Tensions on the Rise Between NATO and RussiaNovember 16, 2016 in Uncategorized
Britain has disclosed that it will send fighter jets to Romania next year while the United States has promised troops, tanks and artillery to Poland in what is NATO’s biggest military build-up on Russia’s borders since the Cold War.
NATO’s aim is to make good on a July promise by NATO leaders to deter Russia in Europe’s ex-Soviet states, after Moscow orchestrated the annexation of the Crimea peninsula in 2014. During a defense ministers meeting in Brussels in late October, several NATO allies joined the four battle groups led by the United States, Germany, Britain and Canada to go to Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. Canada has stated that it was sending 450 troops to Latvia, joined by 140 military personnel from Italy. Britain’s Defense Secretary Michale Fallon disclosed that Britain would send an 800-strong battalion to Estonia, supported by French and Danish troops, starting from May. London is also sending Typhoon fighter aircraft to Romania to patrol around the Black Sea, partly in support of Turkey. Fallon noted that “although we are leaving the European Union, we will be doing more to help secure the eastern and southern flanks of NATO.” Meanwhile Germany has stated that it was sending between 400 and 600 troops to Lithuania, with additional forces from the Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Croatia and Luxembourg.
According to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, allies’ commitments would be “a clear demonstration of our transatlantic bond.” Meanwhile diplomats have disclosed that the move would also send a message to US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has complained that European allies do not pay their way in the alliance.
Stoltenberg has disclosed that the troop contributions to a new 4,000-strong force in the Baltics and Eastern Europe were a measured response to what the alliance believes are some 330,000 Russian troops that are stationed on Russia’s western flank near Moscow. NATO’s plan is to set up four battle groups with a total of some 4,000 troops from early next year, backed by a 40,000-strong rapid-reaction force, and if need be, follow-on forces. According to US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, as part of that, a “battle-ready battalion task force” of about 900 soldiers would be deployed to eastern Poland, as well as another, separate force equipped with tanks and other heavy equipment to move across eastern Europe, adding “it’s a major sign of the US commitment to strengthening deterrence here.” Stoltenberg has disclosed that “this month alone, Russia has deployed nuclear-capable Iskander missiles to Kaliningrad and suspended a weapons-grade plutonium agreement with the United States.” Those ballistic missiles can hit targets across Poland and the Baltics however NATO officials have declined to disclose whether Russi had moved nuclear warheads to Kaliningrad. He further accused Russia of continued support for rebels in Ukraine.
The decision to deploy additional forces in Eastern Europe came on the same day that two Russian warships armed with cruise missiles entered the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Denmark, underscoring East-West tensions. Russian media reported in late October that Russia is sharply upgrading the firepower of its Baltic Fleet by adding warships armed with ling-range cruise missiles to counter NATO’s build-up in the region. While so far there has been no official confirmation from Moscow, the reports will raise tensions in the Baltic region, and will particularly cause alarm in Poland and Lithuania, which border Russia’s base there. NATO and the Swedish military have confirmed that the two warships have entered the Baltic.
Russia’s daily Izvestia newspaper cited a military source as stating that the first two of five ships, the Serpukhov and the Zeleny Dol, had already entered the Baltic Sea and would soon become part of a newly formed division in Kaliningrad, which is Russia’s European exclave that is sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania. Another source familiar with the situation told the Interfax news agency that the two warships would be joining the Baltic Fleet in the coming days. According to the source, “with the appearance of two small missile ships armed with the Kalibr cruise missiles the Fleet’s potential targeting range will be significantly expanded in the northern European military theatre.”