Tuesday, 7 June 2016

NATO provocation on Russia's borders

Guided missile destroyer USS Porter enters Black Sea ‘to promote peace’ (VIDEO)

US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Porter sails through the Bosporus on its way to the Black Sea, June 6, 2016 © Murad Sezer
US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Porter sails through the Bosporus on its way to the Black Sea, June 6, 2016 © Murad Sezer / Reuters

6 June, 2016

A US Navy destroyer has entered the Black Sea in what the Sixth Fleet says is a routine deployment to promote peace and stability. However, the USS Porter (DDG-78) was just outfitted with a new missile system due to what the Navy called a “Russian threat.”

Turkish observers spotted the Porter sailing through the Bosporus on Monday, the first US Navy ship to enter the Black Sea this year.

The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer will “conduct routine operations during a routine deployment,” the US Sixth Fleet

The Sixth Fleet is the US Navy’s command for Europe and Africa, with the headquarters in Naples, Italy. The Porter, along with three sister ships of the same class, is based out of Rota, Spain.

While the Sixth Fleet said Porter’s cruise is “meant to enhance maritime security and stability, readiness, and naval capability with our allies and partners,” the ship’s deployment is part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, NATO’s ongoing saber-rattling effort along the Russian borders. One of the Porter’s ports of call will be Odessa in Ukraine.

In March, the destroyer was the first Navy ship to test the new SeaRAM missile defense system, urgently developed by weapons manufacturer Raytheon to counter “a new Russian threat,” according to the US Naval Institute. The SeaRAM launchers replaced Phalanx point-defense mounts, and was clearly visible as the Porter sailed through the Bosporus Monday morning.

Close-ups from recently installed Raytheon’s Sea Rolling Airframe Missile (SeaRAM) on USS Porter
DDG-78 and her three system ships were deployed to Spain as part of the US missile defense program, to complement ground stations in Eastern Europe. The ground interceptor station in Deveselu, Romania, came online on May 12. While the US insists the missile shield is aimed against Iran and not Russia, Moscow remains skeptical.

The Porter took part in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, launching Tomahawk cruise missiles into the country. A decade later, it was equipped with RIM-161 Standard Missile interceptors, becoming part of the Aegis missile defense system. At that point it was assigned a permanent berth in Spain as part of the Sixth Fleet.

As the US does not border the Black Sea, the Porter’s stay in the area will be limited to no longer than 21 days, under the terms of the 1936 Montreux Convention regulating the transit of warships through the twin straits controlled by Turkey.

US Navy warships have been rotating in and out of the Black Sea since 2014, when Ukraine plunged into turmoil following the ousting of President Victor Yanukovich. The last USN ship to visit the region was the USS Donald Cook in 2015.

This is the view from the war-mongering Guardian

Nato countries begin largest war game in eastern Europe since cold war
Ten-day military exercise, Anaconda-2016, will involve 31,000 troops and thousands of vehicles from 24 countries

6 June, 2016

The largest war game in eastern Europe since the end of the cold war has started in Poland, as Nato and partner countries seek to mount a display of strength as a response to concerns about Russia’s assertiveness and actions.

The 10-day military exercise, involving 31,000 troops and thousands of vehicles from 24 countries, has been welcomed among Nato’s allies in the region, though defence experts warn that any mishap could prompt an offensive reaction from Moscow.

A defence attache at a European embassy in Warsaw said the “nightmare scenario” of the exercise, named Anaconda-2016, would be “a mishap, a miscalculation which the Russians construe, or choose to construe, as an offensive action”.

Russian jets routinely breach Nordic countries’ airspace and in April they spectacularly “buzzed” the USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea.

The exercise, which US and Polish officials formally launched near Warsaw, is billed as a test of cooperation between allied commands and troops in responding to military, chemical and cyber threats.

It represents the biggest movement of foreign allied troops in Poland in peace time. For the first time since the Nazi invasion of Soviet-occupied Poland began on 22 June 1941, German tanks will cross the country from west to east.

Managed by Poland’s Lt Gen Marek Tomaszycki, the exercise includes 14,000 US troops, 12,000 Polish troops, 800 from Britain and others from non-Nato countries.

Pentagon to restore Obama's troop cuts in Europe to address Russian aggression

Multinational operations publicised so far include an airdrop involving 1,130 parachutists over the northern Polish city of Toruń on Tuesday – including 500 US troops and 230 British ones – engineers building a bridge to carry 300 vehicles over the Vistula river and a night-time “assault” involving 35 helicopters.

Marcin Zaborowski, a Polish defence analyst at the Centre for European Policy Analysis in Warsaw, said: “In Poland we see the exercise as a reassurance measure from the US and Nato. The defence needs of central and eastern Europe are real. The scope and numbers of Anaconda are no match for the Russian exercises that go on all the time just across the border.”

But Zaborowski also acknowledged that the backdrop to the exercise was “tense, and accidents can happen”.

Anaconda-2016 is a prelude to Nato’s summit in Warsaw on 8-9 July, which is expected to agree to position significant numbers of troops and equipment in Poland and the Baltic states.

It comes within weeks of the US switching on a powerful ballistic missile shield at Deveselu in Romania, as part of a “defence umbrella” that Washington says will stretch from Greenland to the Azores.

Last month, building work began on a similar missile interception base at Redzikowo, a village in northern Poland.

The exercise comes at a sensitive time for Poland’s military, following the sacking or forced retirement of a quarter of the country’s generals since the nationalist Law and Justice government came to power in October last year.

So harsh have the cuts to the top brass been that the Polish armed forces recently found themselves unable to provide a general for Nato’s multinational command centre at Szczecin.

Professional soldiers are particularly worried about a lack of clarity surrounding the creation and role of a 17-brigade territorial army, drawn in part from the 35,000 members of Poland’s gun clubs and paramilitary groups, some of which, it is feared, are linked to the country’s racist football hooligans. Two of the volunteer brigades are set to assist the professional Polish army during Anaconda.

The Guardian understands from military sources that there has been little consultation over politicians’ long-term vision for the volunteers, described last week by the plenipotentiary minister Grzegorz Kwaśniak as “a fifth force after land, sea, air and special forces”.

A western defence expert confirmed that there was concern about government interference in Poland’s military. “Poland is highly regarded internationally. In the past 15 years, they spent a lot of money and created one of the best armies in the region. They made big sacrifices in Afghanistan. They lost 40 soldiers. It is not clear what the government thinks it needs to improve,” he said.

And the Russian response

Moscow calls NATO buildup in E. Europe ‘unjustified’ as largest drills since Cold War kick off

© Radu Sigheti

6 June, 2016

Over 31,000 troops from 24 countries are taking part in NATO’s Anaconda-2016 war drills in Poland – the largest war games in eastern Europe since the Cold War. Moscow says that the NATO military presence is unjustified.

The Anaconda -2016 NATO military exercise involve 24 NATO and “partner nations,” including the US, the UK, Germany, Canada, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and others.

US Army Europe, which heads the exercise, says that the massive war games are “to train, exercise and integrate Polish national command and force structures into an allied, joint, multinational environment.” Anaconda-2016 will be formally closed by officials at a ceremony in Warsaw on June 17.

While the scenario for the drill is understandably kept secret, the statement briefly says it will be focused on conventional warfare, meaning the bloc will be testing its capacity to “deploy, mass and sustain combat power” against an enemy more capable and well-trained than the rebel groupings which the US and its allies fought against in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The massive war games also play well with the current right-wing government in Warsaw which frequently argues that NATO must permanently deploy troops in eastern Europe to deter what the bloc keeps calling “Russian assertiveness.”

Anaconda-2016 also comes ahead of an upcoming NATO Warsaw summit, expected to decide that significant numbers of NATO troops and equipment will be based in Poland and in the Baltic states, where the bloc is holding major sea drills, the BALTOPS, which kicked off on Friday in Estonia.

While the West claims that the string of recent military drills is to assure eastern Europe of NATO’s full commitment to defending them against Russia, Moscow maintains it has no plans at all to interfere with any country in the region.

Speaking to journalists on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated, “I am convinced that every serious and honest politician is well aware that Russia will never invade any NATO member. We have no such plans.”

He asserted that “there are no threats in this part of the world whatsoever, that would justify [NATO’s] build-up here.”

In the meantime, Lavrov said, NATO’s decision to move its military infrastructure closer to Russia’s borders and accept new members will be seen in a negative light in Moscow. “Here, Russia’s sovereign right to ensure its security will come into force, [making use] of methods adequate to [respond to] today’s challenges.”

The very existence of NATO as an organization is no threat to Russia, he said, which is not the case when it comes to the bloc’s “practical actions” in terms of moving its military infrastructure closer to Russian borders, or using military force which violates international law, “as it was in cases of Libya and Yugoslavia.”

© Ruptly

However, NATO’s leadership has already said there will be no changes to stationing more troops in Poland after the Warsaw Summit, sending “a clear signal that an attack on Poland will be considered an attack on the whole Alliance,” the bloc’s Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg told reporters following his meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda last Wednesday.

If you listen [to them], you might get a feeling that NATO is a harmless sheep cornered by ‘predators’ such as Russia and other countries disobedient to the US,” spokesman for Russian Defense Ministry Igor Konashenkov mockingly commented on Monday.

NATO currently plans to station four battalions in the region – one each in Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia. A typical US army battalion consists of up to 800 soldiers. The bloc also plans to set up several headquarters and command and control infrastructures, as well as weapons and ammunition depots in the region.

NATO has launched a massive military build-up in the Baltic states and eastern Europe, citing what it calls Russian aggression in the region. In May of last year, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced that the bloc was planning to deploy new command units in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland, as well as Bulgaria and Romania. Moscow, in turn, sees NATO’s drive eastwards as aggressive and in violation of post-Cold War agreements.

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