Tag: Romania

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.


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Canadian fighters ready to begin enhanced Air Policing over Romania

31 August 2017, Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, Romaina – The Royal Canadian Air Force commences their enhanced Air Policing Mission as part of NATO’s Assurance Measures to Romania. A Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18. Photo: Christian Timmig, HQ AIRCOM PA

MIHAIL KOGALNICEANU, Romania – On August 31 NATO recognised full operational capability of the Royal Canadian Air Force detachment, deployed to Romania for NATO’s enhanced Air Policing mission.

The Canadian CF-188 fighters are going to augment Romania’s Air Policing capabilities, securing the skies alongside Romanian MiG-21s.

“In augmenting an already credible Air Policing capability of the Romanian Air Force Canada and Romania stand shoulder to shoulder as close partners within NATO” says Brigadier General Scott Clancy, Director General Air Readiness of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Lieutenant General Ruben Servert, Commander of CAOC Torrejon, presented the certificate to the Canadian detachment. He thanked the pilots and ground crews for their commitment, wishing them a successful mission and emphasized the importance of the mission for NATO’s Assurance Measures.

“The goal of implementing these Assurance Measures is to demonstrate the collective resolve of Allies, demonstrate the defensive nature of NATO and deter any aggression or threat of aggression against NATO Allies” states Lieutenant General Servert.

To receive full operational status by NATO, pilots and personnel have to undergo safety briefings, conduct familiarisation flights and ensure interoperability with their Romanian hosts and colleagues.

Romanian Air Force modernized MiG 21 LanceR

Allied Air Command, NATO’s authority for all Integrated Air and Missile Defence matters, delegates the responsibility for the certification process to its southern Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) at Torrejon, Spain. As southern command and control unit for Air Policing, CAOC Torrejon is responsible for all NATO airspace south of the Alps, including Romania.

The enhanced Air Policing mission is part of NATO’s Assurance Measures, implemented after Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014.

Allies’ augmentation of Romania’s own Air Policing capabilities sends a clear message of NATO’s resolve, commitment and solidarity to its Eastern Allies. Romania has successfully and professionally conducted its own Air Policing under NATO control and standards since its accession in 2004.

Preceding the Canadian deployment, the mission was successfully conducted by a detachment from the Royal Air Force. Currently a detachment of the Italian Air Force is conducting the same mission in Bulgaria, underlining NATO’s capability, vigilance and high degree of interoperability among forces.

Story by Allied Air Command Public Affairs Office



UK agrees new military training programme with France


Over the next few months over 2,500 British troops will train with their French counterparts, participating in exercises spanning Eastern Europe to Kenya.

The Defence Secretary will agree the new programme of UK-French training during his first bilateral meeting with Florence Parly, the newly appointed French Minister for the Armed Forces in Paris later today.

In September, over 1,500 British soldiers from 16 Air Assault Brigade will be joined by troops from 11eme Brigade Parachitiste on NATO exercise Swift Response in Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania. Meanwhile, French troops also plan to join 1,000 UK personnel from 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment on Exercise Askari Storm in Kenya in November, training on the prevention of instability and the spread of violent extremism.

During the visit, the Defence Secretary will also praise the French troops who have been deployed to Estonia as part of the UK-led enhanced Forward Presence battalion in the country since April this year.

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said:

The UK and France have a long enduring relationship and that will continue as the UK leaves the European Union.

We are deployed together in NATO, fighting against Daesh in Iraq and Syria and training together across the globe.

This announcement is the latest in a string of partnerships that highlight the enduring strength of the UK-French defence relationship.

Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon and French counterpart visit to Exercise Griffin Strike. Salisbury Plain. It is the biggest French/UK military exercise.
Michael Fallon, Secretary of State for Defence talks to French soldiers after the exercise.

Earlier this year, the UK and France signed a €100million agreement to develop future long range weapons and are working together on an unmanned combat air system. And as the UK prepares for HMS Queen Elizabeth to reach operational capability in 2020, France is expected to play her part in supporting the Carrier Strike Group, as the UK did with the French carrier Charles De Gualle in the Gulf during 2015 when HMS Kent was integrated into her task group.

The UK and France also run a personnel exchange programme. Improving how we work together, there are currently over 40 personnel working in reciprocal roles across the three services.

The Defence Secretary has also announced that the RAF Red Arrows will start their European and Gulf tour in France on 15th September, Battle of Britain Day, with a flypast in Cannes.


NATO’s battlegroups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland are now fully operational

Canadian Armed Forces members from NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup in Latvia arriving at Riga International Airport as part of Operation Reassurance on June 10.   Photograph By MCpl True-dee McCarthy

NATO’s four multinational battlegroups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland are now fully operational. This milestone comes after the Canadian-led battlegroup based at Camp Ādaži in Latvia became the fourth battlegroup to complete its Certification Exercise.

In response to a changed security environment, Allied leaders decided at the Warsaw Summit in 2016 to enhance NATO’s military presence in the eastern part of the Alliance. Since then, four multinational battlegroups totaling approximately 4,500 troops have deployed to the Baltic nations and Poland.

Canada leads the battlegroup in Latvia, with contributions by Albania, Italy, Poland, Slovenia and Spain. Germany leads the battlegroup in Lithuania, with contributions by Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Norway. The United Kingdom leads the battlegroup in Estonia, with contributions by France. The United States leads the battlegroup in Poland, with contributions by Romania and the UK.

These forces are a defensive and proportionate deterrent force, fully in line with NATO’s international commitments. They send a clear message that an attack on one Ally would be met by troops from across the Alliance.

The four battlegroups are one part of the Alliance’s response to Russia’s use of force against its neighbours and its military build-up in the Baltic region and beyond.

NATO is also strengthening its multinational presence in the Black Sea region, based around a Romanian-led multinational framework brigade. The Alliance has also tripled the size of the NATO Response Force to 40,000 – with a high-readiness Spearhead Force at its core – and set up eight small headquarters (NATO Force Integration Units) to facilitate training and reinforcements.



USS Porter enters Black Sea to strengthen NATO defenses


The USS Porter is training with the Romanian navy this week as part of its mission to augment security in the Black Sea region, where tensions remain high because of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, Stars and Stripes reported Friday.

The Spain-based destroyer entered the Black Sea last week to beef up allied defenses and show the United States’ commitment to protecting waters that are of great economic and military importance, the Navy said, according to Stars and Stripes.

U.S. warships have sporadically patrolled the Black Sea for decades, but Russia has viewed their presence as aggressive posturing since 2014, when it annexed the Crimean Peninsula and began backing separatist forces fighting in eastern Ukraine. The recent U.S. and European sanctions against Moscow have raised tensions throughout much of Eastern Europe.

Navy officials declined to say whether the ongoing conflict in Ukraine played a part in their sending the guided-missile destroyer to patrol the sea.

The Porter is there to improve teamwork with allies Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Turkey and Ukraine, the U.S. Navy said.

But speaking in Ukraine on Thursday, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said that countering Russian aggression against Ukraine was a priority.

Mattis condemned Russia’s seizure of Crimea, saying it and undermines the region’s stability. “We support you in the face of threats to sovereignty and territorial integrity and international law,” Mattis said at a news conference with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at his side.

Mattis said Washington would not accept Russia’s takeover of Crimea, which breached international accords dating from the 1990s.



NATO Chief Urges Transparency Ahead Of Belarus War Games

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has urged Moscow to meet its international commitments to be fully transparent about war games planned for next month in Belarus and western Russia.

“We are going to be watching very closely the course of these exercises,” Stoltenberg told journalists in Warsaw on August 25 following talks with Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo.

He was referring to the Zapad 2017 joint Belarusian-Russian military exercises that are expected to take place September 14-20.

“All nations have the right to exercise their forces, but nations should also respect their commitments to transparency,” Stoltenberg said.

NATO’s secretary-general said that “predictability, transparency, is especially important when we have increased military activity along our borders.”

Russia has dismissed concerns over the drills.

Stoltenberg wrapped up his trip to Poland by visiting troops contributing to NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence at a military training facility headquarters in Orzysz, 60 kilometers from the border with Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea that borders Poland and Lithuania.


NATO has deployed four multinational battalion-size battlegroups to Poland and the three Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — to protect and reassure Eastern European member states that are worried about increasingly aggressive moves by Russia following its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region in March 2014 and its continued support for separatists in the country’s east.

Stoltenberg told Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz in Orzysz that the four battlegroups showed “NATO’s resolve, NATO’s unity” and also sent a “strong message of deterrence,” according to the alliance’s press office.

“We send a clear signal that an attack on one ally will be regarded as an attack on the whole alliance,” he added.

Earlier in Warsaw, Stoltenberg insisted that the troops were deployed to Poland and the Baltic states “to prevent conflict, not to provoke conflict,” denying Moscow’s repeated accusation that NATO has a Cold War, confrontational mentality toward Russia.

“When tensions run high, dialogue is even more important,” he also said. “That’s why NATO has always kept channels of communication open with Russia.”

At last month’s meeting of the NATO-Russia Council — a forum intended to prevent tensions from escalating — the alliance and Moscow briefed one another on upcoming military exercises — NATO’s Exercise Trident Javelin 2017 and Russia’s Zapad 2017.

Under Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) rules known as the Vienna Document, states conducting maneuvers involving more than 13,000 troops must notify other nations in advance and be open to observers.

Information on military forces, structure, deployment, peacetime strength, major weapons and equipment systems, down to the regiment level. Planned deployments of major weapon systems. Annual military budgets. Receive obligatory evaluation visit annually. One airbase visit every five years. Communications Network for military information exchange. Annual Implementation Assessment Meeting.

Belarus has said Zapad 2017 involves 12,700 troops — just under the limit. But NATO members suspect many more troops will end up participating.

Belarus earlier this week said it invited observers from seven countries to the drills.

In an interview with AP on August 24, Stoltenberg said that NATO will send two experts in response to Minsk’s offer, adding that this is not enough.

He also said that Russia is using “loopholes” to minimize the number of NATO personnel allowed to observe the exercises.

NATO routinely invites Russia to watch its war games as a confidence-building measure, Stoltenberg told AP, but “Russia has never, since the end of the Cold War, invited any NATO ally to observe any of their exercises.”

Speaking to the Rossia-24 news channel on August 24, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Aleksandr Fomin described Zapad 2017 as “a regular, routine joint exercise.”

“It is not aggression, as some countries see it,” Fomin added. “I do not see any reason to be afraid. Everything, as usual, will be open and friendly.”

A NATO official earlier this week told RFE/RL that greater transparency is important to “prevent misperceptions and miscalculations” in response to military exercises.

Russia and Belarus are choosing a “selective approach” to transparency that does not provide observers with opportunities to talk to individual soldiers about the exercises or conduct overflights, this official said.

Lithuanian Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis warned in June that Moscow might use the maneuvers as cover for an aggressive troop buildup on NATO’s eastern flank.

Karoblis said his government estimated that 100,000 Russian troops would be involved in the exercises, rather than the official 12,700.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, Interfax, and Richard Jozwiak in Brussels.


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.


NATO’s Black Sea Allies Look Divided and Vulnerable

Bulgarian Special Forces parade in front of a Mig-29UB

NATO allies Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey cannot agree on a joint policy towards Russia’s military build-up in the region, which leaves all of them vulnerable.

There is a feeling of disharmony as well as of opposing views between the three NATO member states, Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey, about NATO’s military engagement in the Black Sea.

Romania has advocated a NATO naval presence on the Black Sea since early 2016.

However, Bulgaria did not want to provoke Russia, although last year it agreed to send 400 soldiers to the multinational naval brigade in Romania.

Turkey, meanwhile, remains cautious. Ankara supports a limited, scaled-up NATO reinforcement in the Black Sea region, but only as long as it does not impact on its interpretation of the Montreux Convention, signed in 1936.

Turkish Army Troops, Militants Mass in Aleppo: Russian Monitor

Turkey turns a blind eye also to Russia’s extensive militarisation of the annexed Crimean peninsula, even though it does not recognise Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Its military involvement in northern Syria, where it seeks to keep Islamic State, ISIS, at bay, and Kurdish factions under control, would not have been possible without Russian cooperation.

Ankara’s colder relations with the European Union and the United States after the July 2016 failed coup have also pushed Turkey towards warm relations with Moscow, despite the fact that until then they were on the brink of war over Russian support for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and Turkey’s support for some Syrian opposition groups.

The three NATO littoral countries are also wary of the other’s military presence in the Black Sea because of continued disputes over fishing rights and other issues.

Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey and their respective policies in the Black Sea resemble Ivan Krylov’s fable, Swan, Pike and Crawfish, in which the crawfish scrambles backwards, the swan strains skywards and the pike pulls toward the sea. The three states may be jolted to agree on a joint policy line only if and when Russia provokes one or all of them.

If the NATO build-up in the Baltic States is a good example of what the Alliance can do for its partners when they are united, the NATO countries around the Black Sea are divided, which leaves them vulnerable to bullying and intimidation by a belligerent Russia.

Russian military build-up in the Black Sea

In response to NATO’s increased presence in the Black Sea region, Alexander Grushko, Russia’s Envoy to NATO, said in July 2016: “The decision to increase NATO’s naval presence in the Black Sea is … yet another step towards escalating [author’s italics] tensions in regions of vital importance for Russia”. Russia, he added, reserved a right to respond accordingly.

Interestingly, Dan Ciocoiu, Romanian Navy’s Deputy Chief of the Naval Operation Command, said in January 2017: “Assuming there are no radical changes to the naval potential of other countries in the region, the Russian Black Sea Fleet will soon be equal [to] or greater than the combined [author’s italics] fleets of all other Black Sea coastal states.”

Black Sea Fleet parade Sevastopol

Seven months later, Admiral Igor Kasatonov, former commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, reiterated Ciocoiu’s assessment. In an article published in Izvestia on 21 February 2017, he said: “Russia has all the necessary resources, both material and moral, to maintain supremacy on the Black Sea. Our fleet has enough force to oppose [author’s italics] NATO force in the Black Sea.”

Both statements should have rung bells in Sofia and Ankara but the two countries see the matter differently. They see NATO’s military engagement in the Black Sea region as a provocation to Russia, not Russia’s militarisation in the Black Sea region as a provocation to NATO.

According to a multi-national WIN/Gallup International poll published in February 2017, people in Bulgaria, Greece, Slovenia and Turkey – all NATO member states – chose Russia as their go-to-defence partner. As a result, leaders of both countries wish to remain neutral.

Thus, Russia has achieved its first tactical success with two out of three NATO littoral states without shooting a bullet. Romania’s political and military leadership remains the major focus of Russian (f)ire – and is likely to expect Russian provocations.

Russia plays by different rules

At first glance, Russian is unlikely to be eager to provoke NATO. However, Russian politicians do not talk of red lines, like their counterparts in the West; they simply cross these lines.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, as Commander-in-Chief, could decide to disrupt NATO naval operations in an instant. The annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and Russia’s military engagement in Syria in September 2015 are examples of this fait accompli policy that can no longer be ignored, or are ignored only at the West own peril.

Russian President Vladimir Putin watches the tactical exercises of Russia’s Northern Fleet in Barentsevo sea. EPA PHOTO/ITAR-TASS POOL

NATO officials might say military confrontation with Russia in the Black Sea would lead to losses on both sides. NATO may also be interested in maintaining a status quo in the region.

Moscow, however, is determined to dominate a region it deems “of vital importance”. The Russian leadership calculates the benefits of changing the balance of power in its favour and of maintaining the upper hand.

That does not mean Russian policy is in any way reckless. On the contrary, it is calculated and takes into account the potentially belated nature of any reaction from NATO member states.

A NATO counter-attack would happen within 48 to 72 hours, while Russian plans usually envisage a potential attack in less than 24 hours. But, of course, no Russian official would ever admit such a plan exists.

A military confrontation could be triggered by anything. An accident, aircraft or naval collision, could escalate quickly. There have been plenty of air incidents over the Baltic Sea and several in the Black Sea itself in past years, to prove that Russian pilots can behave recklessly.

Whether Bulgaria and Turkey are willing to admit it or not, Russia is building up its military presence in the Black Sea. A change in the balance of power in the region and the ongoing militarisation could push Russia and NATO to the brink of war.

In the worst-case scenario, a cyber attack, accompanied by a propaganda and disinformation campaign, followed by economic sanctions on the three littoral states, would first the cripple the national currencies and banking institutions. A military operation would then be swift.

It may not happen right now and can all still be avoided. But Russia’s leadership is not predictable and that needs to be taken seriously.

Eugene Kogan is a defence and security expert based in Tbilisi, Georgia.

This article was originally published in the European Security and Defence magazine.

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.


Constanta, Romania is US destroyer’s first Black Sea port call

The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Patrick Gearhiser (RELEASED)

After entering the Black Sea on August 18, the crew of the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) will be visiting Romania on the first port call of their Black Sea deployment.

After conducting a replenishment at sea with the Turkish Navy replenishment oiler TCG YB. Kudret (A 595) on August 19, USS Porter traveled to Constanta, Romania, entering the port on August 22.

After a three-day stay at port’s passenger terminal, the destroyer is set to get underway for naval exercises with ships from the Romanian Navy.

Starting on August 24, USS Porter will conduct four days of exercises with Romanian warships which will include the Rear-Admiral Eustațiu Sebastian-class corvette “Horia Macellariu” (F-265).

This is the destroyer’s fourth visit to Romania with the first one taking place in 2006.


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.

Source: PAP, TVP Info, Polsat News



U.S., NATO Forces Train to Deter and Defend in Saber Guardian 2017

CONSTANTA, Romania, July 28, 2017 — The Danube River shore was shrouded in mist from smoke grenades as shells fired from naval guns burst in midair and legions of Romanian infantrymen, paratroopers and armored vehicles amassed on the beach. From behind them, a small contingent of U.S. Army Stryker vehicles cleared the way for the troops by raining gunfire down on the beach sands. 

The event, a river crossing exercise that took place July 16 outside Bordusani, Romania, was one of dozens of combined combat-training exercises that U.S. Army Europe and the armed forces of 21 European partner nations conducted together as part of Saber Guardian 2017. The annual multinational combat-training exercise took place July 11-20 in locations across Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria and involved 25,000 troops — 14,000 from the United States and 11,000 from Europe.

The exercise was the military’s largest land-force exercise in Europe this year, said Marine Corps Col. Mark Van Skike, the chief of joint training and exercises for U.S. European Command. Saber Guardian is one of 18 exercises in Eastern Europe and the Black Sea that fall under the Eucom Joint Exercise Program.

Led by Bulgaria and the U.S., Saber Guardian was hosted by Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania. ‘Other participants include: Armenia, Croatia, Czech, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.

First Sgt. Troy Bradshaw, the senior enlisted adviser for Company C, 1st Battalion, 173rd Airbourne, copletes final checks on a Romanian Paratrooper prior to boarding.

Realistic Training

The U.S. and European units work and train together in realistic combat scenarios that prepare them to respond in unison to any new security crisis that emerges on the continent. They practice coordinating air, land, and sea forces to launch multidomain assaults or defense operations. And they cooperate to mobilize and transport multinational forces to an area at short notice.

“This is a tremendous experience. We’re getting better in interoperability and in establishing secure communications, secure fires and a common operational picture,” said Army Col. Jeff Shoemaker, chief of training, readiness and exercises for U.S. Army Europe.

Deterrence is also a core component of the mission. Brig. Gen. Timothy Daugherty, deputy chief of staff for operations for USAREUR, said the United States demonstrates through these exercises that it will stand with its European partners, and that all the participating nations together show that they can be a powerful unified fighting force — and that adversaries who see this may be much less likely to launch an attack in the first place.

“That is absolutely a viable deterrent. When an adversary sees that we can consolidate … troops very quickly and relatively effectively, that is a deterrent. We’re deterring them, because they know that it would be costly to attack,” Daugherty said.

U.S. Army Europe and its partners conducted the first Saber Guardian exercise in 2013. It took on added importance in its organizers’ eyes a year later with Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, said Army Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the commander of U.S. Army Europe. European military leaders needed assurance that they and the United States could act together to prevent warfare from erupting further west into Europe’s heartland, he said.

Army Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commanding general of U.S. Army Europe, speaks with Serbian medical professionals with the Balkan Medical Task Force during mass casualty medical training at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, Romania, July 16, 2017. The training is part of exercise Saber Guardian 17, a U.S. Army Europe-led multinational exercise that spans across Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania with more than 25,000 service members from 22 allied and partner nations. Army photo by Sgt. Tyler Meister.

Hodges noted that NATO nations held a summit in July 2016 in Warsaw, Poland, in which they called for building a stronger “forward defense force” in Central and Eastern Europe to counteract new regional threats.

“With its illegal annexation of Crimea, Russia changed the security environment in Europe. That’s why the alliance made the decision that we had to reassure our allies and deter further aggression,” Hodges said.

In the meantime, the exercises can better prepare the militaries of NATO member nations if new crises emerge, Shoemaker said. But he, too, foresees Saber Guardian offering NATO some pathways forward.

“The goal is to synchronize the NATO exercise program with the USAREUR exercise program so that they complement one another,” he said. “We have a number of countries that will leave Saber Guardian at a much better level of training, and certainly NATO will benefit from that. It builds the entire multinational military capability.”




Missile Destroyer HMS Duncan first Royal Navy ship to visit Ukraine in eight years

HMS Duncan (D37). Credit: Rob Powell.

A visit by Royal Navy destroyer HMS Duncan to the Ukrainian port of Odessa on July 24 marked the first UK warship visit to Ukraine in eight years.

The Portsmouth-based destroyer led a NATO task group into the Ukrainian port at the start of a three-day visit ahead of exercises with the host nation’s warships.

The force was given a berth in the cruise liner terminal and welcomed by Ukrainian leaders, including the head of the country’s Navy, Vice-Admiral Ihor Voronchenko.

The Type 45 destroyer is leading NATO’s Standing Maritime Naval Group 2 (SNMG2), providing reassurance and deterrence in the Black Sea, as well as commanding NATO’s counter migration activity in the Aegean.

For the next 12 months, the Royal Navy is commanding two of the four NATO Standing Naval Forces, demonstrating the UK’s commitment to and leadership within the alliance.

“HMS Duncan’s visit to Odessa this week is a symbol of our unwavering support to our Ukrainian friends in the face of Russian belligerence and aggression,” UK defence secretary Michael Fallon said. “We are also stepping up our work with NATO this year, leading half of NATO’s standing maritime forces, one of the four enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroups and have deployed Typhoon fast jets to Romania, in a tangible demonstration of our commitment to European security.”

As well as the usual receptions and demonstrations and tours, including a chance for Odessans to look around the visiting warships, cultural visits have been lined up so the sailors can sample one of the grandest and most historic cities in the Ukraine.

Commodore James Morley, the Commander of SNMG2, said: “It is a privilege to lead a NATO task group in to the port of Odessa. HMS Duncan, the newest of the Royal Navy’s Type 45 Destroyers and the Turkish frigate TCG Yildirim have received a very warm welcome.”

The NATO group – Duncan, plus Turkey’s TCG Yildirim and Romanian frigate RS Regele Ferdinand (the former Type 22 HMS Coventry) – sailed into Odessa having just been working with the Bulgarian Navy for its annual Black Sea exercise, Breeze, which saw some of the participants ‘hunting’ the Turkish diesel submarine Preveze.

The 200ft-long silent hunter proved a formidable foe as the Black Sea offers some of the most challenging anti-submarine warfare conditions on the Seven Seas. It’s over two kilometres deep in places and water temperature and salinity make it tricky for sonar to locate boats.

As flagship of NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 2, Duncan co-ordinated their efforts as its staff – some drawn from Black Sea navies – shared their experience and first-hand knowledge of local conditions.

With the hunt concluded, the NATO group made its way from Varna to Odessa – a journey of 300 miles – and was buzzed by RAF Typhoon jets.

The Eurofighters from No.3 Squadron have traded Coningsby for Constanța in Romania to support the Balkan country’s air policing mission over the Black Sea.

Once the Odessa visit is over, the task group will sail in company with ships of the Ukrainian Navy for joint training to strengthen security at sea and in the region.