Tag: NATO

Canadian Forces Ends Mission in Poland

The Canadian Forces wrapped up a three year-long deployment in Poland under Operation REASSURANCE. The Land Task Force (LTF) ended its mission with a parade in Drawsko Pomorskie, Poland.

OPeration REASSURANCE in Poland. 2014-2017

From May 2014 to August 2017, Canada deployed more than 1,000 soldiers from CFB Edmonton, CFB Petawawa, and CFB Valcartier. Throughout the three-year mission, the Canadian soldiers participated in more than 35 exercises in eight different countries:

  1. Bulgaria
  2. Estonia
  3. Germany
  4. Hungary
  5. Latvia
  6. Lithuania
  7. Poland
  8. Romania

According to the National Defence website: “various rotations of troops have served on Canada’s LTF in Poland since May 2014, and have participated in military exercises throughout the region to improve interoperability with Allies and demonstrate NATO’s resolve to protect Alliance territories and partners. Op REASSURANCE refers to the military activities undertaken by the CAF since 2014 to support NATO assurance and deterrence measures in Eastern and Central Europe with the aim of reassuring nations in the region of NATO’s commitment to support their stability and security.”

With the end of the Canadian deployment in Poland, Canada is now leading the enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup (eFP BG) in Latvia. More than 1,000 soldiers from seven NATO countries are directly working with the Latvian Land Forces Infantry Brigade. The Canadian Forces is contributing more than 450 troops to the eFP BG, including headquarters staff, an infantry company with Light Armoured Vehicle (LAV), military police, and logistical and communications support.

Canadian Armed Forces and Italian soldiers cover their arcs of fire during a relief-in-place exercise at the training grouds of Camp Adazi, Latvia, as part of the enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup’s training during Operation REASSURANCE on August 2, 2017. Image by MCpl Gerald Cormier.

The Canadian-led eFP BG in Latvia consists of soldiers from the following countries:

  1. Albania
  2. Canada
  3. Italy
  4. Poland
  5. Slovenia
  6. Spain

“Today’s ceremony marks the implementation of one of Canada’s key NATO commitments. Leading NATO efforts to deter and defeat potential aggression is a core mission in Canada’s new Defence Policy: Strong, Secure, Engaged. As the leader of an enhanced Forward Presence battlegroup, Canada is committed to ensuring a peaceful and stable Europe. We stand united with our NATO Allies and the people of Latvia,” said Harjit S. Sajjan, Defence Minister.

According to the National Defence, the eFP BG’s mission is to counter Russia’s decision to use military force against its neighbour, and its military buildup in the region. Its mission is to prevent conflict and preserve regional stability.

Russian soldiers conducting training in eastern Russia

That said, Canada’s decision to support its NATO allies is justified. As an alliance members, especially as a founding country, Canada had to show its commitment to its allies. However, justifying such a deployment due to Russian military buildup in the region is clearly unjustified.

Russia has the right to move troops and deploy them as they please in their country. As far as I know, Russia has not been actively readying its troops for a possible invasion of the Baltic States. Even Russian President Vladimir Putin said it would be madness to do so more than two years ago.

I do not believe Russia has the intention to do so. Yet, when Crimea voted to rejoin Russia and the conflict in eastern Ukraine erupted, Canada openly supported Ukraine and started training Ukrainian soldiers. While Canadian Foreign Minister, Christina Freeland has been supporting the Ukrainian government through diplomatic measures, its government has been sending non-lethal equipment to Ukraine. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ottawa ink a deal on lethal weaponry in the next few years. Light Armoured Vehicles would be one of the main pieces of equipment in the deal if you ask me, especially since Saudi Arabia has been using them against its own people and that Canada could very well cancel the deal over it.

Canada could very well follow in the United States footsteps and supply lethal weaponry to Ukraine.

The main concern here is that Ukraine is not part of NATO, and I believe that NATO’s move in the Baltic States is solely based on the events in Ukraine. By doing so, NATO is putting themselves in a situation where it’s using their resources to support a non-NATO country under the pretext of a possible Russian invasion of the Baltic States.

The events in Ukraine gave NATO a perfect justification to move more troops to Russia’s border and influence the regional situation — an eastward march.

Canada, in this particular scenario, has been openly talking tough to Russia and has been committed its largest number of troops in Europe since the end of the Cold War. By training Ukrainian soldiers and stationing troops in Latvia, Canada is sending a message to Russia that it will stand with its allies. However, Canada’s decision to train Ukrainian troops is only fuelling the tension in the region as Ukraine is quickly becoming a new proxy war between NATO and Russia.

A Joint Task Force – Ukraine instructor provides guidance and safety support to a Ukrainian soldier during section attack practice, part of small team training, at the International Peacekeeping and Security Centre in Starychi, Ukraine, on March 3, 2017. Photo : Joint Task Force – Ukraine

Unfortunately, all possible outcomes through diplomatic solutions have been failing and will most likely never succeed due to the ongoing proxy war in Ukraine.

With Canada leading an eFP BG in Latvia, it is taking a key leadership role in NATO’s mission to deter Russia in the region. Meanwhile, Canada has cut its diplomatic talks with Russia and keeps its interaction with the Russian Embassy in Ottawa to a bare minimum.

Honestly, I believe NATO actions in eastern Europe justify a massive military hardware modernization program and reviving the Cold War-era fear of Russian invasion of neighbour countries is a perfect justification to do so.

Canada should lead in diplomatic talks, not with troops on the ground.

 

CONFLICT OBSERVER

 

Latvia hosting annual international ordnance disposal drill Open Spirit

NATO Mine Clearance Diver prepare to submerge

The Latvian Navy is hosting this year’s edition of the international annual mine clearance and ordnance disposal drill Open Spirit which is taking place between August 18 and 31.

The exercise aims to reduce the threat of unexploded ordnance throughout the Baltic Sea region, including seabed communications lines, international shipping routes, and fishing areas.

It is hosted on a yearly rotational basis since 1997 by one of three Baltic nations – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Fourteen nations are participating in Open Spirit 2017, including Belgium, Canada, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Sweden, United Kingdom, the United States. Ships from NATO’s Standing Mine Counter Measure Group 1 will be among the participating units.

This year, the exercise is joined by eleven Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) clearance divers and support personnel who will be operating from the naval base in Mikeltornis.

Lieutenant-Commander William Barter, Commanding Officer of Fleet Diving Unit (Atlantic), is the Task Force Commander of Open Spirit 2017.

 

Russia readies troops for Zapad war games with Belarus

Russia and Belarus are set to stage the Zapad 2017 war games, and the operation’s size is causing concern among Western observers. Moscow’s heavy troop presence has some worrying whether Minsk’s sovereignty is at risk.

Russian troops have been gathering in Belarus since Monday. The Zapad 2017 (West 2017) war games are slated to begin in September, with roughly 12,700 Russian soldiers officially participating, according to Moscow. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg thanked Russian officials for providing them with troop information, but said the games will nonetheless be closely monitored.

Read more: What are Russia’s Zapad war games?

War games exceeding 13,000 troops require the presence of external observers, as stipulated by the Vienna Document, a security agreement among the participating states of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which includes Russia. Western observers fear Russia will break the agreed limit on troop participation. Opposition voices in Belarus, a Russian ally, worry that Russian troops will remain in the country following the exercises to de facto occupy the country.

Regional concern grows

Russia’s military build up to its West is worrying Belarus’ neighbors – Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic states – which were all under Moscow’s control during the Soviet era. Lithuanian Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis said there are 100,000 Russian troops that President Vladimir Putin wants to use to “put NATO to the test.”

The Zapad military exercises were previously held in 2013 and 2009

That number may refer to Russia’s total troop presence in the larger region for the exercises, Margarete Klein of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) told DW. The military exercises are taking place both in Russia and Belarus, she said, however a lot of speculation surrounds the operation.

“We just have to wait to see what happens,” Klein said. “It’s difficult to talk in advance about what the numbers may mean.”

Doubting the numbers

Russian military expert Alexander Golz pointed out that the Zapad war games extend beyond Belarus, as the Belarusian military announced they are to stretch from Russia’s Kola Peninsula near Finland to the western exclave of Kaliningrad in the Baltic region. Thus troops are being amassed not just in Belarus, but in Russia as well, he said, adding that Moscow has a history of playing fast and loose with troop numbers.

“Russia had a curious interpretation of the Vienna Document during the conflict in the Donbass,” Golz told DW, explaining that Moscow’s troop deployment to the country’s border with eastern Ukraine was said to be part of a military exercise so that the Kremlin could claim its soldiers’ presence did not exceed the Vienna Document’s limit.

Lukashenko, Putin and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu coordinated for Zapad 2013

Everything above board?

Russia’s Defense Ministry has ordered about 4,000 rail cars, according to media reports, for troop transports to Belarus – more than previous exercises, including 1,000 more than for Zapad 2013, Alexander Alessin, a Belarusian military expert, told DW. Zapad 2017 would remain within the permissible limits, he said, calculating for up to 30 tons of equipment per soldier.

Prospects for Belarusian sovereignty

A post-operation occupation of Belarus is unlikely, Alessin said, because “occupying [Russia’s] only ally would undermine faith in the Kremlin, including with its potential partners.” It would also undermine Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s credibility – at home and abroad, which is in neither side’s interest. Alessin cited Belarus’ denial of Russia’s 2013 request to maintain airbases there.

Lukashenko is unlikely to allow Russian troops to remain in the country following the September maneuvers, Alexander Golz said. For 20 years, Lukashenko has been receiving money from Russia, he said, and therefore has always underscored Belarus’ strategic importance to Russia as an outpost. “As far as Russian military bases in Belarus go,” Golz added, “Lukashenko turned 180 degrees. Interestingly, Putin had to swallow that.”

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

NATO jets in Baltics scrambled 8 times last week to escort Russian aircraft

Ejército del Aire F/A-18C. 5 Spanish Air Force F/A-18Cs make up the Baltic Air Policing element in Estonia, based in Ämari as of 1 May 2017.

VILNIUS – NATO fighter jets serving in the Baltic air policing mission were scrambled eight times last week to intercept Russian military aircraft flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea, the Lithuanian Defense Ministry said on Monday.

The ministry said that a total of 21 Russian planes were intercepted, around half of which were fighter jets, while the NATO jets also identified several transport and passenger planes over the Baltic Sea.
Most of the Russian aircraft had their automatic transponders switched off, the statement said.

The biggest number of scrambles took place last Thursday, when the alliance’s jets took off three times in total and intercepted ten aircraft.

Polish Air Force F-16C Block 52+ Fighters have been based at Based in Siauliai in Lithuania since May 1 2017.

Poland celebrates Armed Forces Day in Warsaw today

Polish Army Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank, Warszawa, 15 August 2017

War planes streaked through the sky, more than 1,500 troops marched, and long lines of military vehicles thundered through the centre of the Polish capital as the country marked Armed Forces Day with a bang on Tuesday.

As in previous years, troops from other NATO countries joined the annual parade, among them American, Canadian, British and Romanian units that have been deployed to help strengthen the Western military alliance’s eastern flank.

There were also soldiers from more than a dozen other allied and partner states, including Croatia, Spain, Germany and Ukraine.

Crowds of onlookers

The Warsaw parade attracted crowds of onlookers and featured 200 or so army vehicles including self-propelled howitzers, battle tanks and missile launchers. Among the hardware on show were Leopard and Twardy tanks, Rosomak armoured vehicles, Langusta missile launchers and Osa mobile air defence missile systems.

The crowd could also catch a glimpse of American Stryker armoured vehicles and Jackal and Panther vehicles used by the British army. Romanian troops showcased weaponry including Oerlikon anti-aircraft guns.

Marching detachments included students of military academies and members of paramilitary organisations. For the first time, the country’s new territorial defence force joined the event, observers noted.

Taking to the skies

More than 60 aircraft contributed to the show, which began with the Red-and-White Sparks, an aerobatic demonstration team of the Polish air force. It staged a colourful flyover, leaving a trail of smoke in national colours. There were also SW-4 Puszczyk, W-3 Sokół, Mi-8, Mi-17 and Mi-24 helicopters, accompanied by American Apache, Chinook and Black Hawk machines.

Also flying past were CASA C-295M, Hercules and Bryza transport airplanes as well as Orlik training planes. The air show closed with F-16, MiG-29 and Su-22 fighter jets soaring across the sky.

Polish Air Force F-16C Block 52 Flypast

The parade was followed by a picnic in a city park where people could get inside some of the military vehicles and inspect a variety of historical hardware on display.

The August 15 celebration marks Poland’s landmark victory against the Russian Bolsheviks in the 1920 Battle of Warsaw, in which Polish troops led by Marshal Józef Piłsudski defeated an advancing Red Army despite being vastly outnumbered.

The day was first celebrated as a holiday from 1923 to 1947, and then restored as Armed Forces Day in 1992 after decades of Soviet-imposed communism.

(str/pk)
Source: PAP, TVP Info, Polsat News

 

 

Tarja Halonen, the former President of Finland says that Estonia has no reason to fear Russia

Tarja Halonen, president of Finland from 2000-2012

There is no reason for Estonia to panically fear Russia, Tarja Halonen, president of Finland from 2000-2012, told Eesti Paevaleht daily in an interview.

“You are in the European Union, NATO, and you use the euro. In this manner you are not only in a safe house, but have become an independent mature country,” Halonen said. “That is why we say to you sometimes that calm down now and there is no reason to panic. Which does not mean, however, that we say that there’s no reason to be worried looking at Russia,” she added.

In the words of Halonen, Finns know Russians better than Americans do.

“Rule of law, human rights and democracy, they haven’t had very much of them ever and therefore it is difficult to build them up too. They are attempting to achieve it somehow, but it’s difficult work,” Halonen said.

“It was difficult even in Germany when East and West Germany were brought together, but it was only for 50 years that East Germany had been out of the system. Just like Estonia,” she added.

“You forget it easily that we had our one hundred years under the Russian tsar too, we had the Winter War and the Continuation War. We lost a large portion of our country and had to resettle a large number of residents. We paid the Soviets a big amount of money in damages of war. But what I always say is that we were on the easier side,” Halonen said.

“You had your very difficult time – the occupation. That is difficult for us to understand too. So, yes, in my opinion we should be tolerant in the criticism that we level against each other. Our mutual relations have a strong base and we criticize each other not for being there, but just certain things,” the former president of Finland added.

Halonen took part in the festival of opinion culture held in the central Estonian regional capital Paide on Friday and Saturday, where she read the keynote of a discussion titled “How to stand against populism and extremism?”

 

 

Russia’s Navy to receive two more advanced submarines by 2020

‘Black Hole’ of the Russian Navy

Russia’s Navy will receive another two of the project 636.6 Varshavyanka-class submarines by the end of 2020, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement on Monday.

“Two project 636.6 Varshavyanka-class diesel-electric submarines named Petropavlovsk-Kanchatsky and Volkhov will be added to the Russian navy by the end of 2020, provided that their in-plant and state tests go well,” the statement reads. The ministry pointed out that the two submarines had been laid down in Russia’s St. Petersburg before the Navy Day.

Project 636.6 Varshavyanka is the third-generation diesel-electric submarine with a maximum surface speed of 20 knots. These submarines are capable of submerging to a depth of 300 meters, the period of their autonomous navigation is 45 days. The crew comprises 52 men.

The Project 636 submarines are considered to be the quietest of the Russian-made submarines, this being the reason why NATO gave them the reporting name of ‘Black Holes’. These submarines are equipped with modern radar systems, communications tools, hydroacoustic stations, 533 mm torpedo launchers and the Kalibr cruise missiles.

In the past several years, Russia’s Navy has already received six Project 636.6 Varshavyanka-class submarines, which were added to the Black Sea Fleet.

In May and June 2017, a Varshavyanka-class submarine named Krasnodar, traveling in the Mediterranean Sea, fired the Kalibr cruise missiles on the ground facilities of the Islamic State terrorist Group (outlawed in Russia), located in Syria.

 

 

Arctic Fighter Meet 2017

The Swedish air force is hosting the 2017 Arctic Fighter Meet at the Flygvapnet air-base at Luleå, in the North of Sweden.

The meet is scheduled to take place from 21 to 25 August.

Swedish air Force Gripen fighters and F-16 fighters of the Norwegian air force will be joined by six F/A-18 Hornets and three Hawk-Jet training aircraft of the Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force). Cross Border Training (CBT) between Finland and Norway will take place during the exercise, to hone the skills of the pilots and test the air defence systems of the participating nations.

The aim of the exercise is to fly in accordance with the training programmes of the Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish Air Forces, increase reaction times through airspace incursion drills, as well as to educate newly qualified pilots in Joint-training missions and mission interoperability.

Similar exercises have been held since 2003. The aim is to strengthen defence cooperation in the Nordic countries (NORDEFCO) and to develop the international interoperability. The exercise promotes cooperation between the Nordic nations of NORDEFCO and NATO and is designed to integrate the training programmes of the participating countries and increase operational effectiveness.

For more information, contact the Chief of staff of the Lapland flight detachment Juri Kurttila, p. 0299 800 (vaihde).

 

Ilmavoimat