EU reaches deal to grant visa-free travel to 50 million people

The former Soviet republics are seeking to move further away from their former master Moscow

The EU has reached an agreement to grant visa-free travel to 50 million Ukrainians and Georgians.

Officials said the deal had been struck on Thursday to end an internal EU dispute that had been holding up the promised measures.

Late-night talks involving EU member states and the European Parliament had reached a compromise on the terms of a mechanism which can be used to suspend the visa-free schemes in emergencies. Continue reading

U.S. think tank RAND: Currently postured, NATO could not defend Baltic states

RAND researchers have conducted a series of wargames to examine the threat Russia may present to the Baltic republics and found that as currently postured, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization could not defend the territory, according to a RAND report titled “Reinforcing Deterrence on NATO’s Eastern Flank. Wargaming the Defense of the Baltics,” by David A. Shlapak and Michael Johnson.

“Russia’s recent aggression against Ukraine has disrupted nearly a generation of relative peace and stability between Moscow and its Western neighbors and raised concerns about its larger intentions. From the perspective of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the threat to the three Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — former Soviet republics, now member states that border Russian territory — may be the most problematic of these. In a series of war games conducted between summer 2014 and spring 2015, RAND Arroyo Center examined the shape and probable outcome of a near-term Russian invasion of the Baltic states. The games’ findings are unambiguous: As presently postured, NATO cannot successfully defend the territory of its most exposed members,” the analysts said. Continue reading

Merkel pledges military support to Baltic states

Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania – former Soviet republics with their own Russian-speaking minorities – are increasingly anxious that the conflict in Ukraine and Russia’s annexation of Crimea could herald destabilisation in their own region by Moscow.

The Baltic states have asked for an increased NATO presence to reinforce Article 5 of the alliance’s constitution, which states that an attack on one of its members is an act of aggression against all, obliging them to react.

Continue reading

Ukraine unrest fits pattern of Russian invasion drills

The pattern is quite simple: Send in the Russian operatives that create orchestrated chaos that manufactures an artificial need for a predetermined solution: Invasion with the aim of reestablishing the Soviet empire. Throw in a few operatives wearing ‘Academi’ patches for a good dose of further deception and good measure.

The recent pattern of pro-Russian unrest and fierce fighting in eastern Ukraine resembles a Russian military playbook used in exercises simulating invasion drills, according to a new analysis.

The analysis by Clark and Karber, which is based on 35 meetings they held in Ukraine with members of the military and political leadership there, shows that clashes between ethnic Russians and Ukrainian government forces fit a model long practiced by the Russian military — and the Soviet Union before that. Under this model, taken from Russia’s Exercise Zapad and employed notably in the nation’s 2008 invasion of Georgia, Russia uses a “presumed condition of ethnic conflict” in order to place special forces behind enemy lines, according to the analysis. Continue reading

IRGC ‘keeps secret funds in Asia’

An Iranian elite group is suspected of keeping secret funds in various parts of the world including South Korea and Malaysia, dodging internationally coordinated economic sanctions, people familiar with the matter said Sunday.

The United States Treasury Department is believed to be probing details of what it sees as a possible case of money laundering by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, with a view to sanctioning another of the group’s affiliated companies, they said.

Petrosina Arya, a Tehran-based company under the IRGC, allegedly has savings worth more than US$1 billion in an account at a major South Korean bank, a diplomatic source told Kyodo News. Continue reading

Communist Bloc Military Updates: Russian Air Force probes Bulgarian airspace via Black Sea incursion, Warsaw Pact-turned-NATO member Bulgaria fails to repel intrusion, Turkish Air Force responds instead…

In recent weeks, the Russian Air Force has dispatched its Tu-22M bombers to probe NATO air defences over both the Baltic and Black Seas. Known in the West as the Backfire, the Soviet-built Tu-22M (pictured here), along with the Tu-95 Bear and Tu-160 Blackjack, is one of three types of strategic bomber in Moscow’s inventory.

The Tupolev Design Bureau is presently developing Russia’s first stealth bomber, but no such combat-ready aircraft is expected to fly until as late as 2025, although Russia’s first stealth fighter prototype took to the skies two years ago. In the meanwhile, the Russian Air Force is upgrading the electronics and weapons systems aboard selected Blackjack and Backfire aircraft. With the exception of the US Air Force’s B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, the long-range bombers flown by both countries are based on aviation technology that is anywhere from 30 to 50 years old.

Earlier this month, NATO fighter jets based Lithuania intercepted a Tu-22M cruising through “neutral” airspace over the Baltic Sea. According to officials in the neighboring republic of Latvia, the Russian military was conducting exercises in the Kaliningrad exclave. Latvian Defence Minister Artis Pabriks said his country had not been officially notified of the exercises, which, in any case, is “not technically required.” The former Soviet republics of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia joined NATO in 2004.

Full article: Communist Bloc Military Updates: Russian Air Force probes Bulgarian airspace via Black Sea incursion, Warsaw Pact-turned-NATO member Bulgaria fails to repel intrusion, Turkish Air Force responds instead… (Once Upon A Time in the West)