Tag: Russia

Finland indicates possibility of joining NATO – OPINION

In an interview with the Russian newspaper Kommersant, Finnish Minister of Foreign Affairs Timo Soini has stated that he does not rule out the possibility that his country will join the North Atlantic Alliance in the future.

“Neither Finland nor Sweden is yet part of NATO, and as I understand, our countries are not currently discussing accession to NATO. We should not exclude the possibility of joining NATO.

Every country should have that opportunity, and that is why open-door politics is important to us,” said Soini.
At the same time, he specified that “the position of the current government of Finland is such” that it [joining NATO] is currently “irrelevant”.

Additionally, Soini confirmed Finland’s commitment to the policy of sanctions against Russia for its actions in the Crimea and the Donbas: “I do not want to speculate on this issue: for now, as you can see, the EU foreign ministers have repeatedly and unanimously continued the package of sanctions for the next six months.”


Final stage of CSTO joint military exercise takes place in Kazakhstan

The final stage of the CSTO joint military exercise took place in Kazakhstan.

The Collective Rapid Reaction Force of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) began the two-week exercise at Kazakhstan’s Matybulak training grounds on October 2, with more than 7,000 personnel from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan taking part.

The CSTO comprises Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

According to the CSTO Secretariat, the exercise is aimed at practicing the deployment of the force in crisis situations on the territory of member states.


NATO Not Ready In Case Of Russian Attack – report


NATO would not be able to rebuff a potential Russian attack on its eastern flank, according to an internal report cited on October 20 by German weekly Der Spiegel.

The paper, titled Progress Report On The Strengthened Deterrence And Defense Capability Of The Alliance, pointed to significant deficiencies.

“NATO’s ability to logistically support rapid reinforcement in the strongly expanded territory of the European commander’s area of responsibility has atrophied since the end of the Cold War,” Der Spiegel quoted the report as saying.

Even the strengthening of the NATO Response Force (NRF) has failed to ensure that it could “react rapidly and — if necessary — sustainably,” it said.

The report cited a downsized command structure since the fall of communism as one of the paramount elements that has undermined the alliance’s defense capabilities, Der Spiegel quoted the report as saying.

NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu declined to comment on the German magazine report but said that alliance “forces are more ready and able to deploy than at any time in decades.”

Lungescu said that efforts are “under way to ensure that the NATO command structure remains robust, agile, and fit for purpose.”

The alliance’s command structure is to be discussed at a meeting of NATO defense ministers next month.
NATO’s relations with Russia are at their lowest since the Cold War over the conflict in Ukraine.


Russia stands by promise to deliver six MiG-29 fighter jets to Serbia

Russia has kept its promise to deliver six Mikoyan MiG-29 fighters to Serbia, which was timed to coincide with the 73rd anniversary of the liberation of Belgrade from Nazi Germany, Russian Defense Minister Army General Sergei Shoigu said.

The Russian defense minister made this statement at a meeting with his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vulin.

“In August, when you were in Moscow, I promised that by the time of this celebration the planes will arrive in Belgrade. The planes are now in Belgrade. I am sure that they will serve as a reliable shield and a guarantor of Serbia’s independence and security,” Shoigu said.

The six MiG-29 fighter jets have been delivered to Serbia by decision of Russian President Vladimir Putin. It was reported earlier that the six MiG-29 fighters had flown from Russia to Serbia in early October.

Serbia is grateful to Russia for the transfer of six MiG-29 fighters, the Serbian defense minister said, stressing the importance of the agreement between the presidents of Russia and Serbia.

“Thanks to this, we can say that today we have a possibility to defend our sky,” Vulin told his Russian counterpart.

“I want to thank you personally, dear minister because I know how many efforts and much labor were needed to do all this. Thank you that today you are participating in this celebration together with us,” the Serbian defense minister said.
The six MiG-29 fighter jets arrived in Serbia in a group of two planes a day on October 2-4. Now they will undergo modernization that will be carried out in three stages and will cost Serbia 180-230 million euros.

In addition to the MiG-29 planes, Serbia will also receive 30 T-72 tanks and 30 BRDM-2 combat reconnaissance and patrol vehicles from Russia for free. The sides are also holding negotiations on Buk-M1 and Buk-M2 air defense missile systems and the Tunguska antiaircraft missile/gun complex.

T-72B3M (2016 model)

The Russian defense minister also noted that Russia and Serbia had big plans for military and military-technical cooperation.

“In accordance with the decisions by the presidents of Russia and Serbia, we have a large-scale program for both military and military-technical cooperation,” Shoigu said and suggested that he and Vulin should discuss further cooperation plans.






Russian defense contractor developing new heavy helicopter prototype

Mi-28 and Mi-26T2V

Russian Helicopters Group will modernize the Mil Mi-26 helicopter for Russia’s Defense Ministry and is now developing a prototype of a new Mi-26T2V rotocraft, the company’s press office reported on Friday.

“On the basis of the design documentation developed by the Moscow Mil Helicopter Enterprise, Rostvertol Company is carrying out work to develop a prototype of a new Mi-26T2V helicopter with the subsequent flight trials,” the rotocraft manufacturer’s press office said.

Based on the customer’s requirements, the Mi-26T2V helicopter should be able to fly in any geographical region and any weather conditions. The number of the crewmembers of a modernized helicopter has remained unchanged and equals five men.

Valery Matytsin/TASS

“The new helicopter will embody the latest technical solutions considering its use in combat conditions. I want to note that the talk is about the upgrade of precisely the military version of the Mi-26 rather than the Mi-26T rotocraft, which is exported,” Russian Helicopters CEO Andrei Boginsky was quoted by the company’s press office as saying.

The upgraded Mi-26T2V helicopter will have a lifting capacity of 20 tonnes. The helicopter will be fitted out with modern NPK90-2 integrated onboard radio-electronic equipment and also with an onboard defensive aids system to protect the helicopter against missiles of various homing types.




Lavrov attacks Norway, says relations on Svalbard should be better

Foreign ministers’ meeting in Arkhangelsk. Photo: Atle Staalesen

The Russian foreign minister accuses Norway of encroaching on Russian rights on the Arctic archipelago.

The setting was Barents Cooperation and cross-border interaction, but it was Arctic militarization and Norwegian policy at Svalbard which became the key issues in today’s press conference following the Barents Euro-Arctic Council meeting.

In what appeared as a well-prepared answer, the Russian foreign minister lashed out against his Norwegian counterpart.

Relations in Spitsbergen could clearly have been much more constructive, he underlined. Russian legitimate rights in the area are periodically being restricted, he added.

“The Russian MFA last year submitted two diplomatic notes about Svalbard to the Norwegian side, but no response has been made,” Lavrov complained.

“We have on several occasions called for dialogue over these issues, but the Norwegians do not respond. I believe this does not correspond with good neighbourly relations”, he underlined.

The statements come after newspaper Kommersant recently published a report shedding light on strategic document from the Russian Ministry of Defense allegedly highlighting the archipelago as a potential conflict area.

Barents foreign ministers. Photo: Atle Staalesen

Disagreement over Svalbard Treaty

According to Lavrov, Norway is illegitimately restricting Russian company Arktikugol and its flying with helicopters in the archipelago, and also the development of Russian research and tourism activities in the area.

He also complained about the local Norwegian tax regime, which reportedly does not allow the local Russians to spend collected taxes for their own purposes in Barentsburg, the Russian-dominated local settlement.

“We are talking about very concrete issues, about Russians in the area engaging in activities permitted by the Svalbard Treaty.”

The treaty from 1920 gives Norway full sovereignty over the archipelago, but signatory states are allowed to engage in economic activities. The Russians have since the early 1930s operated coal mines in the area and is currently in the process of building up local research and tourism facilities.

Norwegian sovereignty

“Norway is complying to every comma in the Svalbard Treaty,” Børge Brende responded. “This is a part of Norway and that should not be questioned,” he underlined.

Geographical location of Svalbard (dark green)

“But we are taking great effort to make Svalbard the best managed Arctic archipelago in the world, and that concerns also environment.”

Beyond that, the Norwegian foreign minister said he was not much interested in using the press conference to discuss Svalbard. The issue is highly sensitive. And it was Brende’s last day as foreign minister. After four years in the post, he now leaves Norway to become president in the World Economic Forum

Enhanced military presence in Finnmark

The Russian critical words against Norway did not stop with Svalbard. According to the Russian foreign minister, there are worries in Moscow also about Norway’s stronger military emphasis on Finnmark, the country’s northernmost region.

“Yes, we are of course concerned about the buildup of troops and the stronger role of Nato in the region,” Lavrov said.

“We see this as part of a carefully planned strategy directed against Russia.”

“Considering the fact that we are neighbours, we would have expected otherwise,” he underlined.

However, at the same time, earlier the same day, Lavrov praise the regional government of Finnmark for its friendly and cooperative approach to neighbouring Russia. Finnmark this week took over the chair of the Barents Regional Council, a cooperation body including the northern territories of Norway, Russia, Finland and Sweden.


Large areas in Barents and Kara Seas closed off for missiles shooting

The drawings are made by the Barents Observer based on coordinates from the Port administration for northwestern Russia. Map: Google Earth

Russia bans sailing around Novaya Zemlya for a period of ten days in the Barents Sea.

The Port Administration for Northwestern Russia has issued several navigation warnings for larger parts of the eastern Barents Sea and Kara Sea. All warnings read: ‘Missiles shooting’ and are posted on the portal of the agency.

The warnings are for different dates within the period from Tuesday October 17th and last until October 30th.

The warning regarding the costal waters just northeast of the Kildin Island north of Murmansk, followed by a warning for the same dates further north in the Barents Sea is typical for a submarine launched intercontinental ballistic missile (SLBM). Such test-launchings are normally done submerged, either from a Delta-IV class or a Borei class submarine.

Both the Northern Fleet’s six Delta-IV submarine and the Borei submarine Yury Dologuky are based in Gadzhiyevo on the coast of the Kola Peninsula, a few hours sailing from the area east of Kildin marked on the map.

The larger sealed off area in the northern part of the Barents Sea is where the first stage of the missile is separated and fells to the sea before the rest of the missile enters orbit on its way to the target on a shooting range on the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Far East.

Cross-Arctic SLBMs

Similarly, when sailing restrictions are announced for the waters in the Chosha Bay, east of the Kanin Peninsula, another SLBM is likely on its way in the opposite direction. Launched from one of the Pacific fleet’s Delta-III or Borei class submarines towards the Chizha range on Cape Kanin. Such trans-Arctic criss-cross ballistic missile tests are carried out several times in recent years when Russia is exercising its strategic nuclear rocket forces.

Russian Delta-IV submarine in the Barents Sea. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Both warnings indicating ballistic missile testings are valid for the 10 days period October 20th to 30th.

The warning issued for the waters around Novaya Zemlya is dated from October 17th to 22nd. Normally when waters around Novaya Zemlya are sealed off, it indicates testing of one or several cruise missiles, either submarine launched or from a larger surface warship.

This time, however, the sealed off area is much larger than normal, including both the Barents Sea side of Novaya Zemlya and the southwestern part of the Kara Sea.

The only information attached to the agency’s civilian warning is, as stated: ‘Missiles shooting’.

Screenshot of warning issued to sailers by the Port administration for northwestern Russia.

U.S. with similar warnings

Similar warnings like the ones issued by Russia’s civilian port administration, are also to be found on the public portal of the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Here, the two warnings regarding the Barents Sea for the period October 20th to October 30th are listed and marked with: ‘Hazardous operations’ and ‘Missile operations’. The coordinates are similar to the ones published in Russia.


Foreign Ministers line up for Barents talks in Arkhangelsk

Foreign Ministers of Finland, Sweden and Norway. From left Timo Soini, Margot Wallström and Børge Brende. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov invites for Barents Council meeting where cross-border, low tension cooperation tops the agenda.

“High north – Low tension” is the slogan for Norway’s Børge Brende when he on Wednesday travels to Arkhangelsk for the 16th Barents Foreign Minister’s Session. The tour, Brende’s third to Russia this year, will also be the last before he leaves office.

The Barents cooperation, involving the northernmost regions of Russia, Sweden, Finland and Norway was initiated in 1993, aimed at tearing down barriers that hampered contact and economic ties after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Formally, the Barents Council Session takes place Thursday morning, but Russia’s Foreign Minister has already announced he will have bi-lateral meetings with the three Nordic Foreign Ministers starting with a dinner on Wednesday.

“Wider Arctic cooperation”

Lavrov’s spokeswomen Maria Zakharov told reporters at the weekly briefing in Moscow last Friday that development of cross-border economic ties, the forest sector, health, rights of indigenous peoples, education, youth exchange and joint responses to emergency situations are topics for discussions.

Russia has chaired the Barents Council for the last two years and will now hand over the chairmanship to Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallström for the period 2017-2019.

Next year, the Barents cooperation marks its 25th anniversary.

Finland’s Foreign Minister, Timo Soini, stresses in a press release before travelling to Arkhangelsk that the Barents cooperation “is part of a wider Arctic cooperation.” Soini is currently the chair of the Arctic Council.

Arctic Exclusive Economic Zones

Tematic working groups

Although the foreign ministers meet every second year, the Barents cooperation on the daily basis includes a wide-range of working groups, from transport, tourism and economic cooperation to environment, health and indigenous peoples. The groups include experts from all the four Barents countries. In total, there are 14 such working groups with members from regional and state levels.

An international Barents Secretariat coordinates the work with employees from all four member countries.

Arkhangelsk Oblast regional government-building is the venue for the Barents Council Session. Photo: Thomas Nilsen


Rosneft discovers more than 80 million tons of oil in new offshore Arctic well

Drilling along coast of Laptev Sea. Photo: Rosneft.ru

The oil in the Tsentralno-Olginskaya-1 field is of high quality, light and low in sulphur, the company says.

It is the first ever well drilled in the Laptev Sea and drilling results show significant resources. According to Rosneft, the Tsentralno-Olginskaya-1 holds at least 80 million tons of oil.

It is the Russian oil company’s only offshore well drilled this year. The operation is conducted from the shore of the Khara-Tumus peninsula, a part of the Gulf of Khatanga, where Rosneft over the last year has developed a research and exploitation base.

The well was spud in early April this year and Rosneft leader Igor Sechin had President Vladimir Putin on the line directly from the Kremlin in connection with the event.

It is the first ever well drilled in the Laptev Sea and drilling results show significant resources. According to Rosneft, the Tsentralno-Olginskaya-1 holds at least 80 million tons of oil.

Rosneft base on Laptev Sea coast

It is the Russian oil company’s only offshore well drilled this year. The operation is conducted from the shore of the Khara-Tumus peninsula, a part of the Gulf of Khatanga, where Rosneft over the last year has developed a research and exploitation base.

The well was spud in early April this year and Rosneft leader Igor Sechin had President Vladimir Putin on the line directly from the Kremlin in connection with the event.

The Gulf of Khatanga, Laptev Sea

The Gulf of Khatanga is among the least accessible places in the Russian Arctic. Located east of the Taymyr Peninsula by the ice-covered Laptev Sea, the license area is open for regular shipping only two months in the year. The nearest settlement is Khatanga, a town with a population of about 2,500 located about 350 km to the southwest.

Rosneft says it pins high hopes to the development of the Laptev Sea which it believes could hold as much as 9,5 billion tons of geological reserves.

In a meeting in the Kremlin in June, Rosneft leader Sechin brought with him a drill core sample from the Tsentralno-Olginskaya-1.

“We can inform you, Vladimir Vladimirovich, that we, based on preliminary analysis, are about to open a very serious field”, Sechin said as he handed the President the core sample.


Russian Navy’s aviation to get 10 upgraded antisubmarine warfare helicopters a year

Sergey Savostyanov/TASS

The Russian Navy’s aviation arm plans to receive 10 modernized Kamov Ka-27M antisubmarine warfare helicopters a year, Russia’s Defense Ministry reported on Monday.

“This year, the number of Ka-27 helicopters arriving for naval aviation will make up another ten rotocraft. In compliance with the state armament program, the naval aviation is planned to be receiving 10 upgraded Ka-27M helicopters a year until the entire pool of these choppers is modernized,” the Defense Ministry said.

The first eight Ka-27M helicopters arrived for the Navy’s aviation in 2016. The helicopters are being modernized at the Kumertau Aircraft Production Enterprise.

“The helicopters have received upgraded onboard radio-electronic equipment and a search system that allows using new systems of searching for and destroying submarines, and also radio-acoustic equipment that helps considerably improve the fulfilment of designated missions by this type of helicopters,” the Defense Ministry said.

Kamov Ka-27M

The helicopter incorporates modern methods of information transmission to ground-based and shipborne command posts while its system of communication with other helicopters has been modernized. The crews of Ka-27M helicopters are undergoing training at the naval aviation flight personnel training center in Yeisk.

Ka-27 multi-purpose helicopters of various modifications are the mainstay of the naval aviation’s helicopter pool. They provide antisubmarine defense of naval groups, search for, detect and destroy submarines and are capable of searching for and rescuing the crews of aircraft, ships and vessels in distress at sea.




NATO fighter-jets enjoy 1st quiet week in 6 months

Belgian Air Component F-16AM Fighting Falcons

NATO fighter-jets guarding the Baltic skies enjoyed the first quiet week in nearly six months, with no scrambles last week, the Lithuanian Defense Ministry said.

According to the press release, NATO jets did not have to intercept any Russian warplanes in the international airspace above the Baltic Sea on Oct. 9-15.

The last calm week was reported in early May. The past summer was rather intense for the NATO air-policing mission, with weeks involving a dozen or a few dozen scrambles.

The NATO air-policing mission in the Baltic states is conducted from Lithuania and Estonia.