Russia’s Military Buildup in Arctic Has U.S. Watching Closely

Soldiers of the Arctic motorized rifle brigade of Russia’s Northern Fleet took a stand near APCs during military exercise in Alakyrtti, Murmansk region, Russia, April 25, 2017. Dmitry Kozlov / AP

 

ALAKURTTI BASE, RUSSIAN ARCTIC — An RPG shell whistles towards its target, exploding in a ball of fire just as a group of soldiers in white fatigues, zip past on skis, bullets flying from their white rifles.

It was all part of a training exercise by Russia’s newly formed 80th Motor Rifle Arctic Brigade, which was established two years ago as part of the Kremlin’s bid for dominance in the Arctic. The soldiers are trained to operate in some of the least hospitable climates in the world — where temperatures can drop to -40 — using tanks, military hardware and even reindeer sleds to get around in the frozen terrain. Continue reading

U.S. Launches Missiles at Syrian Base After Chemical Weapons Attack

The United States launched dozens of cruise missiles Thursday night at a Syrian airfield in response to what it believes was Syria’s use of banned chemical weapons that killed at least 100 people, the U.S. military said.

Two U.S. warships in the Mediterranean Sea, the USS Ross and the USS Porter, fired 59 Tomahawk missiles intended for a single target — Shayrat Airfield in Homs province in western Syria, the Defense Department said. That’s the airfield from which the United States believes the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fired the banned weapons.

The Pentagon said people were not targeted, and there was no immediate word on casualties. U.S. officials told NBC News that aircraft and infrastructure at the site were hit, including the runway and gas fuel pumps. Continue reading

Trump critic Patrick Cronin to head plum Pentagon think tank

Patrick Cronin, an Asian security expert with the Democrat-leaning Center for New American Security, has been named to the plum post of director of a key Pentagon think tank, the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies.

The appointment was announced March 10 in a notice from the center that said Mr. Cronin was approved by Defense Secretary James Mattis.

While Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said Mr. Mattis “was not involved in this decision” that was made before President Trump took office in January, the selection has set off criticism among conservative China analysts who are concerned about Mr. Cronin’s views and writings on China. However, the key eyebrow-raiser for critics was Mr. Cronin’s signing of an anti- Trump protest letter last year. Continue reading

Is Germany Ready to Fire Shots?

Caption: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the 2017 Munich Security Conference on February 18 (Johannes Simon/Getty Images)

 

Bundeswehr officials expect a more active and a more lethal role for Germany in the Middle East.

German military leaders are preparing to take on a more active role in the fight against the Islamic State in the Middle East. This news emerges following the February 17–19 Munich Security Conference. Spiegel Online reported on February 20 that German diplomats and military officers left the conference feeling that some major challenges ahead of them go far beyond merely increasing the nation’s military budget. The feeling was that Germany must get ready to fire shots.

German generals expect future missions to include air strikes against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and possibly an increased deployment of the Bundeswehr in Afghanistan. Spiegel Online quoted a German military general who attended the conference as saying, “[United States President Donald] Trump doesn’t only want more money from us but he also wants us to finally fire shots” (Trumpet translation throughout). Although former President Barack Obama had previously insisted on a more active NATO involvement, the quoted general believes that the tone is sharper now and that Germany must prepare to pull the trigger. Continue reading

Mattis: U.S. Could ‘Moderate’ NATO Support if Allies Don’t Pay More

James Mattis / AP

 

Secretary of Defense James Mattis told NATO allies on Wednesday that they need to contribute more money to the alliance’s common defense if they do not want to see the United States “moderate its commitment.” Continue reading

Mattis threatens North Korea: Deploying nukes means WAR

 

Secretary of Defense James Mattis has warned North Korea of an overwhelming response if it chooses to use nuclear weapons.

(SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA) U.S. President Donald Trump’s defense secretary warned North Korea on Friday of an “effective and overwhelming” response if it chose to use nuclear weapons, as he reassured South Korea of steadfast U.S. support.

“Any attack on the United States, or our allies, will be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons would be met with a response that would be effective and overwhelming,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said at South Korea’s defense ministry, at the end of a two-day visit. Continue reading

U.S. military beginning review of Syria options

“I think it is very important for us to try to resolve this without recourse to outside military intervention, and I think that’s possible,” Obama said in an interview with NBC News that aired during the Super Bowl on Sunday.

But the military is beginning to look at what can be done.  One of the senior U.S. officials called the effort a “scoping exercise” to see what capabilities are available given other U.S. military commitments in the region.

Both officials pointed out that this type of planning exercise is typical for the Pentagon, which would not want to be in the position of not having options for the president, if and when they are asked for.

It would be Gen. James Mattis, head of U.S. Central Command, who would provide details on what U.S. military assets are available, what missions they could perform if asked, and what risks U.S. forces might face.

“The Pentagon is closely monitoring developments in Syria.  It wouldn’t be doing its job if it didn’t put some ideas on the table,” one of the senior U.S. officials told CNN. “But absolutely no decisions have been made on military support for Syria.”

Full article: U.S. military beginning review of Syria options (CNN)