Posts filed under ‘NATO’

FRIDAY FOTO (November 25, 2022)

HORSELESS HORSEMEN.

              (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sergeant Gavin K. Ching)

Soldiers from the British Army’s Royal Horse Artillery and the U.S. Army’s 1st Cavalry Division call for fire support during a live fire exercise with NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup Poland. Despite their storied histories dating back to the days of horse-drawn cannon and boots and saddles bugle calls, there was nary a horse in sight at Toruń, Poland when this photo was taken on November 3, 2022.

The Royal Horse Artillery (RHA) was formed in 1793 as a distinct arm of the Royal Regiment of Artillery (commonly termed Royal Artillery) to provide mobile artillery support to the fast moving cavalry units. It served in the French revolutionary and Napoleonic wars of the 18th and early 19th centuries, as well as in the Crimean War, the Indian Rebellion of 1857,  Anglo-Zulu War, Boer War and the First and Second World Wars. Horses are still in service for ceremonial purposes, but were phased out from operational deployment in the 1930s.

The 1st Cavalry Division is a combined arms division based at Fort Hood, Texas. It was formed in 1921 largely from horse cavalry regiments and other units dating back to the Indian Wars of the America West. The division served in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, the Stabilization Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Iraq War, the War in Afghanistan and in Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.  A horseback cavalry division until 1943, the 1st Cav has since been an infantry division, an air assault division and an armored division. A black horse head above a diagonal black stripe continues to adorn the division’s uniform shoulder patch. While its troops operate battle tanks and armored vehicles now, the 1st Cavalry Division also has a mounted ceremonial unit.

Pictured in this photo are soldiers assigned to the 1st Platoon, 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Cavalry Division; United Kingdom soldiers assigned to N Battery, Eagle Troop, Royal Horse Artillery.

The United States and allies in NATO have made reinforcing Poland and the nearby Baltic states a focal point since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Since then, U.S. tanks from units rotating overseas have been a consistent forward presence in Poland, home to the Army’s V Corps at Camp Kościuszko.

November 25, 2022 at 10:07 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (November 11, 2022)

INTO THE STORM.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nolan Pennington) Click on the photo to enlarge the image.

Sailors assigned to the newest U.S. aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, prepare for flight operations while transiting through a storm on October 18, 2022.

The Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group (CSG) joined six NATO allies for exercise Silent Wolverine in the Eastern Atlantic Ocean on November 8, 2022. Exercise participants include Canada, Denmark, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain, as well as the United States.

“Silent Wolverine demonstrates our commitment to deepening interoperability with our allies and partners, while testing the advanced, cutting-edge warfighting capabilities of the Ford-class aircraft carrier in a highly relevant operational environment,” says Admiral Stuart Munsch, the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa. Munsch also heads Allied Joint Force Command Naples.

The Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), the first of the eponymous Ford-class, is an advanced carrier incorporating 23 new technologies demonstrating significant advances in propulsion, power generation, ordnance handling, and aircraft launch systems. The Ford-class aircraft carrier generates an increased aircraft launch and recovery capability with a 20 percent smaller crew than the 10 Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. The Silent Wolverine deployment will test Ford’s operational readiness and future ability to support the requirements of combatant commands, like European Command (EUCOM) and Africa Command (AFRICOM).

The Ford strike group includes the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), and Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers USS McFaul (DDG 74), and USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116). The Ford strike group is conducting its first deployment to the U.S. European Command area of responsibility.

The U.S. Navy increased its presence in European waters late last year when Russia began massing troops on Ukraine’s border, even before the February 24 invasion of Ukraine.

November 11, 2022 at 9:52 pm Leave a comment

BALTIC-2-BLACK: Sweden, Finland Closer to Joining NATO; Did Russian MiGs Violate Finnish Airspace — Again?

BALTIC SEA REGION UPDATE

Updates with new link to 1949 NATO Treaty and photo of U.S. Marines training with Finnish forces recently.

Sweden, Finland and NATO

The chances of Sweden and Finland joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), have grown stronger with the United States becoming the 23rd member of the 30-nation defense alliance to approve the admission of the two historically non-aligned Nordic states.

In an unusual bi-partisan 95-to-1 vote on August 3, the U.S. Senate approved accession protocols to the 1949 treaty that created NATO, to admit Sweden and Finland as full members of the defense pact. Approval by all 30 current members of NATO is required for any new states to be admitted to the western defensive bloc created to counter the Soviet Union’s expansion, replacing democratic governments with totalitarian puppet regimes after World War II.

President Joe Biden signed the instruments of ratification bringing Finland and Sweden one step closer to joining the NATO alliance.

The Baltic Region. (Map: CIA World Factbook)

During the signing ceremony at the White House, Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin “thought he could break us apart,” but “Our alliance is closer than ever, it is more united than ever, and after Finland and Sweden join we will be stronger than ever.”

The candidacies of the two prosperous Northern European nations have won ratification from more than half of the NATO member nations in the roughly three months since the two applied. It’s a purposely rapid pace meant to send a message to Russia over its six-month-old war against Ukraine’s West-looking government, according to The Associated Press (via NPR).

Finland and Sweden — increasingly disturbed by their Baltic Sea neighbor’s aggressive behavior in the region — simultaneously handed their official letters of application to join NATO on May 2022. NATO heads of state and government extended an invitation to both countries to join the Alliance at the Madrid Summit on June 29. The accession protocols for both countries were signed on July 5. The protocols must now be ratified by all Allies, according to their national procedures, according to NATO.

Seven member countries have to sign the treaty change: the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Turkey. For some of them, like Slovakia and Greece, ratification is only a mater of when the legislature returns to work after the summer, according to analysts at the Atlantic Council think tank. One of the last holdouts is expected to be Turkey, which accuses the two countries of being too lenient toward Kurdish rebel groups it considers to be national security threats. Turkey’s justice minister said in July month that the government had renewed requests for the extradition of terror suspects wanted by his country.

On June 28, Turkey, Sweden and Finland signed a trilateral memorandum of understanding to address security concerns raised by Turkey and lift Turkey’s veto on Finland’s and Sweden’s membership of NATO. However, in mid-July, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey can still “freeze” Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership bid unless the two countries take steps that meet Ankara’s security demands. While lifting its objection to Sweden and Finland joining the alliance, Turkey warned that it would block the process if they fail to extradite suspects with links to outlawed Kurdish groups or the network of an exiled cleric accused of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016, according to The Associated Press (via the PBS News Hour).

Based on those considerations, plus how long it took recent new members like North Macedonia (21 months); Greece (8 months); and Spain (also 21 months), “we can expect something like a yearlong process (somewhere between eight and twenty months),” said Rich Outzen, a former State Department official and nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council in Turkey. He added it could be delayed until “shortly after Turkish national elections in June 2023.”

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Did Russian fighter jets violate Finnish airspace?

While Finland waits to join NATO it reported that two Russian MiG-31 fighter jets are suspected of violating Finnish airspace near the coastal city of Porvoo on the Gulf of Finland.

The jets were westbound, the defence ministry’s communications chief Kristian Vakkuri said, adding the aircraft were in Finnish airspace for two minutes.

A MiG-31 in flight over Russia, 2012 (Photo copyright by Dmitriy Pichugin via wikipedia) Please click on the photo to enlarge image.

The Finnish air force sent up “an operational flight mission” and identified the MiG-31 jets and the Border Guard launched an investigation into the violation, Aljazeera reported.

Finland, which shares a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) eastern border with Russia, reversed decades of military non-alignment by seeking membership in the North Atlantic alliance in May, after being rattled by Moscow’s attack on Ukraine, according to Aljazeera, which has a very good map of NATO countries, Sweden, Finland and Ukraine at this link.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Defense Department has for years considered Finland to be — if not an ally, a partner nation — and conducted joint and multilateral training exercises with Finnish military units. Recently an element of the U.S. 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) conducted bilateral training with the Finnish Navy High Readiness Unit on Finland’s Russaro Island.

A member of the Finnish Navy High Readiness Unit directs his fire team during a patrol with U.S. Marines in bilateral training on Russaro Island, August 11, 2022. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Yvonna Guyette) Click on photo to enlarge.

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BALTIC-2-BLACK is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the rising tensions between Russia and the West in the regions of the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea, where former Russian satellite nations — now members of NATO — border Russian territory. Both NATO, and the United States in particular, have stepped up their presence in the region since Russia began throwing its weight around after annexing Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014. Since then, some Nordic countries have been boosting defense budgets even restoring a military draft as Russian aircraft and naval vessels have acted more aggressively in the region.

August 18, 2022 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment


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