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko earlier reported that increased NATO activities in the Black Sea contain risks for the region’s security.

“Our position is clear, any NATO effort in the Black Sea is silly from a military point of view.

They will neither strengthen the security of the region nor NATO itself but create additional military risks.

Russia is ready for any challenges to military security in the Black Sea and will take additional defensive measures if necessary, “ Grushko said.

Let us note that the present at the end of the NATO exercise was given by the President of Romania and General Ciuca with their visit to the NATO warships

Let’s note that in the exercise “SeaShield-2019” participated also the Greek TKK RITSOS (P-71).

Exercise supervised by military representatives from Georgia and Ukraine.

This is the largest naval exercise of its kind, with the participation of 2,200 soldiers and 20 warships from Romania, Bulgaria, Canada, Greece, Turkey, USA and the Netherlands.

In the context of the war simulation exercise, “common combat procedures” against the “threats emerging” in the Black Sea were carried out according to the briefing, due to Russia’s “unacceptable behavior” in the region, as stated previously by the Permanent US Representative to NATO Kate Hattschon. (Click to Source)

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Canadian Armed Forces Operations

@CFOperations

Until April 17th, #HMCSToronto is sailing the Black Sea as part of Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG2) on #OpREASSURANCE.

We’re conducting a variety of maritime situational awareness patrols and interoperability exercises with other navies 🌊#WeAreNATO @NATO_MARCOM

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Под крылом «Белого лебедя»: звено Су-27СМ военно-морской авиации Черноморского флота сопроводило ракетоносец Ту-160 в небе над Черным морем: https://tvzvezda.ru/news/forces/content/20194121144-pZUCz.html 

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Pence Issues Turkey Ultimatum: “Choose Between Remaining NATO Member Or Buying Russian S-400”

wo days after we reported that the US had halted delivery of equipment related to the stealthy F-35 fighter aircraft to Turkey as part of the ongoing rift over Erdogan’s plans to move forward with taking delivery of the advanced Russian S-4000 anti-air defense system, on Wednesday the US escalated the war of words with its NATO ally when Vice President Mike Pence threatened Turkey’s future role in the NATO alliance, warning it against “reckless decisions,” like following through with the purchase of the Russian-made air defense system.

Turkey must choose. Does it want to remain a critical partner in the most successful military alliance in history or does it want to risk the security of that partnership by making such reckless decisions that undermine our @NATO alliance?,” Pence tweeted on Wednesday, after making similar remarks at a NATO summit in Washington.

Vice President Mike Pence

@VP

Replying to @VP

.@POTUS has made it clear that we will not stand idly by while @NATO allies purchase weapons from our adversaries that threaten the cohesion of our alliance.

Vice President Mike Pence

@VP

Turkey must choose. Does it want to remain a critical partner in the most successful military alliance in history or does it want to risk the security of that partnership by making such reckless decisions that undermine our @NATO alliance?

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Despite repeated warnings from the US, Turkey has refused to drop its scheduled purchase the Russian weapons system, which is scheduled to be delivered in July. After the Pentagon halted deliveries of the fifth-generation F-35 fighter jet and related equipment to Turkey and halted training of Turkish pilots, Ankara remained defiant with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu telling the NATO summit that the purchase was “a done deal.”

Cavusoglu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are currently meeting head-to-head at the summit to discuss the F-35 dispute.

As RT reports, the Turkish FM said that operating the two weapons systems at once “will not be a threat” to the F-35 or other NATO systems. US lawmakers and military officials disagree and have repeatedly warned that Turkey’s deployment of the S-400 would give the Russian system opportunity to learn how to track and spot the F-35, with potentially deadly consequences for the jet in future conflicts.

Despite the escalating war of words, the US has thus far failed to lure its NATO ally away from the Russian system and to Raytheon’s more expensive Patriot missile system, despite offering it to Ankara at a knock-down rate earlier this year.

Complicating matters, Turkey is a core partner in the F-35 program, which is US’ most expensive military project to date, and is responsible for the procurement of several components of the ultra modern fighter jet. If both sides cannot reach a deal, the US will need to find new suppliers for parts of the fighter’s fuselage, landing gear, and cockpit displays.

So far both Erdogan and Trump have kept a low profile on the topic, refusing to get dragged in and escalating the F-35 delivery matter into a full-blown political crisis which if left unchecked could result in a political fiasco similar to that which unfolded last summer, when Turkey’s detention of US pastor Brunson led to brief US sanctions being imposed against the Asian nation and which culminated with a recession in Turkey and its currency plunging to all time lows. (Click to Source)

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Turkey masses tanks on the Syrian border as Erdogan ‘prepares to move against the Kurds’ after the US leaves – while outgoing Secretary of Defense James Mattis thanks troops for their service

  • Tanks and armoured vehicles are moving to Turkey’s southern border with Syria 
  • Turkish foreign minister says forces will push into Syria ‘as soon as possible’ 
  • Erdogan has vowed to take over the fight against ISIS in Syria after Donald Trump announced that 2,000 American troops will leave the country 
  • But Turkey will also likely target Kurdish forces which helped US fight ISIS
  • Comes as James Mattis, who announced his resignation over Trump’s troop withdrawal, sent out a Christmas message to those serving away from home  

Turkey has begun massing tanks and troop carriers on its southern border with Syria as it prepares to move into the country once American soldiers have left.

Erdogan’s forces were pictured arriving in border cities of Kilis and al-Rai after the country’s foreign minister said they will push into Syria as soon as possible.

It comes after Donald Trump announced that all 2,000 American troops will withdraw from the country and that Turkey will take over the fight against ISIS.

Turkish tanks and armoured troop carriers have begun massing on the Syrian border in preparation to move in once American troops have withdrawn

Turkish tanks and armoured troop carriers have begun massing on the Syrian border in preparation to move in once American troops have withdrawn

Turkey has agreed to take over the fight against ISIS once the US has left, but will likely also direct its forces against the American-backed Kurds, which it views as terrorists

Turkey has agreed to take over the fight against ISIS once the US has left, but will likely also direct its forces against the American-backed Kurds, which it views as terrorists

But Turkey is also likely to direct its attacks against Kurdish forces stationed in northern Syria which helped US troops in the battle against ISIS.

Turkey has carried out limited attacks against Kurdish positions in Afrin province, and has vowed to expand its operations to cover its entire southern border.

But plans stalled amid push-back from Washington that saw US relations with its NATO ally set in the deep freeze.

However, Trump has since tweeted that Turkey and America are planning to increase trade and strengthen ties as US troops begin a ‘low and highly coordinated’ withdrawal from Syria.

As part of the agreement, America will take back weapons it gave to the Kurdish forces during the fight with ISIS.

In return, Erdogan vowed to delay a military campaign against the Kurds, but on Tuesday foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu indicated it would go ahead as soon as practically possible.

According to the Guardian, he insisted that ‘if Turkey says it will enter [Syria], it will.’

Tanks and military vehicles are pictured in the Turkish border town of al-Rai on Christmas Day as they prepare to move into Syria

Tanks and military vehicles are pictured in the Turkish border town of al-Rai on Christmas Day as they prepare to move into Syria

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan had vowed to delay a military push into Syria as the Americans left, but his foreign minister has indicated otherwise

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan had vowed to delay a military push into Syria as the Americans left, but his foreign minister has indicated otherwise

Trump’s shock announcement has caused concern in Washington and prompted the resignation of Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

As he submitted his letter of resignation to Trump on December 26, Mattis issued a videotaped Christmas message to all American servicemen and women.

In it, he said: ‘Since Washington crossed the Delaware at Christmas in 1776, American troops have missed holidays at home to defend our experiment in democracy.

‘To all you lads and lasses holding the line in 2018 on land, at sea or in the air, thanks for keeping the faith. Merry Christmas and may God hold you safe.’

Mattis’s resignation letter initially said he would be leaving his post at the end of January, but that date was rushed forward after Trump found out it criticised him.

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan will be named as acting secretary effective from January 1.

Trump's shock announcement that US troop will withdraw from Syria prompted the resignation of Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who gave a Christmas message thanking members of the armed forces for their service (pictured)

Trump’s shock announcement that US troop will withdraw from Syria prompted the resignation of Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who gave a Christmas message thanking members of the armed forces for their service (pictured)

Trump says Turkey and the US are going to increase their trade ties as a result of the troop withdrawal, which had angered Ankara

Elsewhere, Syrian government troops backed by Russian forces sent extra troops towards the city of Manbij in preparation for an attack.

The city is currently controlled by a Kurdish militia, which helped to coordinate the movements and will withdraw before the attack takes place.

The move is part of the wider buildup of forces in the area.

‘The battle will soon start,’ Major Youssef Hamoud, spokesman for the National Army, the main Turkish-backed rebel force in the area, told Reuters.

‘What we see on the front now is reinforcements to all forces to reach full preparedness for the battle.’

‘The Russian army has restored the Syrian-Russian coordination centre to Arima village to the west of Manbij city, after its withdrawal from there a while ago,’ said Sharfan Darwish, the spokesman for the Manbij Military Council. (Click to Source)

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Towards “NATO-Exit”? Shift in the Structure of Military Coalitions. Turkey’s Alliance with Russia, China and Iran?

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky
Global Research, March 31, 2018

nato_war1

Reminiscent of World War I, shifting alliances and the structure of military coalitions are crucial determinants of history.

Today’s military alliances, including “cross-cutting coalitions” between “Great Powers” are equally dangerous, markedly different and exceedingly more complex than those pertaining to World War I. (i.e  the confrontation between “The Triple Entente” and “the Triple Alliance”).

Contemporary developments point to a historical shift in the structure of military alliances which could contribute to weakening US hegemony in the Middle East as well as creating conditions which could lead to a breakup of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

NATO constitutes a formidable military force composed of 29 member states, which is largely controlled by the Pentagon. It is a military coalition and an instrument of modern warfare. It constitutes a threat to global security and World peace. 

Divisions within the Atlantic Alliance could take the form of one or more member states deciding to “Exit NATO”. Inevitably an NATO-Exit movement would weaken the unfolding consensus imposed by our governments which at the this juncture in our history consists in threatening to wage a pre-emptive war against the Russian Federation.  

***

In this article, we will largely be addressing a concrete case of a NATO member state’s intent to exit the Atlantic Alliance NATO, namely Turkey’s “NATO-Exit” and its evolving rapprochement with Russia as well as with Iran and China.

Turkey is contemplating a “NATO-Exit”, the implications of which are far-reaching. Military alliances are being redefined.

In turn, Turkey in Northern Syria is fighting against America’s proxy Kurdish forces, i.e. one NATO member state is fighting another NATO member state.

Russia’s stance in relation to Turkey’s military actions in Northern Syria is ambiguous. Russia is an ally of Syria, whose country has been invaded by Turkey, an ally of Russia.

From a broader military standpoint, Turkey is actively cooperating with Russia, which has recently pledged to ensure Turkey’s security. “Moscow underscores that Turkey can calmly withdraw from NATO, and after doing so Ankara will have guarantees that it will not face any threat [from US-NATO] in terms of ensuring its own security,” (According to statement of Turkish Air Force Major-general Beyazit Karatas (ret))

Moreover, Ankara will be acquiring in 2020 Russia’s state of the art S-400 air defense system while de facto opting out from the integrated US-NATO-Israel air defense system. The S-400 deal is said to have caused “concern” “because Turkey is a member of NATO and the [S-400] system cannot be integrated into NATO’s military architecture”.

Russia’s S-400 Triumf (NATO reporting name: SA-21 Growler) is the latest long-range antiaircraft missile system that went into service in 2007. It is designed to destroy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles, including medium-range missiles, and surface targets. The S-400 can engage targets at a distance of 400 kilometers and at an altitude of up to 30 kilometers. (Tass, December 29, 2017)

What does this mean?

Has NATO’s “heavyweight” (in terms of its conventional forces) namely Turkey chosen to exit the Atlantic Alliance? Or is Turkey involved in an alliance of convenience with Russia while sustaining its links with NATO and the Pentagon?

The Atlantic Alliance is potentially in shatters. Will this lead to a NATO Exit movement with other NATO member states following suit?

Moscow’s intent in this regard, through diplomatic channels is to build upon bilateral relations with selected EU-NATO member states. The objective is to contribute to NATO “military deescalation” on Russia’s Western frontier.

Apart from Turkey, several EU countries including Germany, Italy, Greece (which has established defense ties with Russia) as well as Bulgaria could contemplate a NATO-Exit.

Turkey’s “Rapprochement” with Russia is strategic. While playing a key role in the Middle East, Turkey also controls naval access to the Black Sea through the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus. (see image right)

In other words, Turkey’s withdrawal from NATO would have an immediate impact on NATO’s land and naval deployments in the Black Sea basin, which in turn would affect NATO military capabilities on Russia’s doorstep in Eastern Europe, The Baltic States and the Balkans.

Needless to say, the Moscow-Ankara alliance facilitates the movement of Russian and Chinese naval forces to and from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean via the Bosphorus.

Turkey’s realignment is not limited to Russia it also includes Iran as well as Pakistan, which is in the process of severing its military ties with the US, while extending its trade and investment relations with China. Pakistan as well as India are full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement (SCO).

The broader structure of military as well trade/ investment alliances must also be addressed, including maritime routes and pipeline corridors.

US Influence and Hegemony in the Broader Middle East

These geopolitical shifts have served to weaken U.S. influence in the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia.

Turkey has an alliance of convenience with Iran. And Iran in turn is now supported by a powerful China-Russia block, which includes military cooperation, strategic pipelines as well extensive trade and investment agreements.

In turn, the unity of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States is now in jeopardy, with Qatar, Oman and Kuwait building an alliance with Iran (as well as Turkey), to the detriment of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Saudi Arabia’s economic blockade directed against Qatar has created a rift in geopolitical alliances which has served to weaken the US in the Persian Gulf.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is profoundly divided, with the UAE and Bahrain siding with Saudi Arabia against Qatar. In turn Qatar has the support of Oman and Kuwait. Needless to say, the GCC which until recently was America’s staunchest Middle East ally against Iran is in total disarray.

U.S. Central Command Military Base in Qatar 

While Turkey is deploying  troops in Qatar, it has also established the Tariq bin Ziyad military base in Qatar (in cooperation with the Qatari Ministry of Defense) under an agreement signed in 2014.

The Qatar based Al Udeid US military facility is the largest in the Middle East. Under USCentCom, it hosts the command structure of all US military operations in the entire Middle East-Central Asian region.

Al Udeid –which houses some 10,000 US military personnel–, has played a strategic role in the ongoing conduct of US air operations against Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

There is however a fundamental contradiction: America’s largest military base in the Middle East which hosts USCentCom is at present located in a country which is firmly aligned with Iran (i.e. an enemy of America). Moreover,  Qatar’s main partners in the oil and gas industry including pipelines are Iran and Turkey. In turn, both Russia and China are actively involved in the Qatari oil and gas industry. 

In response to Qatar’s rapprochement with Iran, the Pentagon has already envisaged moving its Central Command headquarters at the Al Udeid Air Force base (image left) to the Prince Sultan Air Force base in central Saudi Arabia, 80 km south of Riyadh.

The structure of military alliances pertaining to Qatar are in this regard strategic.

Why? Because Qatar is a Geopolitical Hot Spot, largely attributable to its extensive maritime reserves in natural gas which it shares with Iran.

Iran and Qatar cooperate actively in the extraction of  maritime natural gas under a joint Qatar-Iran ownership structure. These maritime gas fields are strategic, they constitute the World’s largest maritime gas reserves located in the Persian Gulf. (For further details, see Michel Chossudovsky, Middle East and Asia Geopolitical Alliances, Global Research, September 17, 2017)

In March 2018, Washington demanded that Qatar’s Al Jazeera News agency register in the U.S. as a “Foreign Agent” intimating that Doha has an “alliance” with enemies of America, including Iran and Russia.

Is this not a prelude to “Qatar-Gate” under the helm of Trump’s newly instated “war cabinet” (with Pompeo taking over from Tillerson at the State Department)?

Screen shot Middle East Monitor, March 9, 2018

In November 2017, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani intimated during a visit to Washington that “Qatar does  not rule out the possibility of a Saudi-led military operation against it”. While this option is unlikely, a “regime change” in Doha sponsored by the US and its Saudi ally is a distinct possibility.

The Incirlik Air Force Base in Southern Turkey 

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is envisaging moving US Air Force facilities and personnel out of the Incirlik base in southern Turkey:

Earlier in March, Johnny Michael, the spokesperson for the US European Command (EUCOM), denied “speculative” reports that the US military reduced its operations at Incirlik base, adding that all military activities continued normally.

A day before Michael’s remarks, a Wall Street Journal report suggested that the US “sharply reduced” combat operations at the airbase and was considering permanent cutbacks there. (Al Jazeera, March 26, 2018)

Concluding Remarks: With NATO in shambles, America’s “war hawks” do not have a leg to stand on.

The alliance between Washington and Ankara is in crisis. NATO is in crisis. In turn, a Turkey NATO-Exit could potentially destabilize NATO.

We are at a dangerous crossroads. The US-NATO military agenda threatens the future of humanity.

How to reverse the tide of war? What concrete actions should be taken?

“NATO-Exit” could become a rallying call, a movement which could spread across the European landscape.

Both the European and North American anti-war movements should concretely focus their grassroots campaign on country-based “NATO-Exit” with a view to breaking the structure of military alliances required by Washington to sustain its global military agenda.

No easy task. This movement will not emanate from the governments. Most of the heads of State and heads of government of  NATO member countries have been coopted.

Moreover, many of the West’s civil society organizations and NGOs (financed by corporate foundations) are tacitly supportive of US-NATO “humanitarian wars”.

What this means is that the anti-war movement has to be rebuilt. (Click to Source)

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NATO Braces For Putin’s Next Military Move In Eastern Europe

putinmarch292018

Nolan Peterson
Posted with permission from The Daily Signal

KYIV, Ukraine—Since 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military aggression in Ukraine has rearranged the national defense chessboards of countries across Eastern Europe.

In turn, the NATO military alliance has deployed weapons and troops eastward, to “make clear that an attack on one Ally would be considered an attack on the whole Alliance,” said NATO’s website. And the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has approved delivery of American anti-tank weapons to Ukraine.

Yet, U.S. and NATO military leaders may have it wrong when it comes to anticipating Russia’s next military move in the region, a U.S. think tank says.

“The Russian military is well-positioned to launch a short-notice conventional war in Ukraine and a hybrid war in the Baltic states, the opposite of what Western leaders seem to expect in each theater,” Catherine Harris and Frederick Kagan wrote in a March report for the Institute for the Study of War.

That assessment challenges U.S. and NATO military orthodoxy about what Russia’s next military offensive might look like.

“U.S. leaders and their European allies are unprepared for the ways in which Putin is poised to wage war in Ukraine and the Baltics,” Harris and Kagan wrote.

Yet, one thing seems certain—the Russian military threat to both the Baltics and Ukraine is not likely to taper off anytime soon. Putin’s rubber-stamp election victory March 18 guarantees at least another six years with the ex-KGB lieutenant colonel at the helm of Russian foreign policy.

“We are painfully aware that if there is a medium-intensity conflict and we are going to be part of it, it is going to be against Russia,” Maj. Ivo Zelinka, deputy commander of the Czech Republic army’s 43rd Airborne Battalion, told The Daily Signal.

“In addition,” Zelinka said, “Russia did learn a few new tricks since the Soviet times, but surely did not forget any.”

Consequently, when it comes to military spending, Eastern Europe will be the fastest-growing region in the world in 2018, according to the annual Jane’s Defence Budgets Report.

“Growth has been particularly spectacular among the three Baltic states,” the report said, adding that by the end of 2018, defense spending among NATO’s Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania will have more than doubled in real terms compared to 2014 levels.

Similarly, since 2014, Ukraine has rebuilt its armed forces into the second-largest standing army in Europe, behind only Russia.

Russia’s defense budget has declined since its 2015 peak. Yet, Moscow appears to have repostured its military forces within its Western Military District, which borders on Ukrainian and NATO territory.

Harris and Kagan wrote for this month’s Institute for the Study of War report:

The ground forces deployments around the periphery of Ukraine give an indication of what preparations for a short-notice mechanized invasion might look like—pairs of regiments co-located under distinct headquarters along separate but converging lines of advance with well-secured rear-areas, all within 50 miles of the border. This disposition looks nothing like the ad hockery that would be required for a mechanized invasion of the Baltic states.

No Easy Task

Russia invaded and seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March 2014. The following April, Moscow launched a proxy war in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.

Four years later, about 60,000 Ukrainian troops remain deployed along a 250-mile-long, entrenched front line in the Donbas opposite a force of about 35,000 pro-Russian separatists, foreign mercenaries, and Russian regulars. (Ukraine and NATO say about 3,000 Russian soldiers are operating in Ukraine, mainly in command and control roles.)

Europe’s only ongoing conflict has so far killed about 11,000 Ukrainians and displaced more than 1.7 million people. Stuck in an endless cycle of waxing and waning violence, it’s a static, trench conflict, comprising episodic artillery and rocket barrages as well as small arms gun battles. Despite punitive Western sanctions, Russia still feeds the conflict with weapons, cash, and its own troops.

Ukraine’s national security doctrine officially refers to Russia as the “aggressor nation.” Consequently, Ukraine has rebuilt and repositioned its armed forces specifically to defend against a Russian invasion.

Since 2014, Ukraine’s military center of gravity has shifted from its Soviet-legacy western bulwarks (meant to repel a NATO invasion) to the eastern border with Russia.

Also, Ukraine has increased its active force structure from 15 to 22 brigades, comprising more than 250,000 active troops, up from about 100,000 in 2014.

The country now fields “an entire new generation of combat-hardened commanders who know Russian weaknesses and how to exploit them,” wrote Phillip Karber, president of The Potomac Foundation, and Wesley Clark, NATO’s former supreme allied commander in Europe and a retired U.S. Army four-star general, in a report for the Potomac Foundation, a Washington think tank.

Ukraine’s military is still hobbled by a lack of arms, equipment shortfalls, and a need to modernize. Moreover, it remains outmatched in terms of troops, materiel, and technology by Russian forces in the region.

However, Ukraine’s army is “ready and trained” and “larger and stronger” than it was four years ago, Clark and Karber wrote, adding that a Russian attack on Ukraine is “not as easy as it looks.”

Détente No More

Relations between Russia and the West are worse than they have ever been in the post-Cold War era, many security experts say. And the Baltics are the tectonic boundary of those rising tensions, where the spectre of war looms most ominously.

“President Putin clearly appears to distrust NATO and harbor resentments toward it,” wrote RAND Corp., a U.S. defense think tank, in a 2016 report detailing the Russian military threat to NATO’s Baltic countries.

“[Putin’s] rhetoric suggests that he sees the Alliance’s presence on Russia’s borders as something approaching a clear and present danger to his nation’s security,” the RAND report added.

That report, titled “Reinforcing Deterrence on NATO’s Eastern Flank,” found, after multiple war games, that invading Russia forces could be at the gates of Estonia’s capital city of Tallinn and Latvia’s capital of Riga within 60 hours.

To reverse Moscow’s advantage, the report advocated a buildup of NATO air and land power in the region, to include seven NATO brigades permanently based in the Baltics, with three heavy armored brigades, supported by airpower, artillery, and other forces.

“A successful defense of the Baltics will call for a degree of air-ground synergy whose intimacy and sophistication recalls the U.S. Army-U.S. Air Force ‘AirLand Battle’ doctrine of the 1980s,” the RAND report stated.

Rattled, in part, by the RAND report’s findings, the alliance announced a plan during the 2016 NATO summit in Warsaw to build up its military forces in the Baltics by rotating four battalion-size, combat-ready battlegroups throughout the region—including 800 U.S. troops stationed in Poland.

NATO officials said the move constitutes the “biggest reinforcement of Alliance collective defense in a generation.”

Those rotating forces are now in place, supported by other temporary deployments of NATO airpower.

NATO also continues to run an air policing mission over the Baltics, which dates back to 2004. The 24/7 operation to defend Baltic airspace was run out of only one base in Lithuania until 2014, when it was expanded to include operations from Estonia’s Ämari Air Base.

Wrong Toolkit?

NATO’s military buildup in the Baltics may not be the right tool for the kind of threat Russian forces pose to the region, some experts say.

Russia has three motorized rifle brigades, one motorized regiment, and three airborne regiments based within close proximity to the Baltic states, according to open source reporting. Those forces are distributed within mainland Russia as well as Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave.

The special operations-heavy makeup of Russian forces within striking range of the Baltics telegraphs a readiness for the type of hybrid warfare assaults Russia conducted in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, the Institute for the Study of War report said.

“Russian military leadership, practice, and ad hoc deployment along the Baltic borders all suggest Putin is much more likely to pursue a hybrid approach in the Baltic over a conventional mechanized invasion,” Harris and Kagan wrote.

Thus, to launch a conventional invasion of the Baltics, Russian commanders would have to shift mechanized forces from other locations in Russia toward the region, and expose Kaliningrad to a NATO counterattack.

With its constellation of spy satellites and other reconnaissance assets, NATO would notice Russia internally reinforcing its military forces on a scale required to mount a successful land invasion of the Baltics, thereby betraying the element of surprise.

In contrast, with three mechanized divisions along the Ukrainian border, and the concurrent headquarters already established to command those forces, Russia has the pieces in position to launch a land invasion of Ukraine on short order both from the north and from the east.

“Russia has strengthened its military presence on the border with Ukraine as several mechanized divisions are fully prepared for intervention,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said in a speech to Ukrainian troops last week.

In 2015, Russia re-established its 1st Guards Tank Army, which comprises about 700 tanks and which the Kremlin claimed could reach Kyiv in 48 hours.

In 2016, the Kremlin shifted its 20th Guards Army—with 400 tanks—from Moscow to the vicinity of Voronezh, which is about 400 kilometers, or 250 miles, closer to the Ukrainian border.

And in 2017, Russia re-established and began forward-deploying its 8th Guards Army—with about 900 tanks—near the Ukrainian border. Elements of the 8th Guards Army are deployed near Ukraine’s Donbas border to support Russian proxy forces within the breakaway region.

“There are three mechanized divisions near the Ukrainian border compared to just one airborne division near the Baltic, which would not be optimal for large-scale mechanized offensives,” Harris and Kagan wrote.

Learn by Example

So far in 2018, Russia’s proxy war in eastern Ukraine has quieted—the average number of cease-fire violations is at its lowest level in more than two years, international monitors say.

Yet, cease-fire violations are not the only measure of Russia’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine. Russian forces are waging a larger hybrid conflict that extends beyond the front lines in the Donbas, comprising weaponized propaganda, cyberwarfare, assassinations, and sabotage.

Russia also has used economic pressure as a weapon, such as cutting off natural gas supplies to Ukraine earlier this month amid a late-season cold snap, sparking an immediate countrywide heating crisis.

Similarly, Russia’s post-2014 brinkmanship against the West spans the gamut—aggressive warplane flybys of NATO aircraft and ships, global cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns, as well as meddling in European and American elections.

Russian relations with the West recently hit a new post-Cold War nadir following the attempted nerve gas murder of a former Russian spy and his daughter on British soil.

“The West would be foolish to over-focus on any one form of possible future war with Russia,” Harris and Kagan wrote in their report for the Institute for the Study of War, adding that the deployment of NATO armor and airpower to build a defensive bulwark against a Russian land invasion of the Baltics may not be an effective deterrent.

Many Western military analysts say that Russia’s war in Ukraine is a case study in Moscow’s contemporary “hybrid warfare” doctrine. Therefore, along that line of thinking, Western military leaders would be wise to study Russian tactics in Ukraine to anticipate how a hypothetical Russian hybrid assault on a Baltic country would play out.

Echoing that sentiment, last week Poroshenko told reporters, “NATO nations could learn from Ukraine how to resist Russia.”

When he was U.S. president, Barack Obama levied punitive economic sanctions against Moscow for its military aggression in Ukraine. Obama also kick-started the U.S. military’s pivot to Eastern Europe.

Yet, despite years of appeals from Kyiv, Obama never approved sending Ukraine lethal weapons. Reportedly, the Obama White House feared such a move would escalate the conflict and spark a tit-for-tat arms race between Russia and the U.S. over Ukraine.

The Trump administration, however, has taken a tougher stance against Russia in both Ukraine and across Eastern Europe. Notably, it has approved the delivery of American anti-tank weapons to Ukraine and upped the budget for U.S. military operations in Eastern Europe to deter Russia.

The formidable U.S. Javelin anti-tank missiles—set for delivery to Ukraine this year—won’t be enough to tip the balance of power in Ukraine’s favor should Russia invade. Yet, the Javelins will increase the cost in blood and treasure that Russia would suffer in such a war.

More importantly, Trump’s decision to supply Kyiv with lethal weapons underscores both a commitment to Ukraine’s security as well as a commitment to deter Russia in Eastern Europe more broadly.

That’s a message, many believe, that Moscow is sure to consider when plotting its next move.

“Ukraine’s struggle against Russian revanchism is NATO’s,” Clark and Karber wrote. “It’s time the West recognize that.” (Click to Source)

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Putin launches ‘Satan 2’ nuclear missile again, Boasts of ‘invulnerable’ arsenal

‘Satan 2’ nuclear missile again test-launched by Russia, as Putin brags of ‘invulnerable’ arsenal

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A new intercontinental ballistic missile hailed by Russian President Vladimir Putin as being able to fly over the North or South Poles and strike any target in the world reportedly was test-launched for the second time Friday.

Russia’s defense ministry released a video purportedly showing the Sarmat ICBM blasting off in spectacular fashion from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in its northern Arkhangelsk province, the move coming just hours after the Kremlin announced it would expel 60 American diplomats and close the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg in retaliation for U.S. measures taken in response to the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy and his daughter in Britain.

The video shows the missile – dubbed “Satan 2” by NATO — rising out of the ground and seemingly floating in the air for a brief moment before more flames erupt, kicking up massive clouds of smoke and snow.

“No defense systems will be able to withstand it,” Putin said about the missile during his state-of-the-nation speech in early March.

The test-launch also comes after Putin’s recent re-election and a congratulatory phone call from President Trump — in which Trump reportedly also warned his Russian counterpart, “if you want to have an arms race we can do that, but I’ll win,” according to two officials that spoke to NBC News. Days before the launch, the U.S. Navy test-fired its own ICBM from a ballistic missile submarine off the coast of Southern California.

Russia has been working for years to develop a new ICBM to replace the Soviet-designed Voyevoda, the world’s heaviest ICBM and known as “Satan” in the West. That ICBM carries 10 nuclear warheads, the Associated Press reported. Putin announced during his March speech the Sarmat missile was undergoing tests and debuted a video purportedly showing its first test launch, which he said happened in December.

Putin said Sarmat weighs 220 tons and has a higher range than “Satan,” allowing it to fly over both poles of the Earth. He also said it accelerates faster than its predecessor, making it harder for an enemy to intercept it in its most vulnerable phase after the launch. Putin added Sarmat also carries more — and more powerful — nuclear warheads than the “Satan” ICBM.

Johnny Michael, a Pentagon spokesman, said Friday, “We did not receive any advance notice of this missile-related testing activity. I would defer you to the Russian Ministry of Defense to explain where an ejection test falls in the very early stages of the development of an ICBM missile program, and how far the item in question actually traveled.”

Russian state-run news agency TASS has reported the Sarmat missile will go into mass production in 2020 and is expected to become operational the year after, according to EuroNews.

“No one has listened to us. You listen to us now,” Putin boasted during the March speech, when he revealed other weapons his country apparently has in the works, such as an underwater drone armed with a nuclear warhead powerful enough to sweep away coastal facilities and aircraft carriers, and a nuclear-powered cruise missile that’s “invulnerable to any existing or prospective air and missile defense systems.”

The White House responded to Putin’s March 1 speech by saying he merely confirmed what the U.S. already knows: that Russia has been developing “destabilizing weapons systems for over a decade in direct violations of its treaty obligations.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Trump understands the threats and that America is “moving forward to modernize our nuclear arsenal and ensure our capabilities are unmatched.”

Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White also said the Defense Department wasn’t surprised by Putin’s bluster, adding the U.S. military is prepared to defend the nation.

“You will have to assess that new reality and become convinced that what I said today isn’t a bluff,” Putin had said. “It’s not a bluff, trust me.”

He said the creation of the new weapons has made NATO’s U.S.-led missile defense “useless,” putting an end to what he described as years of Western efforts to sidetrack and weaken Russia.

“I want to tell all those who have fueled the arms race over the last 15 years, sought to win unilateral advantages over Russia, introduced unlawful restrictions and sanctions aimed to contain our country’s development: All what you wanted to impede with your policies has now happened,” he said. “You have failed to contain Russia.”

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said it was “unfortunate” to watch animation depicting “a nuclear attack on the United States” that accompanied Putin’s speech, calling the video “cheesy” and adding “we don’t think it’s responsible.”

Another new weapon Putin unveiled during the state-of-the-nation speech, called Avangard, is an intercontinental hypersonic missile that would fly at 20 times the speed of sound and strike its targets “like a meteorite, like a fireball.” (Click to Source)

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Russian Nuclear Plant Stokes Europe’s Fears of a Power Play

Lithuanians say Moscow could use project in Belarus to induce panic; Russia calls claim ‘patently bogus’

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BRUSSELS—Power politics between Russia and the rest of Europe are once again raising a question that dogged strategists throughout the Cold War: Where is the line between prudence and paranoia?

Russia, which for years has used its vast supply of natural gas as a political lever with energy-hungry Europe, is building a nuclear power plant in Moscow-friendly Belarus. Neighboring Lithuania and Poland are so determined to escape Russia’s clutch that they refused to buy electricity from the plant.

Still, the $11 billion Ostrovets nuclear-power project, 30 miles from Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, is fueling fears in the Baltic republic. Lithuanians say they don’t think Moscow would actually trigger a nuclear accident but they do worry about a panic-inducing warning of a leak—real or not.

“Even a fake message about the disaster could trigger a lot of damage to our country,” said Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė. “We treat this as a national security threat.”

Evacuating Vilnius would be massively disruptive, lower the country’s defenses, and increase its vulnerability to potential covert action by Russia. Lithuania, occupied by the Soviet Union until 1991, has briefed fellow North Atlantic Treaty Organization members, arguing Moscow has demonstrated it can effectively use nontraditional military techniques to destabilize its neighbors.

Belarusian authorities didn’t respond to requests for comment, while Russian officials referred questions to Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned nuclear monopoly. A spokesman for the Moscow-based company dismissed Lithuanian warnings that the Belarus nuclear plant represents a hybrid threat as “a patently bogus claim which doesn’t stand up to basic scrutiny.”

“The project meets the highest safety standards,” the Rosatom spokesman said.

Lithuanian officials, however, are ringing alarm bells against the backdrop of Russia’s assertiveness across the globe. Washington and its European allies have accused Russia of interfering in elections, deploying social media to spread false allegations and using other unorthodox methods to sow divisions among Western democracies. Allied officials say Russia uses a range of tactics to pressure their neighbors, seeking to loosen their ties to the West.

Infrastructure projects are seen as potential weapons in other parts of the world. South Korea so fears North Korea will use its Imnam hydroelectric dam to try to flood Seoul that it spent $429 million building its own dam in defense. China’s new artificial islands in the South China Sea are seen by the U.S. and its allies as permanent aircraft carriers.

Which non-traditional threats should prompt reaction is a tough call. Before the Sept. 11 attacks, few foresaw commercial planes being used as suicide weapons.

European officials are divided over the potential threat from the Ostrovets plant. Rosatom has projects around Europe, including nuclear power plants under construction in Hungary and Finland. Accidents are bad for business, even false alarms, say energy experts.

“They’re not building a ticking time bomb,” a European official said. “But, you will never satisfy the Lithuanians, they simply don’t want the project.”

But the European Union and NATO officials see a different kind of threat from the plant. They say the project is an attempt by Moscow to maintain its neighbors’ energy dependence on Russia.

The EU is trying to help Poland and the Baltic states cut ties to Russia’s energy grid. The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, recently pledged to advance a plan to integrate the four countries into the European energy network by May.

Conventional nuclear risks such as radioactive contamination also feed Lithuanian fears. Some 75% of its capital region’s drinkable water comes from the Neris River that runs by the Ostrovets plant and through Vilnius. One-third of the country’s 2.9 million people live within a 100-kilometer (62 mile) radius that would be heavily affected by an incident, according to Lithuania. In recent years, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands have distributed iodine tablets to residents within 100 kilometers of nuclear power plants, in line with International Atomic Energy Agency emergency guidelines.

Adding to Lithuania’s wariness is the safety record of Russian nuclear power. Memories of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster resurfaced in November when scientists tracked a cloud of radioactive isotopes that appeared to originate from Russia. Rosatom has denied responsibility for the recent radioactive cloud, which was centered around a facility run by the company.

“They simply cannot afford to behave in any kind of gross political, non-market way,” said an Ostrovets project supporter, who is familiar with the discussions. Unlike PAO Gazprom—the Russian state-run natural-gas giant that enjoys stable, high demand from Europe and has on occasion cut off supplies amid political spats—the nuclear enterprise is operating in a highly competitive global market that would severely punish any mishap, the person said.

Belarusian and Russian officials and their supporters argue that Russia’s interest in European energy is about economics, not threats. The IAEA has said Belarus has shown a strong commitment to safety standards.

Officials from the EU and its members have said the bloc can do little beyond demanding strict adherence to international agreements and regulations. Belarus has agreed to cooperate with the EU and the IAEA. The bloc will review Belarus’s stress-test, visiting Ostrovets in March and unveiling its findings in June, an EU official said.

Nonetheless, some allied officials warn against dismissing Lithuanian national-security concerns. In February, as German troops deployed to Lithuania under a NATO mandate, false reports spread that a German national had raped a Lithuanian girl. Some Western officials said the misinformation likely came from Russia, seeking to undermine support for NATO. Russian officials have said such claims are a NATO propaganda campaign to justify its military presence in the Baltic states.

In April, lawmakers in Vilnius adopted a law against importing electricity from “unsafe” power plants and in June Lithuania’s parliament declared the Belarusian nuclear plant a national-security threat.

“The plant is not economically viable,” said Ms. Grybauskaitė. “If they go ahead, it not economic goals they are pursing.” (Click to Source)

Trump, in Poland, Asks if West Has the ‘Will to Survive’

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WARSAW — President Trump said on Thursday that Western civilization was at risk of decline, bringing a message about “radical Islamic terrorism” and “the creep of government bureaucracy” to a European capital he views as hospitable to his nationalist message.

Mr. Trump, who broke with tradition by attacking American leaders and his country’s intelligence services while abroad, delivered his message in a speech to a friendly Polish crowd before a two-day summit meeting of Group of 20 leaders in Hamburg, Germany.

Hours later, he flew from Warsaw to Hamburg, where he held a low-key private meeting with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel. She perhaps best symbolizes the deep skepticism shared by Western leaders toward Mr. Trump’s persona and his policies, ranging from addressing climate change to confronting Russia.

In what may be a foretaste of the scene during the gathering, 12,000 protesters vowing to disrupt the G-20 summit meeting converged for a demonstration in Hamburg on Thursday night called “Welcome to Hell.” There were reports that dozens of police officers had sustained minor injuries as a small group of protesters attacked them with bottles, poles and iron bars in clashes that lasted until midnight. Up to 100,000 protesters were expected in the coming days. (Click to Article)

US Marines Land In Norway For The First Time Since World War II, Angering Russia

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Just one week after thousands of US troops arrived in Poland to “support NATO’s Anti-Russian buildup” across Eastern Europe, 300 U.S. Marines from Camp Lejeune landed in Norway on Monday for a six-month deployment, marking the first time since World War II that foreign troops have been allowed to be stationed there, in a deployment breaking with decades of tradition by Norway not to host foreign forces, and angering Norway’s Arctic neighbor Russia, according to Reuters.

After leaving North Carolina aboard a chartered 747 on Sunday evening, the troops landed at 10am CET on Monday with their luggage and weapons at the Vaernes airport near Trondheim, Norway’s third-largest city, television footage showed. The Marines will be hosted at the Vaernes base of the Norwegian Home Guards near Trondheim, Norway’s third-largest city.

The US soldiers, which will stay in Norway for a year with the current batch of Marines being replaced after their six-month tour is complete. Until now, the US has had large quantities of military materiel pre-positioned in tunnels dug into Norway’s mountains, but no troops.

A spokesman for the Norwegian Home Guards, who will host the Marines at the Vaernes military base, about 1,500 km (900 miles) from the Russian border, said the U.S. troops will learn about winter warfare. “For the first four weeks they will have basic winter training, learn how to cope with skis and to survive in the Arctic environment,” said Rune Haarstad, a Home Guard spokesman. In March, the Marines will take part in the Joint Viking exercises, which will also include British troops, he added.

As the deployment coincides with the U.S. sending several thousand troops to Poland to beef up its Eastern European allies worried about Moscow’s assertiveness, Russia has been understandably concerned. However, both Norway and the US deny the notion that the deployment is meant to “irk” Russia as part of NATO’s wider campaign to oppose what it calls “Russian aggression” in Europe, by sending additional troops and weapons closer to the Russian border. A spokeswoman for Norwegian Ministry of Defence also said the arrival of U.S. Marines had nothing to do with concerns about Russia. (Click to Article)

 

US Military Press Conference: “Prepare For World War 3 With Russia”

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US and NATO Generals have told reporters at a press briefing that they should prepare for “World War 3 with Russia” in the very near future.

NATO and US forces have bolstered their military forces on the Russian border, installing anti-ballistic missile systems and equipment in an effort to provoke a nuclear war with Russia.

In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin has deployed anti-aircraft missile systems around Moscow to protect the country from a massive attack.

The S-400 Triumph air defence system is capable of hitting moving US and NATO planes and missiles, and has a range of 400km.

Defense Ministry’s Department of Information and Mass Communication told Interfax: ‘The SAM combat squads of the Moscow Region aerospace forces have put the new S-400 Triumph air defense missile system into service, and have gone on combat duty for the air defense of Moscow and the central industrial region of Russia. (Click to Article)