Tag Archives: Baltic

74% of Germans oppose permanent NATO bases in Poland and Baltics

Soldiers from the US Pennsylvania National Guard take part in a field training exercise during the first phase Saber Strike 2014, at the Rukla military base, Lithuania, on June 14, 2014.

Nearly three-quarters of Germans oppose having permanent NATO military bases in Poland and the Baltic states as a buffer against Russia, a new poll reveals. The opinion reflects a growing trend within Europe opposing further NATO eastern expansion.

In the Forsa poll for the Internationale Politik magazine’s latest edition slated for Friday, 74 percent of those surveyed were against the idea, while only 18 percent supported it, Reuters reports. Opposition to NATO expansion in Eastern Europe remains highest in former Communist eastern Germany, Forsa said.

Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia – all former members of the Soviet bloc – fear that Russia poses a military threat following recent events in Ukraine, and have asked for further security guarantees from their NATO partners.

Poland first proposed the idea of increasing the US military presence in Eastern Europe, with Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak calling on the Pentagon to deploy as many as 10,000 American troops in his country in April.

The Three Baltic States welcomed the idea that same month.

As a result, thousands of NATO troops held exercises in the region earlier this month, NATO warships have intensified patrols in the Baltic Sea, and jet fighters have likewise stepped up their air patrols.

The alliance has tripled the number of fighter jets based in the Baltics and NATO’s top military commander, US Air Force General Philip Breedlove, said in May that NATO would consider permanently stationing troops in Eastern Europe.

Russia claims that would violate a 1997 agreement, in which both sides committed to avoid “any potentially threatening build-up of conventional forces in agreed regions of Europe, to include Central and Eastern Europe.”

Earlier this month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the “artificial attempt” to continue NATO’s eastward expansion would be “counterproductive.”

Germany is not the only country which feels uncomfortable about an increased NATO presence in Eastern Europe.

Earlier this month, two eastern European states – Slovakia and the Czech Republic – both refused to host foreign troops and military bases on their territories.

The announcements came just days after US President Barack Obama announced a plan to invest $1 billion dollars in ramping up its military presence in Eastern Europe.

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Russian stealth corvette put British Navy on alert off Danish coast – media

The Soobrazitelny head corvette

A British frigate was dispatched to track a mysterious battleship that covertly sneaked in close to Denmark’s coast. The ship turned out to be Russian stealth corvette conducting a complex checkout of battle systems, according to British media.

Russian naval drills in the Baltic Sea drew some heat after British HMS Montrose (a type 23 frigate) had to establish line-of-sight range with an unidentified warship cruising off the territorial waters of NATO-member Denmark on June 19.

In harsh conditions of 30 knot winds, British sailors identified the warship as Russia’s 104-metre-long RFS Soobrazitelny (Project 20381), Steregushy-class stealth corvette, armed with a vast arsenal of anti-ship and air-defense missiles, and anti-submarine torpedoes.

Steregushchy lead ship

“We picked up a vessel on our radar that was not showing any of the normal behavior expected of merchant vessels or allied warships,” said Lieutenant Chloe Lea, HMS Montrose’s watch officer, as quoted by the Daily Mail.

“We have seen the Russians operate a lot in this area, but this is the closest we have seen them,” she said.

The Royal Navy’s HMS Montrose, based in Plymouth, has a crew of 205 and is armed with Sea Wolf missiles, Harpoon missiles, and Sting Ray torpedoes.

The RFS Soobrazitelny’s basic weapon is an X-35 (NATO code SS-N-25 Switchblade) Uran anti-ship missile complex, Redut anti-air missiles and Paket–NK torpedoes.

Both Russian warships and aircraft were conducting routine maneuvers in international waters, so the British ship left the area.

While HMS Montrose was tracking Soobrazitelny, a Russian Ilyushin IL-20 “Coot” maritime patrol aircraft was circling the British ship, analyzing the radar target signature of the Royal Navy destroyer.

“Both the Russian vessel and aircraft appeared to be carrying out their normal business,” the British Ministry of Defense acknowledged in a statement.

HMS Montrose was taking part in the BALTOPS multinational reinforced exercise that included 14 countries, the biggest NATO military drills in Eastern Europe since the Ukraine political crisis entered its critical phase.

“All our interaction so far has been professional and effective, and we have gained huge benefit from working so closely with our allies in such a busy and challenging environment,” said Commander James Parkin, commanding officer of HMS Montrose.

Soobrazitelny corvette

Three warships of the Steregushy-class stealth corvette series, the prototype Stereguschy, accompanied by Soobrazitelny and Boiky production line ships, have taken part in the latest naval drills, conducting missile firing tests and practicing landings of on-board helicopters in various conditions, including at night time and in motion.

Two days prior to the latest naval encounter, three RAF Typhoon fighter jets were scrambled to head off four separate groups of Russian aircraft taking part in drills in the Baltic.

UK scrambles jets to intercept Russian planes in intl airspace over Baltic

Royal Air Force Typhoons

Typhoon fighter jets from the UK’s Royal Air Force (RAF) were launched to intercept a number of Russian aircraft which were carrying out a routine training mission, as part of NATO’s ongoing mission to police Baltic airspace.

On Tuesday the British jets identified a number of Russian aircraft, including four Sukhoi Su27 fighters, a Tupolev 22 bomber, a Beriev A50 early warning aircraft and an Antonov An26 transport aircraft, the RAF reported.

The Russian aircraft appeared to be carrying out routine training.

Wing Commander Ian Townsend said that this was also a routine deployment for his aircraft.

“We regularly intercept Russian and civilian aircraft from UK Quick Reaction Alert and so this type of mission is core business for us and exactly what we were sent to the Baltic region by NATO to do,” he said as quoted by the Royal Air Force website.

Flight Lieutenant Mark Long, one of the pilots of the Typhoons also remarked that there was nothing unusual about the interception.

“Todays’ interception of the Russian Flankers [SU27 fighters] is all in a day’s work for an RAF fighter pilot,” he said.

The increased military activity in the Baltic region comes after 10 NATO countries launched Sabre Strike, along with Baltic Host 2014 and Baltops 2014 naval drills. Up to 4,700 troops and 800 military vehicles are taking part.

READ ALSO: Tanks, troops, jets: NATO countries launch full-scale war games in Baltic

In response, Russia, which sees NATO as a threat, ordered military exercise in the Kaliningrad region, which are comparable in size to the NATO war games.

Ukraine Crisis Will Be ‘Game Changer’ for NATO

The US Army’s 173rd Infantry Brigade carrying out a NATO-led exercise.

Artillery and tank fire reverberate around a Baltic airstrip where U.S. paratroopers are fighting alongside Lithuanian soldiers. The battle is just an exercise and it only involves 150 U.S. soldiers — but the symbolism is clear.

With Eastern European states nervous about Russia after it annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region and massed 40,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders, the U.S. and NATO allies want to show Moscow that former Soviet republics on the Baltic are under the alliance’s security umbrella.

“We are ready if something were to happen, but we are not looking to start any problems,” said Sergeant James Day, from the U.S. 173rd Airborne Brigade, during war games on the vast Gaiziunai training ground in western Lithuania.

That chimes with NATO’s current posture. In an initial response to Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, the U.S. has sent 600 soldiers to the three Baltic countries — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — and Poland to take part in exercises to bolster NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe. But the alliance has no inclination to intervene militarily in Ukraine.

Longer term, the crisis will have a profound impact on NATO’s relations with Russia, its strategy and how it deploys, trains and equips its forces, although Europe has no wish to return to a Cold War-style confrontation between huge armies.

The crisis will compel the alliance to refocus on its core mission of defending its members after years in which its main effort has been far away in Afghanistan.

The 28-nation military alliance accuses Russia of tearing up the diplomatic rule book with its annexation of Crimea.

“For 20 years, the security of the Euro-Atlantic region has been based on the premise that we do not face an adversary to our east. This premise is now in doubt,” NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow said last month.

The crisis, called a “game changer” by Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, will dominate the alliance’s agenda as it prepares for a summit in Wales in September, which will mark the imminent end of the NATO-led combat mission in Afghanistan.

The U.S., Britain, Denmark, France, Canada and Germany have sent or promised extra fighter aircraft to increase patrols and training over the Baltics, Poland or Romania.

A fleet of nine minehunters from NATO countries has been dispatched to the Baltic and another task force of five ships to the eastern Mediterranean.

In the longer term, NATO will consider permanently stationing forces in Eastern Europe, something it has refrained from doing in the 15 years since the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland joined the alliance after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

NATO will also have to think about how it deals with the unorthodox tactics used by Russia in Crimea, including exploiting political divisions, using large-scale military exercises as cover for intervention, and denying Russian troops were operating in the peninsula.

The crisis has already affected relations between NATO and Russia, which have cooperated uneasily in recent years in areas such as combating terrorism, piracy and Afghan drug-trafficking. NATO suspended cooperation with Russia last month over Crimea.

The damage is not likely to be repaired as quickly as after Russia’s 2008 war with Georgia, when a freeze in top-level contacts between NATO and Russia lasted barely six months.

“As compared, say, with the reset after the Georgia war, this is going to be a much more prolonged and difficult period,” said a senior NATO official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

President Vladimir Putin declared in March he had the right to invade Ukraine to protect Russian speakers there, causing alarm in NATO members Estonia and Latvia, which have large ethnic Russian minorities of their own.

Officials at NATO are asking themselves if Putin would seriously consider challenging a NATO member, although if it tangled with a NATO member state, Russia would also be risking a confrontation with the U.S.

“Just as NATO does not want a war with Russia, so too Russia does not want a war with NATO, because the risks on both sides are global and catastrophic,” said Samuel Charap of the International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank.

So far, NATO has reinforced eastern allies with short-term deployments that will continue until at least the end of the year. If tensions with Russia persist, NATO may look at longer term ways to beef up its presence.

NATO’s top military commander, U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, said last week that NATO would have to consider permanently stationing troops in parts of Eastern Europe.

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US soldiers arrive in Lithuania to ‘reassure’ NATO allies amid Ukrainian crisis

American soldiers stand on the tarmac after arriving at the air force base near Siauliai Zuokniai, Lithuania, on April 26, 2014.

American troops have arrived in Lithuania for military drills as tensions rise in the region over Ukraine. Russia has voiced its concern over the troop buildup in Eastern Europe as well as to the deployment of NATO ships in the Black Sea.

The Lithuanian government welcomed the arrival of 150 troops at the Lithuanian Air Force Aviation Base in Siauliai on Saturday, reported Reuters. Referring to the escalating tensions in Ukraine, President Dalia Grybauskaite said “we know in this situation who our real friends are coming to help.”

“If any of our guests are injured, it would mean an open confrontation not with Lithuania but with the United States,” she added. The group of troops is part of a larger contingent of 600 troops that have been deployed throughout Eastern Europe to reassure NATO allies. Another company of soldiers arrived in Poland on Wednesday and in Latvia on Friday. Troops are also expected to arrive in Estonia on Monday.

“It’s a message to anyone who will listen, and the message is that the United States of America will honor its commitments to Lithuania,” Richard Longo, Deputy Commanding General of US Army Europe, told reporters in Siauliai.

According to the Lithuanian Defense Ministry the soldiers will conduct a number of military exercises throughout this year.

US soldiers walk at the airport after arriving at the air force base near Siauliai Zuokniai, Lithuania, on April 26, 2014.

The US Department of Defense announced the drills on Tuesday, saying they sent a clear message to Moscow.
“If there’s a message to Moscow, it is the same exact message that we take our obligations very, very seriously on the continent of Europe,” Kirby told reporters. Washington has accused Russia of meddling in the affairs of neighboring Ukraine, which is currently embroiled in a crisis that shows no signs of abating.

Russia denies it has any involvement in the Ukrainian conflict and has alleged that the US is “running the show.” In addition, Moscow has spoken out against the buildup of allied force troops in Eastern Europe, saying their war games will not help to normalize the situation in Ukraine.

“Our concern is caused by an increase of US air force and military personnel in the Baltic, Poland, and also the Alliance’s ships in the Black Sea,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement, quoting General Valery Gerasimov who spoke with his American counterpart on Friday.

The US has also deployed frigate USS Taylor in the Black Sea, which will shortly be joined by French NATO vessel Dupleix. France will also send four fighter jets to participate in aerial patrols over the Baltics.

Lithuanian soldiers and US soldiers stand in front of an aircraft of the US air force at the air force base near Siauliai Zuokniai, Lithuania, on April 26, 2014.

Moscow has voiced its concern over the Ukrainian government troops that have been deployed in the East of the country as part of an “anti-terror” operation. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said 11,000 Ukrainian soldiers, 160 tanks, 230 armored carriers and at least 150 artillery pieces have been deployed in the region. At least five people have been killed so far during the Ukrainian operation.

In response to the buildup of troops close to its borders, Shoigu said Russia was “forced” to begin military drills on Thursday.

Moscow does not recognize Kiev’s coup-appointed government and has decried the use of force against Ukrainian civilians in the east of the country.

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Russia ‘forced’ to launch military drills at border in response to Ukraine op – Moscow

Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu

Russia has begun extensive military exercises in Ukrainian border area following the escalation of violence in eastern Ukraine.

“The order to use force against civilians has already been given, and if this military machine is not stopped, the amount of casualties will only grow,” Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said during an official meeting in Moscow.

“War games by NATO in Poland and the Baltic states are also not helping the normalization of the situation. We are forced to react to the situation.”

Shoigu said that the drills involve march and deployment exercises by forces in the southern and western military districts, and separate Air Force maneuvers.

Shoigu said that 11,000 Ukrainian soldiers, 160 tanks, 230 armored carriers and at least 150 artillery pieces are involved in the operation against anti-Kiev activists.

“National guard units and Right Sector extremists are fighting against the peaceful population, as well as a volunteer Donbass ‘anti-terrorist’ unit. Also security and internal forces transferred to Lugansk and Donetsk from other areas of the country are suppressing dissent,” the minister said.

He added that Ukrainian sabotage units have been deployed near the Russian border.

In contrast, Shoigu said that the pro-Russian self-defense units number about 2,000 and have about 100 guns between them, which have mostly been taken from local police stations.

“It’s not an evenly matched confrontation,” added Shoigu.

Reports in Ukrainian media suggested that Russia’s show of strength led Ukraine to suspend its ‘anti-terrorist’ operation, due to fears of a potential intervention. Later on Thursday, acting President Aleksandr Turchinov gave an order to resume it, accusing Moscow of “blackmail”, and demanding that Russia pull back its troops from the border.

Pro-Russian activists occupied several key government buildings in provincial towns in eastern Ukraine a fortnight ago. Last week the order was given to re-take them, and fighting has intensified in the past two days, after Turchinov blamed opposition forces of initiating a campaign of abductions and murders. Ukrainian authorities have also repeatedly stated that their opponents are funded by Moscow, and organized by infiltrator agents.

The heaviest fighting on Thursday took place in Slavyansk, with the Ukrainian interior ministry reporting the deaths of at least five ‘terrorists’.

NATO has estimated that Russia has massed at least 40,000 troops near its border with Ukraine. Moscow has not denied that it has moved troops to the region, but said that its internal troop movements are its own prerogative.

NATO began military exercises in Poland on Wednesday, with more scheduled to take place in the Baltic states next week. So far 150 US paratroopers have arrived in the country from their stationary base in Italy, with 450 more set to join them.

Poland’s foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, has also asked the alliance to deploy 10,000 troops in his country.

On Wednesday, USS Taylor, a frigate, became the latest US ship to enter the Black Sea on a rotating deployment. NATO has dispatched a separate rapid reaction force to the Baltic.

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US sends 600 troops to Eastern Europe, warship USS Taylor enters Black Sea

U.S. Navy frigate USS Taylor sets sail in the Bosphorus, on its way to the Black Sea in Istanbul April 22, 2014

US frigate USS Taylor (FFG 50) has entered the Black Sea, according to the US Navy, as the Pentagon announces plans to dispatch some 600 troops to Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia for military exercises.

The US claims the ship’s entry is “to promote peace and stability in the region.”

“The US Navy routinely operates ships in the Black Sea consistent with the Montreux Convention and International Law. Taylor’s mission is to reassure NATO allies of the US Navy’s commitment to strengthen and improve interoperability while working toward mutual goals in the region,” read a US Navy statement released on Tuesday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has previously stated that the US has been violating the Montreux Convention which restricts the number of US vessels operating in the Black Sea and sets a time limit of 21 days for each one.

At the beginning of February, the USS Taylor was initially posted in the Black Sea. However, damages to the warship’s propeller assembly after running aground in the Black Sea caused a spike in tensions between the US and Russia after it caused the ship to exceed the time allotted to its stay by 11 days.

US soldiers of the Airborne Division

US troops heading to Baltics

The 600 troops are to be sent to Poland and the Baltic states in the coming days in order to offer support to NATO allies which have expressed concern following Crimea’s accession to Russia, the Pentagon stated on Tuesday.

“I’m told they’re infantry level – infantry training exercises,” said Pentagon press secretary, Rear Adm. John Kirby in a press briefing given on Tuesday. However, he added that he couldn’t provide specifics.

Kirby pointed out that the bilateral exercises were a supplement to the standard military exercises which the countries undertake together and were because of current events in Ukraine.

“The United States takes seriously our obligations under Article 5 of the NATO alliance, even though these aren’t NATO exercises,” Kirby said. “It’s a very tangible representation of our commitment to our security obligations in Europe.”

Last Friday, Poland’s Defense Minister, Tomasz Siemoniak, said that this week Poland and the United States would be announcing the dispatch of ground forces to Poland take part in a two-week land-forces exercise. Some 150 soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team based in Vicenza, Italy are to begin the exercises in Wednesday after which similar exercises will follow in the Baltics.

US troops will rotate in and out of all four countries. “We’re looking at trying to keep this rotational presence persistent throughout the rest of this year,” Kirby stated, adding that exercises could potentially expand into other countries.

The measures are being taken as part of a stepped-up effort announced last week by US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in order to reassure NATO allied states.

Relations between Russia and the West became strained after an armed coup in February deposed President Viktor Yanukovich following months of protests. Moscow considers the events to have been orchestrated by the EU and the US and does not recognize the post-coup authorities as legitimate.

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NATO to triple Baltic air patrol from next month

A U.S. Air Force F-15 fighter is seen as it escorts a Lithuania's Air Force C-27J plane during a joint NATO military exercise in Siauliai April 1, 2014.

A U.S. Air Force F-15 fighter is seen as it escorts a Lithuania’s Air Force C-27J plane during a joint NATO military exercise in Siauliai April 1, 2014.

(Reuters) – NATO will triple its usual number of fighter jets patrolling over the Baltics next month to beef up its eastern European defenses due to tension with Russia over Ukraine, a NATO military official said on Tuesday.

Four NATO fighters are usually based in the Baltics but the United States, which currently has responsibility for patrolling the skies there, increased that to 10 F-15s to reassure those states following Russia’s occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.

The number of fighters assigned to the Baltic “air policing” mission is now set to increase further to 12, three times the normal complement, when the next four-month period starts in May, the NATO military official said.

The strengthening of air patrols over the Baltics is part of a plan of air, land and sea reinforcements for central and eastern European allies that NATO’s top military commander, U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, is drawing up by April 15.

Since the three ex-Soviet republics in the Baltics joined NATO in 2004, other NATO members have taken turns sending fighter aircraft to protect their airspace since Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania lack fighters of their own.

The jets are on call to respond to any violations of Baltic airspace. Lithuania said last week the number of Russian jets flying close enough to Baltic airspace this year to prompt NATO jets being scrambled has increased to around one a week.

Poland takes over responsibility for providing Baltic air policing from May 1, offering four MiG 29s.

SECOND BASE

Britain will contribute four Typhoons and Denmark has offered four F-16s as well as another two F-16s that will be on standby in Denmark, the NATO military official said.

Until now, the Baltic air policing mission has operated from an air base in Lithuania but Estonia has now offered Amari as a second base that the four Danish planes are expected to use.

France has also offered four fighters, either Rafales or Mirages, for the May to August period.

“We are still finalizing the details of French participation. What is likely is that they will fly out of Poland,” the official said.

The French aircraft would probably not be directly involved in Baltic air policing but may carry out training flights over Poland, he said. Poland has been asking for a greater NATO presence on its territory.

Germany has offered six Eurofighters for the Baltic mission but NATO will probably ask Berlin to delay its participation until the following four-month period from September to December when Portugal takes over responsibility for the mission.

In addition to the Baltic reinforcements, France has offered an AWACS reconnaissance plane to join NATO AWACS aircraft that have been flying over Poland and Romania since last month to monitor the situation in Ukraine.

The French plane made its first flight on April 1, the official said.

The United States and the Netherlands have provided refueling planes for the AWACS flights and Turkey has also offered a tanker aircraft that is expected to join the operation soon.

 

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Ukraine crisis: Pentagon sends jets to patrol the Baltics

Defense Secretary Chuck Hage

Defense Secretary Chuck Hage

The Pentagon will more than double the number of fighter jets it is sending to a Nato air policing mission in the Baltics as part of Washington’s response to the Ukraine crisis, officials have sai

The development came after the US Defence Secretary, Chuck Hagel, announced plans to bolster the decade-old mission, which patrols skies over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Officials said the Pentagon would send six additional F-15 jets and one KC-135 refuelling aircraft to “augment” the mission this week. The US already provides four F-15 jets to the mission.

The planes, reportedly based at RAF Lakenheath in the UK, will fly to the Siauliai Air Base in Lithuania.

“This action comes at the request of our Baltic allies and further demonstrates our commitment to Nato security,” a Pentagon official said. The Pentagon is now said to be “consulting” with Poland on a separate mission.

“This is a time for wise, steady and firm leadership,” Mr Hagel told a Senate panel. “It is a time for all of us to stand with the Ukrainian people in support of their territorial integrity and their sovereignty. We are doing that.”

via Ukraine crisis: Pentagon sends jets to patrol the Baltics – Europe – World – The Independent.

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