Finland will conduct a confidence-and-security-building inspection conform to the Vienna Document 2011 in Turkey from 10 to 13 October 2017.
The inspected area is located west of Istanbul and according to the annual reports it is home to 13 military units. The inspection team consists of three Finnish and one Swedish officer. The team is headed by Lieutenant Colonel Joakim Salonen from Defence Command Finland.
The aim of the inspection is to verify that there are no military activities in the specified area that are subject to prior notification according to the Vienna Document.
The aim is also to verify the information about units in the inspection area that Turkey supplied to the OSCE and to train our own personnel for arms control duties and to show Finland’s involvement in multinational arms control as well as its impartiality.
Taking part in the submarine escape and rescue exercise Dynamic Monarch for the first time, NATO’s Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation (CMRE) supported the exercise using a new digital underwater acoustic communications capability providing more effective command and control to escape and rescue operations.
After 10 years of development by CMRE and partners, with support from the NATO Allied Command Transformation (ACT), the first ever standard for digital underwater communications was established in March 2014.
It’s called Janus and is known in formal terms as STANAG4748. Adopted globally, Janus can make military and civilian, NATO and non-NATO devices interoperable, providing them all with a common language with which to communicate and arrange to cooperate.
The prospect of employing Janus for submarine rescue operations is very attractive. Currently, communications during rescue operations are performed solely with the analogue underwater telephones and the usage of the phonetic codes alpha to zulu.
This has the clear problem of needing an operator (that may be required for other equally critical tasks) to handle the communications on the submarine side.
Stress and language phonetic biases may also play a role in the success of the data exchange. By employing Janus for rescue communications, the operator requirement can be removed with automated systems transmitting critical data, and human factors may be removed altogether.
Such operator-dependent factors play an important role in the ability to properly decode analogue underwater telephone communications.
Throughout the exercise CMRE worked closely with Spanish Navy submarine ESPS Tramontana, the NATO Submarine Rescue System, ITS Anteo (Italian Navy) and TCG Inebolu and Alemdar (Turkish Navy).
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.
KUBINKA /Moscow region/, August 28. /TASS/. The Russkiye Vityazi (or Russian Knights), Strizhi (or Swifts), Sokoly Rossii (or Russian Falcons) and Berkuty (or Golden Eagles) Russian aerobatic teams, as well as the Turkish Stars aerobatic team, performed demonstration flights at the Alabino training range, located in the Moscow region, on the last day of the Army-2017 International Military Forum, the forum’s press center said.
“The Strizhi and Berkuty teams performed formation aerobatics using the Mikoyan MiG-29 fighters and the Mil Mi-28N attack helicopters,” a source in the press center said.
“The Sokoly Rossii team performed a simulated two-on-two close air combat involving the Sukhoi Su-35S fighters, while the Turkish Stars carried out demonstrations flights over the Kubinka airfield on the F-5 aircraft,” he added.
Besides, the Russian Aerospace Force’s aircraft also delivered paratroopers to the site right before the eyes of spectators and provided air fire support, the press center said.
The Army-2017 International Military Forum was held on August 22-27, venues included training ranges of Russia’s Western, Southern, Central and Eastern Military Districts and the Northern Fleet.
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 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.
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.”
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.
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.
Russian planes were scrambled 11 times during the past seven days to intercept foreign aircraft near Russian borders, the Russian Defense Ministry said in its weekly infographics published on Friday.
According to the ministry’s data, 18 foreign aircraft conducted air surveillance near the Russian borders.
“Any violation of the Russian airspace was prevented,” the ministry said.
The ministry also said that the Russian military conducted two inspections in foreign states – in the United States under the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) and in Canada under the Open Skies Treaty. On the Russian territory, an inspection under the Open Skies Treaty was carried out by Turkey.
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — The U.S. Air Force has yet to stand up a squadron of F-35s in Europe, but it’s already working on how to integrate the fifth-generation combat jet with some of its closest allies in the region.
U.S. Air Forces in Europe this week brought together about 50 senior military fliers and planners from eight nations, all with a stake in the newest and most expensive fighter aircraft on the block.
The two-day forum on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter served to promote cooperation among the U.S. and its European counterparts that are already flying the plane or plan to do so. The goal was to share lessons learned and build common approaches that will support integrated flying operations in Europe in the future.
“We have to find a way to nest it all together,” said Gen. Tod Wolters, USAFE and Air Forces Africa commander.
“At the end of the day, if we can say this is something that we’re fusing into the system … we’re in a great place,” he told the group, which included fighter pilots, base commanders and chiefs of staff. The Army, NATO and the Marine Corps also sent representatives, as did Lockheed Martin, the F-35 Lightning II manufacturer.
The forum, which concluded late Thursday, was the first of its kind in Europe, officials said. It followed a similar conference held in March in the Pacific, where Japan, South Korea and Australia have all purchased the F-35.
Joining the U.S. at the European forum were Israel, Italy, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Turkey. Those nations have all purchased the aircraft. Israel and Italy are the first to be flying the plane in the region.
“We like to remind (people that) Italy was the first nation to fly the airplane overseas, across the Atlantic, so we are very proud of that,” said Maj. Gen. Aurelio Colagrande, chief of staff of Italy’s air command, noting that his country’s air force currently has three F-35s in its inventory.
The aircraft has had problems, he said, but that’s to be expected from a “brand-new machine.”
Despite those challenges, “we are very confident that the F-35 is a very capable airplane and all the issues that we are having right now will be solved in the future,” he said.
In the States, too, the F-35 program has been beset by technical and other problems. Most recently, F-35A flight operations at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., were temporarily paused last month when some pilots experienced symptoms similar to hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation.
The U.S. is expected to spend nearly $400 billion to buy about 2,443 aircraft, making it the Pentagon’s most expensive procurement program in history. President Donald Trump, Sen. John McCain and other prominent critics of the program have assailed its budget overruns.
But Lockheed Martin officials said Thursday the company is continuing to drive down costs because of manufacturing efficiencies gained through increased production rates. They expect to drop the cost for one aircraft to $85 million in 2019, about the same price tag as a fourth-generation fighter, said Bob Dulaney, a Lockhead Martin aeronautics representative.
The cost for the Air Force version of the plane fell below $100 million for the first time earlier this year, according to a February report in The New York Times.
The U.S. Air Force in Europe is still on track to stand up its first squadron overseas at Royal Air Force Lakenheath in 2020, said Col. Todd Canterbury, director of Headquarters Air Force F-35 Integration Office.
“Facilities are under construction as we speak,” he said, “as well as other infrastructure that comes with adding two more squadrons.”
It’s been a long time since the U.S. and some of its European allies and partners gained a new aircraft system around the same time, said Maj. Gen Timothy Fay, USAFE-AFAFRICA vice commander.
“Bringing the F-35 into this theater will really change the way we do business here in a way that we probably haven’t seen for decades,” Fay said.
The Pentagon says it has raised its concerns with Turkey after a Turkish news agency published a map of U.S. military posts in northern Syria.
The state-run Anadolu News Agency printed the map Wednesday, showing 10 U.S. locations in a portion of Syria under Syrian-Kurdish control.
Turkey says the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit is the armed branch of the Kurdish Democratic Party, which Turkey considers to be a terrorist group.
A Pentagon spokesman said U.S. military officials cannot identify the source of the map, but “would be very concerned if officials from a NATO ally would purposefully endanger our forces by releasing sensitive information.”
The Pentagon would not confirm if the information on the map is accurate.
Turkey has agreed to purchase as many as four S-400 missile defence systems from Russia for $2.5bn, a report said on Thursday.
The deal signifies a shift from Turkish reliance on NATO for military aid.
As it stands now, Russia will send two S-400s to Turkey next year with plans to build another two inside Turkey, Bloomberg News reported, citing a Turkish official.
It would mark the first time that Turkey has bought high-tech military equipment from Russia since an arms agreement was made after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Turkey currently relies on NATO-deployed missile batteries for long-range defence and any S-400 bought by Turkey would not be able to intergrate into the NATO system.
Prior to the potential S-400 deal, Turkey had purchased only minor weaponry including rocket-propelled grenades from Russia.
Russia first participated in a Turkish military tender for attack helicopters in 1995, but failed with a joint Israeli bid.
Russian forces deployed S-400s to Syria last year to protect its bases, although the system failed to detect or disrupt a US Tomahawk cruise missile strike on a Syrian government airbase in April, prompting consternation among Russian defence experts.
Meanwhile, Russia is open to discussing partially lifting its ban on tomato imports from Turkey, provided the move does not harm its own farmers or investors, agriculture minister Alexander Tkachev told Reuters on Thursday.
In a bid to resolve a trade row with Russia, Ankara has proposed that Moscow lift the ban on Turkish tomatoes during periods when Russian farmers are unable to grow their own.
The leader of Turkey’s main opposition party completed a 25-day “March for Justice” from the capital Ankara to Istanbul Sunday and joined hundreds of thousands of supporters at a rally against a large-scale government crackdown on opponents.
Republican People’s Party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu launched the 450-kilometre march after a parliamentarian from his party was imprisoned in June. The march grew into a protest of the massive clampdown on people with alleged links to terror groups that began after a coup attempt last summer.
“Why did we march?” Kilicdaroglu said while addressing the rally. “We walked for the non-existent justice. We walked for the rights of the oppressed, for the imprisoned lawmakers, the jailed journalists… We walked for the academics who were thrown out of universities.”
Once seen as feeble in his role as opposition leader, Kilicdaroglu has emerged as the voice of many Turks and been likened to India’s Mahatma Gandhi, who led a nonviolent march against British colonial practices.
Tens of thousands of people joined Kilicdaroglu throughout his march in scorching heat, chanting “rights, law, justice.” Hundreds of thousands greeted him at the Istanbul rally, while waving Turkish flags and flags emblazoned with the word “justice.”
“No one should think the end of this march is the end. This march was our first step,” Kilicdaroglu said. “July 9 is a new step. July 9 is a new climate. July 9 is a new history.”
The opposition leader called on judges and prosecutors to act independently and according to their “conscience” instead of in line with the wishes of “the palace” — a reference to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
He also called for an end to a state of emergency that was declared following the failed coup and which has allowed the government to rule by decrees, with minimal input from parliament.
“We want the state of emergency to be removed and for Turkey to normalize,” Kilicdaroglu said. “We want politics kept out of the judiciary, the (army) barracks and of mosques. We want a neutral and independent justice. We want a Turkey where journalists are not jailed.”
‘There is no justice’
Organizers said the weekslong event expressed “a collective, nonpartisan desire for an independent and fair judicial system” that they claim is lacking in Turkey. The Republican People’s Party did not allow party flags or slogans during the march because it wanted the event to be non-partisan.
Party officials said more than a million people attended the closing rally.
“There is no justice,” Muhammer Dogan, 64, who joined the rally, said. “Innocent people are being imprisoned. They are being victimized.”
The government has accused Kilicdaroglu of supporting terrorist groups through his protest. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he is violating the law by attempting to influence the judiciary.
Turkey’s definition of supporting terror is so broad that it has caused an impasse in the country’s bid for European Union membership.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also arrived in Istanbul on Sunday to accept an oil industry award and to meet with Turkey’s foreign minister and Erdogan.
Parliament member Enis Berberoglu was sentenced last month to 25 years in prison for revealing state secrets for allegedly leaking footage to an opposition newspaper suggesting that Turkey’s intelligence service had smuggled weapons to Islamist rebels in Syria.
The state of emergency has led to the arrest of more than 50,000 people and the dismissal of some 100,000 civil servants. A dozen lawmakers from the pro-Kurdish opposition party have also been jailed.
Ordinary citizens, sacked public employees and high-profile figures have joined Kilicdaroglu on his march. Novelist Asli Erdogan and leading Kurdish politician Ahmet Turk, both released from jail pending trial on various terror-related charges, as well as Yonca Sik, the wife of a prominent journalist currently in prison, were just a few.
Istanbul governor Vasip Sahin said 15,000 police officers were providing security at the post-march rally.