Posts filed under ‘HIGH NORTH’

BALTIC to BLACK: From the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, Russia’s Neighbors Are Nervous

Sweden to Resume Draft.

Armored vehicles loaded with troops hit the beach in Sweeden during BALTOPS 2015

(A Swedish amphibious assault vehicle participating in NATO exercise BALTOPS 2015.)

Concerned about Russia’s aggressive actions in the Baltic region, and mounting uncertainty over Europe’s alliance with the United States, Swedish authorities have announced mandatory military service will return for men and women next year.

Sweden, which abolished the draft in 2010, plans to conscript 4,000 men and women in 2018, according to the New York Times. Unlike most of its neighbors in the region (Norway, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) Sweden is neutral and not a member of NATO.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Baltics became a region of stability. But all that changed with Russia’s annexation of Crimea three years ago and the Russian support for the insurgency in Ukraine, the Times said. Swedish military spending last year  was up 11 percent.

“The Russian illegal annexation of Crimea, the conflict in Ukraine and the increased military activity in our neighborhood are some of the reasons,” Marinette Nyh Radebosaid, a Swedish defense ministry spokesperson, told the BBC.

map-baltic-region

(Map courtesy of NATO Review.)

In recent years, Baltic and Nordic nations have been rattled by Russia’s antagonistic behavior. There have been numerous reports of Russia probing Nordic defenses, from an underwater vehicle  entering Swedish waters to Russian bomber flights violating Swedish and Finnish airspace. Estonia was hit by a massive cyber attack, believed to be Russian in origin, in 2007.

*** *** ***

Norway Boosts Defense Budget.

Last year, Norway announced a 1.9 billion krone ($230 million) increase in defense spending for 2017, bringing the country’s total military spending to 50.9 billion krone. More than 12 billion of that amount was to go to procurement, IHS Jane’s reported last October.

The increase, part of Norway’s Long Term Defence Plan, drew criticism from opposition lawmakers who didn’t like where the money would come from — the Government Pension Fund. But according to Defense News, cross-party support for the boost in defense spending was fueled by two concerns: keeping pace with Russia’s military buildup in the High North (above the Arctic Circle) and whether the Trump White House might weaken U.S. spending on maintaining European security.

The Norwegian Defense Ministry wants to buy more F-35 strike fighters, three helicopter-equipped Coast Guard vessels and CV-90 combat armored vehicles, as well as armored reconnaissance systems and artillery equipment. Longer term acquisition plans would seek a new air defense system and multi-role drones.

“Given all that is happening in the region, Norway needs to have the strongest defense that it can afford,” Bård Vegard Solhjell, a Socialist Left Party member of parliament told Defense News last month.

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U.S. Troops in Romania.

Meanwhile, the United States military is training with NATO militaries and partner nations in and around the Black Sea.

Platinum Eagle 17.1: Dismount Range

(A U.S. Marine, center, watches Ukrainian soldiers in action during Exercise Platinum Eagle at Smardan Training Area, Romania, on February 24, 2017. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Sean J. Berry.)

The latest operation: Soldiers, tanks and M88 recovery vehicles from the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment’s “Fighting Eagles” recently arrived in Romania in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. The soldiers and equipment traveled more than 1,100 miles from western Poland, where the battalion and the rest of the 3,500 soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division’s 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT), deployed to Europe, initially assembled.

Participating in Atlantic Resolve means the 3rd ABCT will conduct bilateral and multinational training with allies in eight different countries, according to the Army. The emphasis will be increasing interoperability with Romanian and Bulgarian land forces over the next six months.

The 3rd ABCT began arriving in Europe from Fort Carson, Colorado in January. The 3rd ABCT is bringing approximately 3,500 personnel and 87 tanks, 18 Paladin self-propelled guns; 419 humvee  variants; 144 Bradley Fighting Vehicles; (446 tracked vehicles, 907 wheeled vehicles, 650 trailers).

4th ID strengthes ties with Romanian NFIU

Major Royce Baker, chief of fires with the 4th Infantry Division Mission Command Element, meets Colonel Catalin Ticulescu, commander of the Romanian NATO Force Integration Unit, during a Multinational Division-South East Command staff exchange. (Photo by Army Staff Sergeant Diandra J. Harrell)

In February 2017 units began distributing across region with to Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Germany and several Baltic nations.

 

 

 

 

March 9, 2017 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (March 3, 2017)

The Long Tan Line.

1st CEB Hikes During MTX 2-17

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Danny Gonzalez).

 Chosin Reservoir, 1950? Nope. Chilikoot Pass, 1899? Wrong. Retreat from Moscow, 1812? Wrong again.

This FRIDAY FOTO shows U.S. Marines snowshoeing downhill  at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California on February 22, 2017. The Marines are assigned to the 1st Marine Division’s 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, which conducted training that tested Marines’ mobility and survival skills in a mountainous, snow-covered environment.

March 3, 2017 at 1:59 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (February 3, 2017)

Confetti of Sparks.

frifo-2-3-2017-sparks-flying

(U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher).

You can hardly see Air Force Technical Sergeant Gregory Kirchner amid the bouncing sparks and arcs of light created as he welds a metal plate at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska. J-BEAR. as the troops call it, consists of Elmendorf Air Force Base and the Army’s Fort Richardson. It is located outside Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city. The two bases were merged in 2010.

Kirchner is assigned to the 3rd Maintenance Squadron, where welding is just one of the tasks performed by airmen. Aircraft metals technology experts also measure broken or worn parts, draw working sketches, make templates, perform precision grinding and remove deposits from aircraft parts. They also write programs for machines using manual and computer-aided manufacturing techniques.

This photo was taken January 27, 2017.

February 3, 2017 at 12:40 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (September 23, 2016)

Pretty, But Rugged Environment.

Station Valdez, Alaska, training

 (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Bill Colclough)

Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class John Gerbrands (left) guides a rescue heaving line to a 25-foot response boat during crewman qualification training in Valdez Harbor on Prince William Sound, Alaska.

Gerbands is assigned to Coast Guard Station Valdez, the service’s northern-most boast station. To see more photos of this training session, click here.

September 23, 2016 at 1:41 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (May 13, 2016)

Woosh!

22nd MEU LAAD Marines fire Stingers

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Ryan G. Coleman

Marines fire stinger simulation rounds aboard the USS Wasp (LHD-1) in the Atlantic Ocean last month (April 17, 2016). The stinger is part of a group of anti-aircraft weapons known as MANPADS, for Man Portable Air Defense Systems.

The Marines are assigned to Medium Marine Tiltrotor Squadron 264 in the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is underway for an amphibious exercise.

May 13, 2016 at 1:16 am Leave a comment

ARCTIC NATION: Another Russia-NATO Flashpoint?

Kola Peninsula.

One of the most interesting articles in Thursday’s New York Times was an opinion piece by a German journalist about the Kola Peninsula, Russia’s northwestern-most territory in the Far North.

kola-peninsula-tundra-map

Kola Peninsula tundra ecoregion highlighted along the Barents and White Seas. (Source: WWF via the Encyclopedia of Earth).

Ice-coated barbed wire fences, surveillance cameras and settlements that look more like military installations mark this frigid region, but the coastline is warmed by the waters of the Gulf Stream, according to Jochen Bittner, a political editor for Die Zeit.

That makes the forbidding landscape of the Kola Peninsula “a gigantic marine pier, guaranteeing Russia’s naval fleet access to the Atlantic and offering a hub for operations in an area of the world that might become the next crisis zone between Russia and NATO: the North Pole,” says Bittner.

It’s no secret the Russian military has been building up its facilities in the Arctic, including several new air bases. But Bittner’s piece brings some diplomatic and political perspective to what’s at stake for Russia and the West in this increasingly important region.

To read more, click here.

ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the High North. The U.S. “National Strategy for the Arctic Region” describes the United States as “an Arctic Nation with broad and fundamental interests in the Arctic Region, where we seek to meet our national security needs, protect the environment, responsibly manage resources, account for indigenous communities, support scientific research, and strengthen international cooperation on a wide range of issues.”

 

April 28, 2016 at 11:06 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO: April 15, 2016

Now Boarding.

FRIFO 4-15-2016 pARATROOPERS c-17.

Air Force photo by Alejandro Pena

Paratroopers board and position their gear inside an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft before participating in a night jump at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, March 31, 2016.

To see what a night drop looks like, click here.

April 15, 2016 at 1:07 am Leave a comment

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