Assad invites friendly nations to rebuild Syria

America used to be the nation to re-build a country after a war. Now Syria invites ‘friendly’ nations to re-build its towns, cities and infrastructure, with Russia and Iran poised to be the countries to invest in the reconstruction programme – with the United States nowhere to be seen.

In a sign of President Assad’s growing confidence that he has snatched back control of Syria, the first international trade fair in five years opens today in the capital, Damascus.

There has been little to draw visitors to the huge purpose-built fairground on the airport highway since the civil war broke out in 2011. The strategic road, running southeast of the city, has often been the focus of fierce battles, with the rebels coming close to capturing the airport itself in 2012.

More recently Israeli airstrikes have hit targets close to it, while last month it was struck by a double car bombing. Dignitaries from 42 “friendly countries” will arrive today, however, to pitch for investment and reconstruction contracts worth billions.

For the first time since the fair began in 1954, foreign companies will be allowed to sell the products they are exhibiting, bypassing Syria’s strict import rules.

Last week Imad Khamis, Syria’s prime minister, signalled that priority would be given to “friendly and brotherly countries that stood by Syria in its war against terrorism”.

Iran and Russia, Assad’s two staunchest allies, are already cashing in on their policies in Syria. This year Russia has won a series of oil and construction contracts in the war-ravaged country, while a free trade agreement signed last November opens the way for Syria to export its agricultural products.

Iran, which is hosting a photo exhibition at the fair documenting the years of warm relations between Tehran and Damascus, has also swelled its economic interests there. It has been granted a licence to operate a mobile phone network, as well as pumping credit into the country to keep its economy afloat.

Iranian individuals and companies have been buying huge tracts of land as well as businesses and residential properties across regime-held areas of the country.

Other countries have quietly continued their relations with Assad and are now winning contracts to help to rebuild the country. In 2014 India secured a $1 billion contract to rebuild and re-equip Syrian hospitals, while this year the regime discussed investment deals in the energy, pharmaceutical, telecommunications and construction sectors with China.

Japan suspended its grants to the country in 2011, but resumed them in 2013 with aid projects focusing on rebuilding infrastructure. Belarus, a country with close ties to Russia, is in talks to set up a carmaking factory inside Syria.

A number of European Union member states are also still trading with Syria, despite the bloc’s condemnation of Assad’s violent crackdown and sanctions on various regime figures.

The Czech Republic has maintained diplomatic relations with Damascus and has proposed a number of reconstruction projects.

Cyprus, which has historically hosted a high number of Syrian migrant workers, also maintains a warm relationship with Assad’s government although trade between the two has been halted.

 

Estonia yet to receive an invitation from Russia to observe Zapad

Russian Embassy, Tallinn, Estonia

Estonia has not received an invitation from Russia to observe Zapad, a large-scale joint Russian-Belarusian military exercise to take place in September. Russian authorities, however, will present the exercises to military attaches accredited to other countries’ diplomatic missions in Moscow at a separate event.

“Military attaches accredited to Moscow have been invited to attend an event at Luga Training Camp on Sept. 18-19, in the course of which Russia will present the Zapad joint military exercise,” Ministry of Defence spokesperson Susan Lilleväli told BNS on Wednesday. “The Estonian defense attaches are ready to take part in the event.”

The joint Russian-Belarusian military exercise will be held in the territory of both countries from Sept. 14-20. The exercise has sparked concern in other countries as, in similar exercises in 2009 and 2013, Russia, among other things, allegedly rehearsed an attack on its neighbors.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in mid-July that, “based on previous experiences related to previous exercises, we have every reason to believe that substantially more troops are participating than the official reported numbers.” He encouraged Russia to allow NATO observers to monitor the maneuvers.

Minister of Defence Jüri Luik has expressed the same concern, telling weekly Maaleht in July that Russia should declare the exercise on the basis of the Vienna Document, according to which any exercise involving more than 9,000 participants should be declared. Russia has stated that 13,000 troops will be participating in the September exercise.

Belarus has sent invitations to Estonia and other countries, which Estonia has already chosen to accept, to observe the exercise on its territory. It has not offered any details, however.

 

1,000 Baltic Sea Fleet marines take part in wargame in Russia’s northwest

The 336th Guards Marines Brigade of the Baltic Fleet

About 1,000 marines of the Russian Baltic Sea Fleet take part in a wargame that simulates action to protect the seacoast, fleet spokesman Roman Martov told TASS on Wednesday.

He said the active phase of the tactical exercise involving Baltic Sea Fleet’s marines is underway at the firing ground Khmelevka in Russia’s north-western enclave Kaliningrad region. “About 1,000 military, 150 pieces of weapons and military hardware take part,” Martov said.

Acting on alert, marines marched from the site of their permanent stationing to the area of the military drill. On the march, they trained tasks of battle defense, passage through contaminated terrain, action to counter subversive and reconnaissance groups. Air defense units acted to rebuff airstrikes of an imaginary enemy.

 

 

 

 

At least 20 ships take part in Baltic Fleet military drills

Vitaliy Nevar/TASS

About 20 combat and supply ships and one thousand officers and men are participating in the ongoing military exercise of Russia’s Baltic Fleet, the fleet’s spokesman Roman Martov told TASS.

“About 20 combat ships, boats and logistics ships and 50 pieces of military and special equipment, as well as one thousand men are involved in command staff training of the Baltic Fleet,” he said.

Vice-Admiral Aleksandr Nosatov is in charge of the exercises. The main task is to enhance officers’ skills and competence and cooperation by command centers, as well as to practice coordination with other units.

The exercise is being held in accordance with the Baltic Fleet’s combat training schedule for 2017.

 

 

German foreign minister warns New START and INF Treaties termination will affect Europe

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel. Kay Nietfeld/dpa via AP

The termination of the Treaties on missile armament cuts and liquidation will affect Europe’s security, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Wednesday.

Germany’s top diplomat made this statement after a meeting with experts of the Commission on Challenges to Deep Nuclear Weapons Cuts from Russia, the United States and Germany.

“The possible termination of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and the non-prolongation of the New START Treaty [the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms] are what will eventually threaten Europe, in the first place,” Gabriel said.

The German foreign minister also said he shared the experts’ opinion that “the worst Cold War mistakes are repeated” and the world is at the stage of “Cold War 2.0.”

According to him, European countries should become active participants in the disarmament discussion.

“Germany should speak more actively with the United States, with Russia about this within the NATO framework,” the foreign minister said.

At the same time, Social Democrat Gabriel again lashed at the Conservatives in the German government who advocated a sharp increase in defense spending.

“In this regard, it is more important to double the efficiency of expenditures rather than their volume,” he said.

“I expect that the political leadership in [the Christian Democratic/Christian Social] Union won’t yield to the militarist logic [of US President Donald Trump] and this is what exactly is taking place now,” the German foreign minister said, noting that such policy could become a problem for Berlin.

 

 

 

 

Royal Air Force Mildenhall Supports Navy During Exercise Saxon Warrior

A U.S. Navy C-2A Greyhound aircraft assigned to Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 40 takes off from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Lorelei R. Vander Griend/Released)

Sailors from the U.S. Navy conducted missions from Royal Air Force (RAF) Mildenhall during exercise Saxon Warrior, Aug. 1-10.

Bringing with them two C-2A Greyhounds, the 48-strong team from the “Rawhides” of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VCR) 40 participated in the multinational exercise.

The exercise provided the U.S., U.K. and other countries the opportunity to conduct training designed to sharpen joint warfighting skills and enhance the capacity to conduct combined, multinational maritime operations. The U.S. routinely trains with allies and partners in exercises like Saxon Warrior to ensure mission readiness and interoperability.

VRC-40 used RAF Mildenhall as their forward-operating base to carry out their missions to deliver supplies and personnel to and from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77).

During the exercise, the George H.W. Bush hosted British personnel aboard, working alongside their American counterparts as part of the U.K.-U.S. Long Lead Specialist Skills Program, which qualifies them in U.S. carrier operations. This vital partnership and training occurred in preparation for the arrival of the Royal Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, and to bolster the British carrier strike capability.

A pair of F/A-18 Super Hornets from the USS George HW Bush (CVN-77) fly-by the HMS Queen Elizabeth, British Royal Navy aircraft carrier

“Our squadron, the VRC-40 Rawhides, stays based in Norfolk. But every time a carrier strike group goes out, they attach two [carrier onboard delivery] to the carrier air wing part of the strike group,” said Aviation Electrician’s Mate 1st Class Joshua Gallaher. “We make sure the aircraft are good to go at all times so we’re prepared for whatever mission is required of us. That way, when the ship requires high-priority parts for the aircraft on board, we coordinate through the Beach Det., our supply system on land, to get those parts out to the ship as soon as possible. Or if they need to get people out to the ship, we’ll take them. We perform a variety of missions.”

Gallaher said this is the first time he has worked out of an Air Force base during this type of deployment. He said they usually operate out of Navy bases such as Souda Bay, Greece or Sigonella, Italy.

“Working as the U.S. Navy, alongside the U.S. Air Force, builds a camaraderie between the two branches overall,” said Gallaher. “I think the Air Force operates differently from how the Navy does, so for them to be able to help us, knowing we would do the same for them, builds a bridge between the two. Being in England, the Air Force has already created a relationship with the locals, so when we come here it means we don’t have any issues.”

Saxon Warrior involved the U.S. Navy assisting the Royal Navy by providing the platform on which the U.K Carrier Strike Group staff were able to operate.

The aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Abe McNatt/Released)

“The strike group staff are currently operating those assets; the Destroyer Squadron 22 and embark Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8,” said Lt. Cmdr. James Light, VRC-40, Det. 2 officer in charge. “The RAF are pretty much running our operations right now, in terms of logistics. When you look at the whole exercise, they’re running the entire air wing through a notional work-up cycle.”

The carrier on board delivery detachments are shore-based and fly out to the ship every day. Light said that there hasn’t been a carrier on board delivery based in England since 2009.

“Our experience with RAF Mildenhall has been fantastic,” Light said, thanking the members of Team Mildenhall for all the support they provided.

For more information, visit www.navy.mil, www.facebook.com/usnavy , or www.navy.mil/local/naveur/.

 

German F122 frigate ‘Lübeck’ joining NATO’s SNMG2

FGS Lübeck at sea. Photo: German Navy

The German Navy’s F122, Bremen-class frigate FGS ‘Lübeck’ is joining NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 2 in the Aegean Sea.

Setting sail on August 21, Lübeck will be replacing another German ship, F123 frigate FGS Brandenburg, which spent six months as the flagship of the international task group.

Commenting on the deployment, Lübeck’s commander, Frigate Captain Matthias Schmitt, said the ship’s main task will be to support Greek and Turkish authorities and the European border agency Frontex in controlling and preventing human smuggling activities in the Aegean Sea.

Lübeck is expected to reach Turkish waters by the beginning of September when it will take over the duties of FGS Brandenburg after a handover ceremony.

The crew of Lübeck are set to return to their homeport of Wilhelmshaven mid-November.

Returning home in September will be the crew of FGS Brandenburg, the lead ship of the German Navy’s four F123 frigates.

They are completing an eventful deployment which got off to a rather bad start after the ship ran aground in Greece while departing the port of Piraeus. Brandenburg damaged her rudder and both propellers and was sidelined for a month between April and May.

The ship returned to operations with the NATO group, however, completing her scheduled deployment.

 

National Airborne Day – 16 August

Pacific Paratrooper

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“Airborne All the Way”

Author unknown

$_35

These men with silver wings

Troopers from the sky above

In whom devotion springs

What spirit so unites them?

In brotherhood they say

Their answer loud and clear.

“Airborne All the Way.”

These are the men of danger

As in open door they stand

With static line above them

And ripcord in their hand.

While earthbound they are falling

A silent prayer they say

“Lord be with us forever,

Airborne All the Way.”

One day they’ll make their final jump

Saint Mike will tap them out

The good Lord will be waiting

He knows what they’re about

And answering in unison

He’ll hear the troopers say

“We’re glad to be aboard, Sir,

Airborne All the Way!”

For another outstanding poem in honor of the U.S. Army Airborne – Please visit, Lee at ……

https://mypoetrythatrhymes.wordpress.com/2010/08/16/happy-birthday-us-army-airborne/

Click on images to enlarge.

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UK’s new £3bn warship HMS Queen Elizabeth arrives in Portsmouth [VIDEOS]

HMS Queen Elizabeth is being described as “a demonstration of British military power and commitment to a bigger global role”.

Britain’s biggest-ever warship has arrived at its base in Portsmouth for the first time. 

Hundreds of people lined Portsmouth Harbour to welcome HMS Queen Elizabeth, an aircraft carrier which cost more than £3bn to build.

The 280m (918ft) vessel set sail in June from the Rosyth dockyard where it was built, and since then has been undergoing tests at sea.

Technically, it remains a civilian rather than a military ship until it is commissioned later this year.

It is also an aircraft carrier which does not yet have fixed-wing aircraft on board. F-35B Lightning II jets are still being built and tested in the US, and the ship won’t be fully operational until 2020.

Those on board and watching from the shore were treated to two separate flypasts of Royal Navy helicopters, the first featuring a Sea King, two Mk2 Merlins and two Mk3 Merlins, which were then joined by two Hawk jets for the second.

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said: “She is Britain’s statement to the world: a demonstration of British military power and our commitment to a bigger global role.

“The thousands of people across the UK who have played a part in building her and her sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, should be immensely proud as our future flagship enters Portsmouth.”

The behemoth aircraft carrier sailed into the Solent before heading into Portsmouth, where, at its narrowest point, there was less than 20m (66ft) clearance on each side.

The band of the Royal Marines played as the ship slowly navigated into the harbour, which has had to be dredged to make room.

HMS Queen Elizabeth manoeuvred towards a new extended and reinforced jetty under her own power before tugs nudged her gently into position.

An 820ft (250m) exclusion zone, enforced by armed police in small boats, meant the port was effectively closed to the flotilla of boats that had turned out to greet the ship.

Lt Cdr Neil Twigg, a fast jet pilot responsible for integrating the F-35 fighter jet into the carrier group, said: “We are very ready, there is still a lot more work to be done, the aircraft is still going through its testing programme in America and the ship has still some more sea trials but we are on the right track.”

But Admiral Chris Parry, a former senior Royal Navy officer, told Sky News that HMS Queen Elizabeth offers “real military power” to deter rogue states – as well as terrorist groups such as Islamic State.

 

Royal Canadian Navy ships to conduct operations in Canada’s northern waters

This file photo shows HMCS Montreal passing an iceberg in Strathcona Sound near Nanisivik, Nunavut Territory, during a previous Operation NANOOK. Corporal Rick Ayer / Corporal Rick Ayer

Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships (HMCS) Montréal, Kingston, and Goose Bay have left from their home port of Halifax, NS to conduct operations in northern waters.

During their deployments, Montréal, Goose Bay and Kingston will conduct surveillance in Canada’s northern waters and will visit a number of communities.

HMCS Montréal and HMCS Goose Bay will also participate in Op NANOOK, Canada’s main annual northern military operation, the Royal Canadian Navy noted.

As a part of this year’s Op NANOOK, Montréal and Goose Bay will work together with the Canadian Army, the Canadian Rangers, the Royal Canadian Air Force and other government agencies.

NANOOK started on Aug. 12 and runs until Aug. 27.