Tag: Germany

Italian radar element supports NATO deployable air surveillance unit

The Italian TPS-77 radar at its deployed site at Liepaja right on the shores of the Latvian Baltic Sea coast. Photo by Kevin Lemée

LIEPAJA, Latvia – An Italian Air Force TPS-77 radar element has been the sensor for NATO’s deployed air surveillance and control unit – the DARS* – supporting the integration into Latvia’s Air Defence System and NATO’s Integrated Air and Missile Defence System (NATINAMDS).

Since late-August, exercise Ramstein Dust-II 17 has been taking place in Latvia. During the deployment exercise, elements of NATO’s Deployable Air Command and Control Centre moved to Lielvarde Air Base to test their expeditionary capabilities and practice their core functionalities such as providing area air surveillance, production and dissemination of the recognised air picture and tactical control of training air missions.

A key sensor that allows the unit to operate is the Italian Air Force TPS-77 radar deployed to Liepaja right on the Baltic Sea coast approximately 270 kilometres west of Lielvarde. The 20-strong Italian element set up their camp in Latvia to prepare and integrate into the exercise feeding radar data into the DARS system.

Patriot System 2 – part of NATO’s Integrated Air and Missile Defence System

Creation of recognised air pictures starts with a radar element such as the Italian TPS-77. The data of all aircraft within its coverage area are fed into NATINAMDS.

At the deployed DARS this data is fused and transmitted to the Baltic Control and Reporting Centre at Karmelava, Lithuania, which in turn sends its consolidated data to NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) at Uedem, Germany.

At Allied Air Command at Ramstein, Germany, the overall NATO recognised air picture for all of Europe is maintained together with the input from the southern CAOC at Torrejon, Spain.

An F-15C of the 493d Fighter Squadron (493 FS), nicknamed “The Grim Reapers”, scrambles to intercept at RAF Lakenheath. The Squadron is presently on Baltic Air Policing duties in Siauliai, Lithuania and represents a key element in NATO’S Integrated Air and Missile Defence System (NATINAMDS).

When it redeploys to its home garrison more than 2,500 kilometres away at the beginning of October, the Italian radar element will have been part of NATO’s 24/7 mission of safeguarding the skies over Allies territories.

 

Citizens of seven EU states polled: 58% Europeans support Ukraine’s joining NATO, 48% for Ukraine’s joining EU

Some 58% Europeans support Ukraine’s joining NATO, and only 48% are for Ukraine’s joining the European Union.

This is evidenced by the findings of an opinion poll held by KANTAR PUBLIC and commissioned by Yalta European Strategy (YES).

Citizens of seven EU member states were polled within the survey – Germany, France, Italy, Lithuania, Great Britain, Poland and the Netherlands – based on a sample that was representative for each country (more than 1,000 people per country).

The findings of the public opinion poll were presented today, on the 16th of September, at the plenary session of Yes 14th Annual Meeting “Is This a New World? And What Does It Mean for Ukraine?”

Similar opinion polls, commissioned by YES, had been held in 2005 and 2007. 12 years ago, when the first poll was held, the situation was different: majority was for Ukraine’s becoming an EU member: 55% Europeans polled.

Today, the idea of Ukraine joining the EU is best supported in Lithuania and Poland (68% and 67% respectively), and least supported in the Netherlands (27%). The level of support in France, Germany and the UK is less than half of the people polled.

“Those who are against Ukraine’s joining the EU are explaining it using various reasons. One-third of the people polled believe that at this stage of development, the EU cannot afford a further enlargement. And a comparable number (31%) think that Ukraine’s accession would cause economic issues in the European Union,” the press release says.

Some 40% of those who support Ukraine’s membership believe that Ukraine is part of Europe. And 34% of the accession supporters stress that this step would boost democracy in Ukraine.

With regards to Ukraine’s joining NATO, the situation is different. In almost every country where the survey was held, most people are for accepting Ukraine as a member of the North-Atlantic Alliance.

“Even in France and the Netherlands, there are 49% people supporting this, and in other countries, the level of support is higher. In Lithuania and Poland, this number is 72% and 76% respectively,” the press service says.

The main argument for Ukraine’s integration with NATO, according to the Europeans, is its countering Russia (40% of those who support joining). Also, there are 8% who believe that Ukraine’s joining NATO will boost the ability of Europe to counter the Russian aggression.

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Baltic Post.

 

 

Zapad 2017: Will tensions between the West and Russia run high – What the experts say

By Andrej Matisak

Is the Russia-Belarus exercise Zapad 2017 is a reason for concern for NATO?

Russia-Belarus exercise Zapad 2017 started today. Experts are asked what the most important strategic objectives of the Russia-Belarus exercise Zapad 2017 are, especially from the Russian point of view and whether Zapad 2017 is a reason for concern for NATO.

Will tensions between the West and Russia run high during the exercise?

This is what they said:

Johan NorbergSenior Analyst at FOI (Swedish Defence Research Agency)

The main strategic objective is to train and if possible consolidate the capability to launch and wage high-intensity war fighting operations on the war-theatre level. I base this on an analysis of Russia’s strategic military exercises in 2011 – 2014 report and on (yet unpublished) work covering 2015 and 2016. The West should worry about Russia’s capability intentions, what type of wars they want to be able to fight, not that this exercise takes place in Western Russia and Belarus right now (it does once every 4 years).

Tensions are political. The military exercises are in my understanding primarily for building military capabilities. I do not expect the exercise as such to create more tension than there already is. Yes, there is a theoretical higher risk of incidents since there will probably be more reconnaissance aircraft and ships active than usual.

Michael KofmanResearch Scientist, CNA Corporation, Fellow, Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center

There are three elements to this exercise. First, Russia is testing its ability to command combined arms formations and the logistics involved in moving heavy ground forces into the Baltic region. Second it is a large civil-defense drill designed to test how the military and civilian authorities would behave at a time of total war, de facto mobilization of the state for a conflict with an existential threat. In that respect it tests the National Guard and other authorities in their response to internal instability, protests and the like. Finally the exercise is important in signaling to the United States that Russia has the capability and resolve to intervene in Belarus, defend its interests, and see NATO down in a potential fight. The scenario is defensive but some elements of Russian strategy are principally offensive since they involve compelling the adversary during a crisis or conflict.

Absolutely, any time a country conducts large scale military exercises it is a time for prudent vigilance and caution on the part of neighbours. This is especially so because Russia has a mixed history of having used some announced and unannounced exercises in the past to prepare for combat operations against another state, most notably Kavkaz-2008 and the snap readiness inspection in February 2014. Tensions do run high in the context of the wider confrontation between Russia and the West, but few truly expect this exercise to be a prelude to some nefarious plan, or risky adventure. Most of the reactions among NATO members have been calm, although there is always some unfortunate panic and media sensationalism that takes place during such events.

Paal HildeAssociate Professor, Centre for Norwegian and European Security, Institute for Defence Studies/Norwegian Defence University College

A major military exercise like Zapad 2017 generally has many objectives, ranging from narrow military aims to overtly political ones. What the most important strategic objectives of Zapad 2017 are from the Russian point of view is hard to determine with certainty. There are probably several such objectives and their relative significance will likely vary among different actors. From the military perspective, the exercise will be another occasion to test new concepts, including lessons learned in Ukraine and Syria. On the more political level, to show the Russian population, notably in Kaliningrad, as well as NATO that the Russian military is able to move quickly to defend the exclave may be another objective. Russia might also want to intimidate Belarus and other neighbours. More generally, military prowess has been a key tool in Putin’s attempt to re-establish Russia’s status as a “great power” in international affairs; including in Europe and the Middle East. Showing off military force, including in highly publicised exercises, is seemingly also useful for the Putin administration in domestic political mobilisation. The massive attention Zapad 2017 has gained in both Russian and international media is in itself a sign that such exercises are a highly useful political tool.

The speculations that Zapad 2017 might be a cover for plans to invade the Baltic states or Ukraine seem to be just that – speculations. Russian officials have obviously rejected such accusations and it is hard to see what Russia would want to achieve with such a military adventure. There is thus more reason for worry regarding situations where NATO and Russian military forces come close and where accidents or unplanned and unfortunate events spin out of control. Both sides are aware of this danger and will presumably seek to maintain safe distances and quickly deescalate if necessary. The most tangible and obvious concern from the point of view of NATO is of a political nature, however. Russia has claimed that only 12 700 personnel and a small number of military equipment will be involved in the exercise, bringing it below the threshold in the Vienna Document for inviting observers. Much suggests that the total military manpower and equipment that will be involved in the series of other exercises that run in parallel with the official Zapad 2017 will be vastly larger – perhaps up to 100 000. If this is the case, Zapad 2017 will represent a blatant Russian violation of the spirit if not the letter of the Vienna Document. It will thus represent yet another setback for arms control and confidence building in Europe.

Garret MartinProfessorial Lecturer, School of International Service, Editor at Large at the European Institute, American University

This is a bit of a speculation but we can assume that Zapad 2017 might serve the following interests/objectives for Russia. First, there is the declared aim of conducting an exercise against a simulated terrorist or asymmetric threat. But, in addition to that, it is likely that Russia is also keen to display its power and in particular to emphasize its ability “to impose substantial costs on a technologically advanced adversary, i.e. the United States” (see the very good piece from War on the Rocks that covers Russian thinking – https://warontherocks.com/2017/08/what-to-expect-when-youre-expecting-zapad-2017/ ). To cite the same piece, Zapad is also a way to establish Russia’s coercive credibility.

Is Zapad 2017 a cause of concern for NATO and a possible source of tension? That may be overstating it. Apprehension sure, but tension is too strong a word. It is true that Russia staged large drills before the conflict in Georgia in 2008 and before annexing Crimea in 2014. And Russia is most likely dramatically understating the number of troops involved in Zapad 2017 (announcing 12,700 troops, which puts it just under the threshold of 13,000 by which Russia would have to invite outside observers).

But on the other hand, there are plenty of reasons to keep Zapad 2017 in perspective. Many countries conduct such exercises, and Russia has conducted many before that were not prelude to actual operations. Moreover, part of the exercises will take place well inside Belarus and from a healthy distance away from the Polish and Lithuanian borders. Not to mention that it would be quite foolish for Russia to try and use the exercise as a smokescreen for an actual operation when NATO states are keeping a close eye on the region.

Konrad MuzykaEurope and CIS Armed Forces Analyst, IHS Jane’s

The overall objective of Zapad is to test how Russia, its C2 structures, armed forces units, and civil organisations will react if country went to war with NATO. Zapad has always had an anti-NATO character so it should not at all be surprising that NATO is target here.

That said, Zapad is much more than a military exercise. A significant part of country’s C2 structures, civil organisations are involved in Zapad as Moscow will want to see how they mobilise, move, develop, conduct operations in a state of war or increased emergency. The current movement of troops, readiness tests (such as the one from early September that tested readiness of the 11 ICBM regiments) likely fall under what Russia’s call a “threatening period”. This is when Moscow realises that threats are real. These threats need to be addressed by troop deployments, flexing muscles, and improving readiness. These moves are also a part of Zapad. How Russia mobilises pre-official start of Zapad will also be closely assessed by the civil-military leadership post-exercise.

In short not really. Zapad is going to be provide a great insight on the progress of the Russian Armed Forces reforms, how and how quickly it mobilises, how it seeks to deter potential adversaries. We should learn from it and how to be afraid of it.

It is very likely that aircraft will be intercepted over the Baltic Sea by both sides, NATO will deploy SIGINT and ELINT assets to take a peek into what’s going on in the Kaliningrad Oblast. I don’t expect tensions to run higher compared to what we have experienced in the past two-three years.

Dmitry Gorenburg, Senior Research Scientist, CNA Corporation

In conducting these large capstone exercises, Russia has pursued both military and political aims. On the military side, Russia seeks to highlight its abilities to conduct large-scale joint operations that involve multiple branches of its armed forces and require the activation of logistics networks that include the transfer of forces from one part of the country to another. Zapad 2017 and other exercises in this series also seek to develop military cooperation between Russia and Belarus, since Belarus is Russia’s most capable military ally and serves as a critical buffer zone between Russian and NATO member states. What’s more, a NATO intervention in Belarus is seen in Russia as one of the most likely causes for a major military confrontation between Russia and the West.

On the political side, Zapad-2017 is aimed at deterring the West by highlighting Russia’s preparedness to counter any aggressive actions by NATO or its individual member states. Despite Western perceptions of Russian aggressiveness, Russia continues to feel relatively weak when compared to the United States and its allies. As a result, it seeks to highlight its capabilities to defend itself, against both a direct attack and regime change efforts. The recent Western media stories highlighting the potential size of the exercise are very helpful in Russia achieving this goal.

NATO should treat Zapad 2017 as an opportunity to study the Russian military’s strengths and weaknesses and also its defensive strategy for its Western border. I don’t see any reason for tensions to be high during the exercise, except for the misplaced concerns expressed by politicians in neighboring NATO states about the possibility of the exercise being a cover for a Russian invasion.

Statements that Russian military exercises on its borders are inevitably a precursor to foreign intervention are a prime example of selection bias. Russia conducts military exercises on its borders many times a year, usually with little notice from non-specialists. Only on two occasions have these these exercises been followed by foreign interventions, and in both cases these took place during major international crises, not as a surprise attack. Russia has repeatedly indicated that it is not interested in a forceful intervention in the Baltic, both because it has no desire to occupy hostile territory and because its leaders continue to have faith in NATO’s willingness to back its Article 5 guarantees to its Baltic member states with armed force.

Germany awards €2.4bln contract for five new K130 corvettes

German Navy F 260 Braunschweig

The German defense procurement agency BAAINBw has authorized a €2.4 billion contract for the construction of five new Braunschweig-class (K130) corvettes.

The ARGE K130 consortium, composed of Lürssen Werft, ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems and the recently incorporated German Naval Yards Kiel, will be delivering the ships.

Led by Lürssen Werft as prime contractor, the shipbuilding team is to deliver the ships by 2025.

The German Navy already operates five K130 ships which means the corvettes will be based on an existing design incorporating updated technologies.

Initial announcements made by the German defense ministry indicated the ships could be acquired at a price of €1.5 billion but reports emerged that the shipbuilders were asking €2.9 billion for five corvettes and two training facilities for corvette-operation.

The value of the contract, announced by BAAINBw on September 12, is €900 million more than what the ministry initially expected to pay.

In addition to price issues, K130 corvette construction was stalled by shipbuilder German Naval Yards who protested the defense ministry’s decision to award the construction contract without a public tender in order to speed up the whole process.

The German cartel office, in a ruling announced on May 18, upheld the complaint arguing that an open tender had precedence over a quick procurement.

In response to the ruling, Lürssen and TKMS offered German Naval Yard to join the consortium with a 15 percent stake in the construction. The newly-formed consortium was approved by the cartel office.

Braunschweig-class corvettes were ordered because of the navy’s increased scope and tempo of operations. Another reason is the fact that the MKS180 Multi-role Combat Ship order was delayed and the corvette announcement was interpreted as an offset to the delays.

The 90-meter ships are designed for operation in coastal waters, augmenting the capabilities of fast attack boats and frigates. They are equipped with two 27 mm Mauser MLG27 remote-controlled, fully-automatic cannons, and one OTO Melara 76 mm gun.

The corvettes are also feature a helicopter landing deck and use the Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) – guided naval missile for close-in defense against anti-ship missiles, aircraft, helicopters and surface threats.

 

A NATO versus EU Army? German forces reignite the debate

A German Army Leopard 2A6 Main Battle Tank

BRUSSELS — New efforts to create a group of mini-armies under the command of the unified German armed forces, the Bundeswehr, have reignited the debate over the role of NATO and the European Union.

In a program known as the Framework Nations Concept, the Netherlands, Romania and the Czech Republic have all integrated brigade-level forces with Germany.

In Romania, the 81st Mechanized Brigade will join Germany’s Rapid Response Forces Division while the Czech Republic’s elite 4th Rapid Deployment Brigade will join forces with Germany’s 10th Armored Division.

 

Read more of this article at:

Informal meeting of Ministers of Defence of the European Union

Photo: LT Robert Suchy

On Thursday in Tallinn took place an informal meeting of Ministers of Defence of the European Union devoted mainly to issues related to cyber security.

The talks, which also concerned  the assumptions of the common defence policy, security on the eastern and southern flank, were also attended by representatives of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs.

The EU Ministers of Defence meeting which has just ended, politically was focused on Permanent Structure Cooperation (PESCO) – which was the most disputable part of some offensive being pursued by countries centered around France, Germany, partly Italy, but it also has skeptical observers.

Some countries, especially from Central and Eastern Europe are afraid that this initiative will lead to the creation of a two-speed Europe in the defense area. It is visible a great effort Mrs. Federica Mogherini and her associates to remove and neutralize these concerns – said Minister Macierewicz.

– The point is not to make an effort to duplicate our financial obligations within NATO so that, as part of our defence industry’s involvement, financial support will not be direct only to the largest French-German-Italian-Spanish industrial giants, but to guarantee the financing of the small or medium defence industry.

We do care  not only  to promote the southern flank, but also include the eastern flank. This is the position of Poland and it is convergent with the position of all states of Central and Eastern Europe – stressed the Head of MOD.

As noted Minister Macierewicz today’s meeting shows that the process of strengthening the integration has been continued and, unfortunately, exists a phenomenon relayed on mechanism that the greater the threats of disturbance and threats to peace, the more the Central European countries are presenting their common positions in common issues. –“ This is a good sign, because it affects the effectiveness of the action. It also influences on our biggest project – Three Seas Initiative – the most important political project that Poland needs to be continued” added the minister.

The Head of the Ministry of National Defence also referred to the decision game in which all Ministers of Defence took part during the meeting. This was the first decision game that kind and it was based on the scenario involved a cyberattack on a hypothetical EU quarter.

During a visit to Tallinn the Head of MOD met with UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Mr. Jean-Pierre Lacroix.

Discussions focused on increasing the participation of Polish soldiers, mainly officers, in UN missions. As Minister Macierewicz emphasized, the Polish ministry is ready to discuss about the proposals that the United Nations has offered to Poland. Under-Secretary-General was interested in our presence, among others. in Mali, South Africa, areas which are considered to be the places and sources of migration waves threatening Europe.

Minister Macierewicz also met with an Advisor to the President of the European Commission of the EU Defence Industry Mr. Mihnea Ioan Motoc, who indicated that Poland’s presence in the PESCO mechanism is crucial to the European Union. – “We have arranged for further consultations within the next month. I hope that what has been presented during the talks will be confirmed in the official EU position” – said Minister Macierewicz.

 

French Defense Minister in Tallinn: Zapad is ”strategy of intimidation”

French Defense Minister Florence Parly

French Defense Minister Florence Parly on Thursday condemned a major upcoming Russian military exercise Zapad 2017 on the borders of the EU and NATO as a deliberate “strategy of intimidation”.

The Zapad 2017 exercise which Russia will hold from next week in Belarus and its western exclave of Kaliningrad has caused alarm in the Baltic states and Poland and drawn criticism from the US and NATO for a lack of transparency.

Russia has said the exercises will involve about 12,700 Russian and Belarusian troops and are “purely defensive” in nature — an assessment rejected by many Western observers.

Parly, speaking at a gathering of EU foreign ministers in Tallinn, said it was clear Moscow was pursuing a “deliberate, intentional” strategy of showing off its military might.

“It is particularly important in this context that we reaffirm our presence in the face of this expression and this demonstration the Russians are making which is a strategy of intimidation — we must not hide that fact,” she said.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said it was clear that Zapad was in fact about showing off Russian force.

“It is undisputed that we see a demonstration of capabilities and power of the Russians. Anyone who doubts that only has to look at the high numbers of the participating forces in the Zapad exercise: more than 100,000,” she said.

To counter growing Russian assertiveness in recent years, particularly since the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, NATO has stationed about 4,000 troops in the three Baltic countries and Poland.
Parly said the deployment sent a clear signal that the Baltic states and Poland were covered by the NATO alliance.

AFP – Baltic News Service.

Germany disputes size of Russian wargames, predicts 100,000 troops

FILE PHOTO: German German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

TALLINN (Reuters) – Germany said on Thursday that Russia was planning to send over 100,000 troops to war games on NATO’s eastern flank this month, disputing Moscow’s version that only 13,000 Russian and Belarussian servicemen would participate.

The Sept. 14-20 exercises known as Zapad, or “West” in Belarus, the Baltic Sea, western Russia and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, are stirring unease in NATO despite Moscow’s assurances troops would rehearse a purely defensive scenario.

“It is undisputed that we are seeing a demonstration of capabilities and power of the Russians,” German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen told reporters at an EU defense ministers’ meeting in Tallinn.

“Anyone who doubts that only has to look at the high numbers of participating forces in the Zapad exercise: more than one hundred thousand,” she said in a joint news conference with her French counterpart Florence Parly.

While Baltic nations have voiced concerns about a bigger-than-reported exercise and while NATO’s secretary-general expects more than 13,000 troops, Von der Leyen’s remarks are the first time a top Western politician has called out Russia publicly on what NATO sees as the true size of the war games.

Such numbers would be legal under international treaties on war games, but would require inviting international observers.

With less than 13,000 troops, international observation of the drills is not mandatory, Russia says.

“DEMONSTRATION OF FORCE”?

An exercises on that scale is one of NATO’s most pressing concerns. France, for one, believes the war games are no simple military drill, even though Russian Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin told Western military attaches in Moscow in August the West had nothing to fear.

Russia accuses NATO of building up forces on its frontiers in a manner reminiscent of the Cold War. But NATO says it is protecting the interests of member states bordering Russia who are troubled by Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea and links to pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Previous large-scale exercises in 2013 employed special forces training, longer-range missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles that were later used in the Crimea annexation and in actions in eastern Ukraine and Syria, NATO diplomats said.

“Russia has a global strategy of a visible, deliberate demonstration of force,” Parly said before heading to meet French troops in Estonia as part of NATO’s deployment of deterrent forces in the Baltics and Poland.

“They have a strategy of intimidation,” Parly said, warning that any attack on a Baltic country or Poland by Russia would be considered an attack on all of the U.S.-led NATO alliance.

Reporting by Robin Emmott; editing by Ralph Boulton

 

German frigate FGS Brandenburg concludes NATO SNMG2 deployment

German Navy file photo of FGS Brandenburg

German Navy frigate FGS Brandenburg is on her way home after spending six months as the lead ship of NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 2 in the Aegean Sea.

Brandenburg is set to return to her homeport in Wilhelmshaven on September 8 after an eventful deployment.

The frigate’s mission was to lead a NATO group of ships monitoring and patrolling the Aegean Sea off the Turkish coast.

Another goal was to increase the cooperation between the European border agency Frontex and the maritime authorities of Turkey and Greece. By doing so, NATO hopes to curb the migration flow and smuggling activities in the Aegean Sea.

During her first month on the job, FGS Brandenburg ran aground while departing the port of Piraeus, Greece, colliding with a jetty and sustaining considerable damage.

According to German media, FGS Brandenburg damaged her rudder and both propellers and was only partially operational.

Following the accident, FGS Brandenburg was towed to a Hellenic Navy base in the port of Salamis for repairs.

Brandenburg returned to sea after approximately a month of repairs. The ship ran aground on April 17 and was seen in the Chios Strait in late May.

Taking Brandenburg’s place in another German frigate, F122 Bremen-class frigate FGS Lübeck, which got underway on August 21.

Lübeck is the fifth German Navy ship to be sent to the Aegean Sea since February 2016, when NATO started its contribution to the establishment of a maritime situational awareness in the region.

The flagship for SNMG2 is currently the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Duncan.

 

Russia mobilizes for ZAPAD 2017. But how prepared is the Baltic Region?

 

A pair of Sukhoi Su-24M Heavy Strike Aircraft

The Russian practice, known as Zapad-17, seems to be the biggest exercise in the history of the Russian Federation. Ukraine’s Security Council has concluded that a total of 230,000 to 240,000 people will participate.

Western reviewers have talked about up to 100,000 participants.

Zapad-17, which starts officially on September 14th, can be described as a seizure exercise in which Russia’s ability to mobilize and go to war quickly will be practiced. The exercise takes place every four years, where the main exercises rotate between the different Russian military areas.

At the 2009 exercise, Russia was pursuing Warsaw in Poland with tactical nuclear weapons. Outside the exercise period, but the same year as Zapad-13, Russia practiced tactical nuclear weapons attacks against Sweden.

This year’s training activities are located both to neighboring Belarus and to Kaliningrad, Leningrad, Pskov and Smolensk oblast, as well as in the Baltic Sea.

Russia will also put its rail system on trial, as well as cyber-fighting units and nuclear weapons forces.

Officially, Russia is hacking up its exercises, all in order to avoid current Western inspections. According to the OSCE’s Wi-Fi document, more than 13,000 exercises have to be pre-advertised, as countries such as Sweden and Finland, as well as the NATO Alliance, have the right to send their own observers.

But this border is on the side of Russia, and takes advantage of the opportunity to test preparedness.

Emergency preparedness checks need not be pre-notified in accordance with the Wiendokument and are without obligation to invite observers. So what the paper is a little exercise, or several small ones is in fact a giant exercise that Russia keeps visitors away from.

And here’s an important difference between NATO’s open, transparent and long-term practice and Russian secret culture.

The exercise also means full mobilization in Kaliningrad, and that the reserves for the 76th airland division in Pskov have been called up.

The Russian Federation enclave of Kaliningrad.

Exercise in Russia has also been used several times to mask future military operations against other countries. During Kavkaz-08, the Russian troops remained in the field to shortly attack Georgia.
Zapad-13 was used to pinch and plan for the aggression against Ukraine, which was then carried out in 2014.

Center-15 was used as “cover up” to hide what kind of help was sent to Assad in Syria.

Last week, two Russian fighter aircraft violated Swedish airspace east of Gotland. It is based on this experience that nervousness in the West is particularly great, what really happens after the exercise? US Commander in Europe, General Ben Hodges, has been warned that Zapad may be a “Trojan horse” that places Russian soldiers and equipment in Belarus and can then be moved on.

And there are signs of increased number of provocations. Last week, two Russian fighter aircraft violated Swedish airspace east of Gotland.

Russia’s attempt to send the Kruzenstern school ship with 164 cadets on board to Mariehamn on Åland during Zapad-17 was stopped this week. Åland’s demilitarized position means that Finland is responsible for the defense of Åland without being allowed to prepare for this in peacetime.

The Russian Navy Cadet Training Ship Kruzenstern

But Finland also has the power to deny “state ships” to call at Åland. What is now used with Kruzenstern. The Finnish Chief of Staff has announced refusal, without further explanation. The most likely is Russia wanted to test Finland’s reactions with the visit, although a nightmare scenario is the ship would have been used for “green men”. “Green men” refers to masked soldiers in unmarked green army uniforms and carrying modern Russian military weapons and equipment that appeared during the Ukrainian crisis of 2014.

Åland’s demilitarized status and the legal basis of the 1921 Åland Convention and the bilateral peace agreement with the Soviet Union in 1940 (as confirmed in Paris 1947) makes the island’s vulnerability at least as great as Gotlands in the increasingly hot Baltic region.

Instead, the Russian propaganda now learns to grind additional laps of fears of terror from the event surrounding the school ship.

The official reason behind the planned schooling visit was a visit because Mariehamn wants to host Tall Ships Race 2021. Instead, the Russian propaganda now learns to grind additional laps of fears of terror from the event surrounding the school ship.

But already the week before the current visit, Åland is visited by a Swedish-Russian “peace action”. There, activists from Sweden and Russia will conduct activism during an escalating scenario. From Sweden, two environmentalist parliamentarians, Carl Schlyter and Annika Lillimets participate.

No participant from Finland is expected to have a strong reaction to being just an external influence on Åland. “Peace activists” thus help to increase the security policy tension.

Finland has also announced that it is running local defense exercises to improve government cooperation, among other things. It should also be read in plain text to be able to handle “green men”. The troops practice in Kajanaland, South Karelia, South Savolax, Southern Finland and Satakunta.

Finnish Civil Defence Exercises are underway as of 30 August 2017

The message that Finland is close to its friends was strengthened when President Niinistö visited Donald Trump in the White House on Monday evening, Swedish time. There, the US President stressed the ties to Finland and that the USA was “very protective, extremely protective” in the Baltic Sea Region.

At the same time, Trump avoided direct questions if he regards Russia as a threat, yet stressing that if threats appear “we’ll handle them.”

“We are doing everything to preserve peace in the Baltic Sea area,” said President Sauli Niinistö from the Speaker’s Court in the White House. “When I met Putin a few weeks ago, I asked about the Chinese navy practicing Russia. Putin replied that that exercise was not aimed at anyone. Then I found out that we are practicing with the United States and Sweden, and it is not aimed at anyone either. ”

Prior to Zapad’s practice, NATO has strengthened with, among other things, 600 skid hunters in the Baltics. It is not an impressive numeral but should be seen as a signal to Russia that if one finds something, one gets to fight with more Americans, and in itself it can be war-restrained.

In Sweden, Zapad partially coincides with its own defense defense exercise Aurora 17 (18-27 September), where almost half of the Swedish defense team participates in 19,000 people together with connections from Finland, Denmark, Norway, Estonia, Lithuania, France and the United States.

Aurora is the largest Swedish exercise of nearly a quarter of a century and an important reconciliation in the work of getting a defense consisting of two brigades. This is comparable to the fact that the Swedish defense in 1971 had 31 brigades.

Preparations are in full swing for the Swedish Armed Forces exercise Aurora this September. All Swedish air wings will participate.

But despite the fact that the Russian exercise is expected to be closer to five times as big as the total Swedish defense and twelve times as high as Aurora-17, the Swedish debate and media reports are more dominated by various peace activists demonstration plans and questioning of Swedish practice.

One who walks in these footsteps is Left Party leader Jonas Sjöstedt who equals the level of provocations between the Russian offensive nuclear weapons exercise with the defense force’s defense exercise.

Some major protests against the Russian aggressive exercise, including nuclear weapons, we can not see from the peace movement in Sweden. So Gudrun Schyman, Sven Hirdman, with several teachings, continues to wear shades, earlobes and eyelashes to continue living in another reality.

And as the Ukrainian Security Council notes on its website: “Zapad-17 is another step for Russia to promote confrontation on the European continent. It requires a truly serious response from both West and Ukraine. The state leadership, Ukrainian defense and other security and detention agencies are now taking the necessary steps to protect our state. ”

The warning for autumn storms in the Baltic Sea area is thus here. There may be a lot of cold to handle both accidental and deliberate incidents.

By the way, Peter Hultqvist is the best defense minister Sweden can have in this position.

Swedish Defence minister Peter Hultqvist and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

By Patrik Oksanen, security and defense policy consultant for several of the MittMedia Group’s liberal and center party leader pages. Oksanen is a daily editor of Hudiksvalls Tidning and currently a political editor at ÖP.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NATO Should Recognize the Russian Missile Threat to Europe [OPINION]

SS-26 Iskander-M tactical ballistic nuclear missile.

Poland has become an alliance-wide leader in NATO defense efforts and it is one of only a handful of countries meeting NATO’s 2 proc. defense spending target.

During the visit of President Donald Trump, Warsaw announced its decision to acquire Patriot missile defenses and the associated Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS).

The Trump Administration and its NATO allies should follow Warsaw’s lead and make a major change to NATO policy by explicitly referencing Russia as the target of allied regional missile defense architecture in Europe – as writes prof. Matthew Kroenig, an Associate Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University, and a Senior Fellow in the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council.

Last month U.S. President Donald Trump visited Poland, a country that has become an alliance-wide leader in NATO defense efforts. Poland is the new center of gravity for any East-West conflict, it is one of only a handful of countries meeting NATO’s 2% defense spending target, and, during Trump’s visit, Warsaw announced its decision to acquire U.S. Patriot missile defenses and the associated Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS).

The Trump Administration and its NATO allies should follow Warsaw’s lead and make a major change to NATO policy by explicitly referencing Russia as the target of allied regional missile defense architecture in Europe.

For years, the United States has been crystal clear that its strategic, homeland ballistic missile defense system is designed to deal with rogue states, like North Korea and Iran, and is not directed at Russia or China.

The purpose of NATO regional missile defenses in Europe, on the other hand, have been somewhat more ambiguous. The 2010 NATO Strategic Concept, for example, stated that NATO must be able to deter and defend “against any threat,” but the Obama administration’s “European Phased Adaptive Approach” (EPAA) to missile defense in Europe was designed to deal with threats coming from Iran.

Similarly,  the 2012 NATO Deterrence and Defense Posture Review states that “NATO missile defense is not oriented at Russia.” As Brad Roberts, Obama’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense policy, put it, “The Obama administration, like the Bush administration that preceded it, envisioned no role for missile defense in Europe against Russian missiles.”

PAC-3 MSE Missile Launch. Photo: US Army

But the threat environment has changed. In 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine and, since that time, Moscow has repeatedly made explicit threats against NATO and the rest of Europe.

Russian strategists plan for “de-escalatory” “pre-nuclear” and nuclear strikes against NATO targets in the early stages of any conflict. Moreover, Russia has a wide array of conventional and nuclear-capable cruise and ballistic missiles to carry out these threats.

It is violating its commitments under the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty by testing and deploying a new ground-launched cruise missile and it has conspicuously deployed its Iskander missile in Kaliningrad, on the borders of NATO.

This growing Russian missile capability poses a real threat. It enables Moscow to coerce NATO members in peacetime and in crises and it could also have a devastating wartime effect.

NATO maintains only a token trip-wire presence in the Baltics, so in the event of Russian aggression, the United States and NATO would need to project forces forward from Western bases. But these reinforcements would be highly vulnerable to Russian “de-escalatory” strikes, which might not only shock NATO into suing for peace, but could physically prevent NATO from providing an adequate defense of its members.

500km range of SS-26 Iskander M missile system, Kalinigrad Oblast

To counter this threat, NATO needs a regional missile defense architecture designed to defend against Russian missiles. A broad area defense of all of European territory would be costly and is unnecessary, but point defenses of critical military assets are badly needed.

The United States and allies in Europe should develop missile defenses to protect critical bases, forward-deployed forces, air and seaports of debarkation (APODS and SPODS), as well as key command and control nodes.

Such missile defenses would greatly improve NATO security. With the possibility of a limited strike on military targets removed, Russia would be forced to threaten the direct targeting of population centers or an attempt to overwhelm defenses with larger-scale barrages. Both are riskier, and, therefore, less credible, propositions.

Unfortunately, NATO’s current missile defense posture is not currently geared toward this challenge as the Obama administration repeatedly explained.

Fortunately, however, the outlines of what could become a future NATO regional missile defense posture are beginning to form. Poland’s purchase of Patriot and IBCS is an important step forward. The latter system will allow the tying together of radars and interceptors of multiple current and future air and missile defense installations to create a more effective overall system.

These programs should continue, but they are only the beginning. Broadly, the United States can provide higher-end defenses with European allies purchasing systems for point defenses in their countries.

Wealthier NATO countries, such as Germany, should consider deploying existing assets to vulnerable allies, such as the Baltics. Such an approach also demonstrates a concrete manifestation of the alliance burden sharing demanded by the Trump administration.

German MIM-104 Patriot SAM Launcher.

A regional missile defense architecture in Europe will greatly contribute to Western security, but getting it right depends on accurately identifying the source of the threat. NATO must stop tiptoeing around this obvious truth and explicitly recognize Russia as the primary missile threat to Europe.

Matthew Kroenig is an Associate Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University, a Senior Fellow in the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council, and a former strategist in the U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense.

 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Baltic Post.