The significant military build up along Poland’s frontier with the former Soviet nation is part of a planned Nato training exercise.
Around 900 UK personnel and 350 vehicles – part of the British Army’s Lead Armoured Battle Group – crossed Europe to take part in Exercise Dragon 15 on the plains of north east Poland, just 60 miles from the border with the Russian state of Kaliningrad Oblast.
While Moscow’s aggressive actions have changed the way many in NATO view the threat posed by Russia, NATO’s eastern members have long considered Russia an existential threat and have planned accordingly. Poland, because of its large size, geographic location, and historical experience has become the lynchpin of security in Eastern Europe since joining NATO in 1999.
The U.S. can and should do more to assist Poland in building strong defense capabilities, improving interoperability, and increasing political willingness to use its influence to improve security in the Alliance. It’s also vital that the upcoming NATO summit, which will be held in Poland in July 2016, sees real improvement in the capabilities of the Alliance. Continue reading
Moscow unilaterally suspended a deal on May 5, under which it had agreed to provide information to Lithuania about Russian weapons and armed forces in the region of Kaliningrad.
The agreement, established by Russia and Lithuania bilaterally in 2001, said the two nations would exchange information regarding their armed forces, and said each were free to conduct military inspections of the other. While it required Lithuania to disclose information about the entirety of its armaments, the deal said Russia was required only to share data about its armaments in Kaliningrad Oblast—the Russian enclave situated on the Baltic Sea between Poland and Lithuania. Kaliningrad is home to Moscow’s Baltic Sea fleet.
Now Russia says it is no longer willing to uphold its end of the agreement, which has fueled concerns among many in Lithuania and beyond. “The move is upsetting,” said Linas Linkevičius, Lithuania’s minister of foreign affairs. Continue reading
The Merchant Ship Alaed, was stopped about fifty miles off the Northern coast of Scotland in the Morning hours of June 19th. Her cargo was a number of refurbished Mi-24 helicopter gunships which were embarked in the Kaliningrad Oblast of the Russian Federation, bound for the Syrian Port of Tartus. The Ship’s insurance company known as “The Standard Club” had suspended the ship’s insurance coverage preventing her from docking or mooring in any reputable port. In effect, the transaction was halted. But the temporary halt to a contentious arms transfer begs an examination of the motives of those involved, and raises questions of the US response to the entire situation especially in view of recent news of Russian Warships preparing to sail to the Syrian Port of Tartus.
Daily, news reaches US television and print about the dire situation in Syria where a minority-run government is fighting a brutal counter insurrection against its own people. The regime has observed few taboos of war in putting down the civil strife, including the use of artillery and airstrikes in dense urban areas. The methods and ammunition in question are inaccurate and result in heavy collateral damage. Hence, the nature of this effort could not reasonably be construed as measured or surgical; it is campaign to pacify by terror through the indiscriminate use of lethal force.
Moral clarity would demand that this is a compelling case for intervention by western powers. Things quickly get complicated on examining the world politics of the Syrian Situation. Syria remains the only dedicated friend to two players in the region who are under siege. Iran is the primary benefactor of the Assad regime and is rightly singled out for being so. Iran needs to maintain a friendly umbilical cord to their lackeys in neighboring Lebanon known to most as the terrorist group Hezbollah. Support for Hezbollah is critical to maintaining Iranian standing among anti-American political forces in the region. Further, one need not look beyond a map of the Middle East to see that, in the long time rivalry between Iraq and Iran, Syria would make a steadily modernizing military like Iraq think twice about any sudden aggression with hostile neighbors to the east and the west. Hence a warm relationship with Syria provides leverage for an increasingly isolated Iran.
But as a key player, Russia too has a great deal to lose and significantly more resources to be made available to the Assad regime. Many pundits of Middle East politics observe that the Assad regime is the only friend left for Russia in the region. Syria hosts a Russian radar base which, according to a February 29th article in the Washington Times, underwent significant upgrades. Similarly, the Port of Tartus hosts a Russian Naval contingent which hosts occasional show of force visits by the Russian Navy. The significance of these installations in Syria cannot be understated.
The Russian government seeks to gain much information on the operations of NATO along its southern tier. NATO air bases in Turkey are a hub of logistical activity for forces flowing into Central Asia and the Middle East. The ability to gain real-time information on the size and scope of air activity there, as well as the deployments of US aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean, would be a valuable tool to understanding NATO operations and therefore intentions.
In view of the discovery of a potential energy/political game changer, it makes eminent sense for the Russian government to attempt to preserve its position with respect to port access so close to the new natural gas field. Although a number of other matters factor into their relationship, this is a key driver for Russian support of the Assad regime.
Full article: Crackdown in Syria, and the Roads that Lead to Moscow (Family Security Matters)