BALTIC-2-BLACK: Russia Targets Black Sea Ports; Allies Send Arms to Ukraine; Sweden and Finland Worried

March 3, 2022 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

Since 2015, 4GWAR Blog has reported that Russia’s belligerent behavior has been making its neighbors nervous from the Barents Sea in the Arctic to the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea farther south. And now open warfare has broken out with Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine.

UPDATES first Ukraine item with new details on situation at Black Sea cities (in italics).

BLACK SEA

Ukraine Invasion.

Russian forces captured a strategic Ukrainian port and besieged another Thursday (March 3) in a bid to cut the country off from the sea, the Associated Press reported.

While Moscow’s advance on Ukraine’s capital has apparently stalled over the past few days, its military has made significant gains in the south, as part of an effort to sever Ukraine’s connection to the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

Black Sea region (Map by Norman Einstein via Wikipedia)

The Russian military said it had taken control of Kherson, a ship-building center on the Dnieper River (see map below), and local Ukrainian officials confirmed that forces have taken over local government headquarters in the Black Sea port of 280,000, making it the first major city to fall since the invasion began.

Capturing Kherson could clear the way for Russian forces to push westward toward Odessa — a much bigger prize — as they try to seize Ukraine’s entire Black Sea coast, cutting it off from world shipping, the New York Times reported.

At the Pentagon on Friday (March 4) Defense Department spokesman John Kirby said detailed knowledge of how things are going on the ground in Ukraine “has limits.”

“As of this morning, we haven’t seen any significant naval activity in the Black Sea that would lead us to believe that an assault on Odessa is imminent. That doesn’t mean that won’t change over coming hours. It very well could.”

He noted that Russian forces out of Crimea and heading off to the west through Kherson “are now beginning an assault on a town called Mykoliav (above Crimea and to the left on map below). “That town is not far from Odessa, just up the coast, a little bit northeast of Odessa.”   

(Map of Ukraine. Courtesy of https://www.nationsonline.org) Click on the map to enlarge image.

Russian troops have gained ground near the port city of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov (above Crimea and to the right in map above), while naval forces gathered offshore, raising fears of an amphibious assault on a city where local officials said there was no power or heat, according to the Times.

The beaches of Odessa, once popular with tourists and locals, are now covered with mines, the sand is being used to fill sandbags and Russian warships can been seen out on the Black Sea, the Washinton Post reported Friday (March 4).

People in Odessa, a critical port and Ukraine’s third-largest city with about 1 million people, are not wondering if Russia plans to launch an assault here. They are sure it will, the Post noted.

***

Allies and Partners

The United States believes that Russian forces will increasingly rely on artillery fire as they draw nearer to population centers and begin siege tactics in earnest.

The flow of weaponry to Ukraine increased this week when Germany opened its stockpiles and Australia said it would provide Kyiv with about $70 million in “lethal military assistance,” including missiles and unspecified weapons, the Washington Post reported.

On Wednesday (March 2), Ukraine announced that it had received a shipment of Turkish drones and used them in recent days to damage advancing Russian armored columns. Turkey, which is trying to maintain stable relations with both Russia and Ukraine, did not comment on the shipment.

Ankara has called Russia’s assault on Ukraine unacceptable, but it has also opposed sanctions on Moscow. In response to Russia’s invasion, Turkey last month closed its Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits linking the Mediterranean and Black Seas to warships under a 1936 pact, limiting passage of some Russian vessels, according to Reuters. 

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Ukrainians were sent military aid within the past day, but he did not describe what was included and how it was delivered, according to the Post.

On Monday (February 28), Italy joined a long list of countries promising weaponry to Ukraine as the East European country defends itself against the Russian invasion.

The pledge by Rome took the number of nations in line to deliver military hardware and funding to Kyiv to over a dozen, including the United States and Canada, according to Defense News. The Italian cabinet approved a measure authorizing the dispatch of Stinger surface-to-air missiles, mortars and Milan, or Panzerfaust, anti-tank weapons.

Germany has promised to send 1,000 anti-tank weapons, 500 Stinger missiles, nine howitzers and 14 armored vehicles to Ukraine. Like Germany, Norway is reversing a policy of not supplying combatant countries by delivering up to 2,000 2,000 M72 anti-tank weapons.

Sweden has pledged to send 5,000 anti-tank weapons, while Finland is dispatching 1,500 rocket launchers and 2,500 assault rifles. The Netherlands will also send 200 Stinger missiles following a specific request to the European Union for the surface-to-air weapon. For Sweden, it’s the first time it’s offered military aid since 1939, when it assisted Finland against the Soviet Union, according to The Associated Press.

*** *** ***

BALTIC SEA

Sweden and Finland Worried

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has profoundly changed Europe’s security outlook, including for Nordic neutrals Finland and Sweden, where support for joining NATO has surged to record levels.

Support for joining NATO has surged to record levels in Nordic neutrals Finland and Sweden. A poll commissioned by Finnish broadcaster YLE showed — for the first time — that more than 50 percent of Finns support joining the Western military alliance. In neighboring Sweden, a similar poll showed those in favor of NATO membership outnumber those against, the AP reported from Helsinki, Finland’s capital.

Moscow has warned it would be forced to take retaliatory measures if Finland and Sweden joined the alliance. A similar stance that prompted Russian forces to invade Ukraine eight days ago.

Neither country is going to join the alliance overnight. Support for NATO membership rises and falls, and there’s no clear majority for joining in their parliaments.

*** *** ***

U.S. Lawmakers Seek Baltic Aid

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is prompting some in Congress to reconsider the U.S. security structure in the Baltics, where leaders have long sought the placement of permanent American military bases in their countries.

“Having a U.S. flag there – a permanent one – is a deterrence,” Don Bacon, a Nebraska Republican, said during a House Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday (March 1). “Russia will know they’re not just going into the Baltics… but they are attacking U.S. forces when they do so. I think it will have a reassuring effect for the Baltics, who are very small,” added Bacon, the co-chairman of the congressional Baltic Caucus.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the only former Soviet republics to join NATO and the European Union, are considered by military experts to be the alliance’s most vulnerable flank, Stars and Stripes reported.

In a news conference last month with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Lithuania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabrielius Landsbergis reiterated his country’s request for long-term American forces to boost security there. Lithuania and Latvia border Belarus, where Russian President Vladimir Putin stationed 30,000 troops before launching a full-scale attack on Ukraine last week from Russian and Belarusian territory.

The U.S. has maintained a 500-troop battalion on rotation in Lithuania since 2019 but Congress appears ready to deepen engagement in the region.

Along with Bacon, Representative Mike Rogers of Alabama, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said establishing permanent American basing in the Baltics, as well as Romania and Poland, would show serious U.S. commitment to safeguarding NATO’s eastern flank.

At the same hearing, Mara Karlin, assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans, and capabilities, told the committee that the Pentagon’s Global Posture Review, signed off by President Joe Biden in November, needs an overhaul in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Air Force magazine reported.

The review, conducted by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last summer, “looked closely at our posture in Europe and saw largely that it was about right” at the time, Karlin said. But with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a potential threat to NATO partners in the Baltics and Black Sea region, the situation has become “dynamic,” she said.

That will require another look to ensure Russia is deterred from attacking NATO, Karlin said. The goal is to “absolutely, 150 percent, say that NATO is safe and secure.” Options being examined include increased numbers of troops and other capabilities, where they would be placed, and whether additional forces would be deployed on “a rotational or permanent” basis, she said.

*** *** ***

BARENTS SEA

Tensions between Russia and its Arctic neighbors have also spread in recent years.

While most of the world focused on the conflict in Ukraine, Russian nuclear submarines sailed off for drills in the Barents Sea Tuesday (March 1) after President Vladimir Putin ordered his nation’s nuclear forces put on high alert.

Russia’s Northern Fleet said in a statement that several of its nuclear submarines were involved in exercises designed to “train maneuvering in stormy conditions.” It said several warships tasked with protecting northwest Russia’s Kola Peninsula, where several naval bases are located, would join the maneuvers, the Associated Press reported in a story carried by numerous outlets including ABC News, Britain’s The Independent and the Times of Israel.

Barents Sea region. Map by NormanEinstein via wikipedia

And in the Irkutsk region of eastern Siberia, units of the Strategic Missile Forces dispersed Yars intercontinental ballistic missile launchers in forests to practice secret deployment, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The Russian military didn’t say whether the drills were linked to Putin’s order on Sunday (February 27) to put the country’s nuclear forces on high alert amid Russia’s war in Ukraine. It also was unclear whether the exercises represented a change in the country’s normal nuclear training activities or posture.

The U.S. said Putin’s move unnecessarily escalated an already dangerous conflict, but so far has announced no changes in its nuclear weapons alert level.

Entry filed under: Air and Missile Defense, Arctic, National Security and Defense, News Developments, Peacekeeping, Technology, Weaponry and Equipment. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

FRIDAY FOTO (February 25, 2022) FRIDAY FOTO (March 4, 2022)

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