Posts tagged ‘Finland’

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

ARCTIC NATION: Giant NATO Exercise

Trident Juncture.

Marines conduct cold-weather training in Iceland

Before setting out for NATO’s Trident Juncture exercise in Norway, U.S. Marines took cold-weather training in Iceland in October.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Marine Corps Lance Corporal Menelik Collins)

Fifty thousand troops, 250 aircraft, 65 naval vessels and about 10,000 ground vehicles have converged on Norway — and nearby waters — for  Trident Juncture 2018, the largest  military exercise by western nations since the end of the Cold War.

Military and civilian personnel from the 29 member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and two Nordic neighbors, Sweden and Finland, are taking part in the enormous war game, which started October 25 and runs through November 7.

One of the largest contingents, after the Norwegian hosts, comes from the United States, which has sent some 14,000 personnel — including 6,000 sailors  from the USS Harry S Truman Carrier Strike Group and more than 1,000 Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The Truman was the first U.S. aircraft carrier to enter Arctic waters since 1991.

U.S. Marines with 2nd Tank Battalion travel

Marines travel to the next objective during Trident Juncture 18 near Hjerkinn Norway, November 2, 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Menelik Collins)

Other troops and weapons platforms included:

Eight Finnish Air Force F/A-18 Hornet fighter attack jets; Sweden’s 191st Mechanized Battalion; a joint Swedish-Finnish army battalion; the Spanish Navy frigate ESPS Cristobal Colon; the Dutch Navy frigate HNMLS De Ruyter, and four British Hawk light multirole fighters, four Royal Navy minehunters –HMS Cattistock, HMS Enterprise, HMS Grimsby and HMS Ramsey and two Type-23 frigates – HMS Westminster and HMS Northumberland.

NATO officials stressed Trident Juncture was a defensive exercise. “It is not directed against any country,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, adding “We are transparent in what we do. And we welcome the international observers — from Russia and many other countries.”

However, Stoltenberg noted : “We exercise to strengthen our ability to operate together, to test and certify the NATO Response Force, and to send a clear message.” While he didn’t specify what that message was, it was obvious to most observers the message was aimed at the increasingly aggressive Russian government.

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (above) speaks with Canadian troops at exercise Trident Juncture 2018 while Norwegian Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen (light blue jacket) listens. (Norwegian Armed Forces/Forsvaret photo by Torbjorn Kjosvold)

4GWAR has previously reported, Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 and its hybrid warfare campaign in support of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, has alarmed Western nations — especially those bordering the Baltic Sea like Poland, Estonia, Sweden and Finland.

But Moscow has complained about what it sees as NATO provocation by holding a massive military exercise on its doorstep. It sent it’s own message by sending a low-flying Tupolev TU-142, a Cold War era plane, over the Norwegian exercise.

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ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the Far 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 region. “Those interests include national security needs, protecting the environment, responsibly managing resources, considering the needs of indigenous communities, support for scientific research, and strengthening international cooperation on a wide range of issues.”

November 4, 2018 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (November 2, 2018)

‘neath Arctic Skies.

181026-N-OA516-0010

(U.S. Navy photo by Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Kevin Leitner)

The amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), passes under the Northern Lights during exercise Trident Juncture 2018 in the Norwegian Sea, October 26, 2018.

Some 250 aircraft, 65 vessels and up to 10,000 vehicles — as well as an estimated 50,000 troops from 31 countries — are taking part in the biggest NATO exercise since the Cold War.

The massive exercise is taking place through November 7 in central and eastern Norway,  the surrounding areas of the North Atlantic and the Baltic Sea — including Iceland and the airspace of Finland and Sweden (two non-NATO members).

NATO officials say the goal of the operation is to ensure that NATO forces are trained, able to operate together, and ready to respond to any threat from any direction. While they deny the exercise is aimed at sending a message to an increasingly belligerent Russia, Moscow sees it differently.

“Even if NATO says otherwise,, Trident Juncture is really preparation for large-scale armed conflict in regions bordering the Russian Federation,” Lieutenant General Valery Zaparenko, former deputy chief of the Russian general staff, told RT, Moscow’s government-funded television station, the New York Times reported.

4GWAR’s Arctic Nation series will focus on Trident Juncture and other arctic news this weekend.

November 2, 2018 at 11:07 pm Leave a comment

HIGH NORTH: Latvian MoD Says NATO Base Needed in Baltic Region

Baltic to Potomac.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work (right) and Latvia's Minister of Defense Raimond Vejonis pass through an honor cordon in order to discuss matters of mutual importance at the Pentagon Apr. 23, 2015.  (Photo by Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz)

Latvia’s Minister of Defense Raimond Vejonis (left) arrives at the Pentagon to discuss matters of  mutual importance with Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work April 23, 2015.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz)

It seems like nearly every day Russia is doing something new to provoke, irritate or worry its Western neighbors, from flying combat aircraft dangerously close to Swedish and Finnish airspace to a senior Moscow official’s recent unannounced and uninvited visit to one of Norway’s Arctic islands.

In response to the potential threat, several Scandinavian nations are planning to increase their defense spending and reaching out to their neighbors across the Baltic Sea for mutual security exchanges. All three of the so-called Baltic states — Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia — as well as Poland are NATO members.

Latvian Minister of Defense Raimond Vejonis was in Washington this week, speaking at a think tank and meeting with Pentagon officials. According to a Pentagon spokesman, Vejonis met for about 30 minutes with Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work (Defense Secretary Ash Carter was out of town) to discuss “the importance of clear NATO unity against Russian aggression, continued presence of U.S. forces in the region, and ways to work together to better support NATO deterrence measures.”

Work also praised the Latvian government for committing to raise its defense spending to 2 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (an agreed upon, but sparsely reached, NATO target for member nations) and to increase the size of Latvia’s armed forces from 15,000 to 17,000 by 2018.

Paratroopers with the 173rd Airborne Brigade iduring a training exercise with Latvian troops to show commitment to NATO obligations and interoperability with allied forces as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.  (U.S. Army Photo by Sergeant Michael T. Crawford)

Paratroopers with the 173rd Airborne Brigade during a training exercise with Latvian troops to show commitment to NATO obligations as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.
(U.S. Army Photo by Sergeant Michael T. Crawford)

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington policy institute (April 21), Vejonis said having U.S. and other NATO troops in Latvia for exercises like Operation Atlantic Resolve was helpful but to effectively deter further Russian aggression “we really need a visible NATO presence in the region … on a rotational basis.”

Such a strategy, he said, will keep Moscow from making a dangerous miscalculation because they think NATO is weak after President Vladimir Putin successfully annexed  Crimea from Ukraine without a NATO military response. (Ukraine is not a NATO member nation). He noted Russia’s economy “totally depends on its raw materials, especially energy.” And with oil prices slumping, “there is a requirement to deliver military victories to the Russian public to cover [the] economic gap.”

Vejonis added that Russia rebuilt a former helicopter base less just 15 miles from Latvia’s eastern border to house Moscow’s newest combat helicopters. Finland, which also borders Russia, has reported Russia is building new bases and conducting large training activities near the Finnish border.

Countries bordering the Baltic Sea. (Map via wikipedia)

Countries bordering the Baltic Sea.
(Map via wikipedia)

April 23, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

HIGH NORTH: Nordic Nations Plan Closer Defense Ties vs. Russia

Eyes on the Bear.

Norwegian F-16 fighter jets during Exercise Cold Response in 2014. (Photo by Torbjorn Kjosvold, Norwegian Armed Forces) CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE IMAGE

Norwegian F-16 fighter jets during Exercise Cold Response in 2014.
(Photo by Torbjorn Kjosvold, Norwegian Armed Forces)
CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE IMAGE

After months of Russian probes, intrusions and military provocations, the countries of Scandinavia have agreed to build closer defense ties among themselves and with the neighboring Baltic States of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

Writing in a joint declaration, the defense ministers of Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Iceland said Northern Europe must prepare for possible crises or incidents because of Russia, according to a dispatch from Reuters (via Army Times’ Early Bird).

“Russia’s leaders have shown that they are prepared to make practical and effective use of military means in order to reach their political goals, even when this involves violating principles of international law,” the ministers wrote in a joint statement in the daily Aftenposten.

Over the last year, there have been numerous reports of Russia probing Nordic defenses from an underwater vehicle — believed to be a Russian submarine — entering Swedish waters and Russian bomber flights violating Swedish and Finnish airspace. Estonia was hit by a massive cyber attack, believed to be Russian in origin, in 2007.  Then there is Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula and fighting between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed rebels.

“Russia’s actions are the biggest challenge to the European security,” the ministers said. “Russia’s propaganda and political maneuvering are contributing to sowing discord between nations, and inside organizations like NATO and the EU.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE: We recommend clicking on the photo above to enlarge it and get the full impact of its technical achievement).

April 10, 2015 at 8:29 pm Leave a comment

ARCTIC NATION: Obama Signs Arctic Coordination Order; Russian Arctic Buildup UPDATE

Coordinating U.S. Arctic Efforts.

President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address to the U.S. Congress in Washington, Jan. 20, 2015. (White House photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address to the U.S. Congress in Washington, Jan. 20, 2015.
(White House photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama has signed an executive order establishing a new panel that will advise the U.S. government on preserving the Alaskan Arctic.
Obama said he was establishing the Arctic Executive Steering Committee to help juggle more than 20 tribal, scientific, corporate, and federal interests at play in the Arctic, where temperatures have risen at twice the rate as the rest of the United States, The Hill reported.

“As the United States assumes the Chairmanship of the Arctic Council, it is more important than ever that we have a coordinated national effort that takes advantage of our combined expertise and efforts in the Arctic region to promote our shared values and priorities,” the executive order, signed Wednesday (January 21), noted.

In April, the United States will take over from Canada the chairmanship of the eight-member Arctic Council — Canada, Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States. The council, created in 1996, is a high level intergovernmental forum seeking to promote cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States — with the involvement of the Arctic Indigenous communities — on issues like environmental protection, oil and gas development, shipping and climate change.

Obama did not mention the Arctic specifically in his State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday (Jan. 20) but he said climate change posed the greatest threat to future generations, USA Today reported. And while he didn’t announce any new climate initiatives in his speech, he did say he was “determined to make sure that American leadership drives international action.”

*** *** ***

Russian Arctic Buildup

Russia’s continuing activities in Eastern Ukraine are drawing criticism from NATO and other western nations. But in the Arctic, which is expected to grow more accessible as melting sea ice opens up shipping lanes, Moscow’s military buildup is also being noticed with some concern.

Arctic Circle Nations Click on image to enlarge.

Arctic Circle Nations
Click on image to enlarge.

According to the Ottawa (Canada) Citizen, Russia is to looking to have 14 operational airfields in the Arctic by the end of 2015 as it pushes ahead with its plan to boost its military presence in its Northern region. Four airfields are already operational. Ten more will be built in the coming year, Russia’s deputy defence minister Dmitry Bulgakov told the country’s Sputnik news agency, the Canadian newspaper noted.

Newsweek notes that … A detachment of about 800 servicemen from Russia’s Northern Fleet has been stationed in the Russian town of Alakurtti, Murmansk region, just 50 kilometers from the Finnish border. It’s part of a large-scale expansion of Russian military facilities in the country’s northwest according to a press statement (here’s a link to the statement, in Russian) by the unit’s commanding admiral Vladimir Korolev.

The rest of the fleet are expected to be stationed there “soon” according to Korolev. The base will be one of the key strongholds in Russia’s northernmost territories, designed to strengthen the country’s defense capabilities from the west, and improve their territorial claims over areas in the Arctic, said Newsweek.

At full force, Russia’s Northern Fleet consists of about 3,000 ground troops trained for combat in Arctic conditions, along with 39 ships and 45 submarines. Its arrival in Murmansk follows Russia’s decision last year to create a united command for all of its units designated with protecting Russia’s interests in the country’s northern regions, the news website noted.

And UPI notes (via Military.Com ) that Russia’s military press service has confirmed the country will be sending drones to the Arctic in early 2015.

“Before the end of the current year specialists with several Orlan-10 sets will arrive at the permanent service base,” the press service told Russian news agency Tass. Test flight will begin in the next few months. The drones are allegedly meant to do surveillance over coastal areas and to help sea vessels navigate, according to UPI.

The Orlan-10 is a Russian drone with a front propeller, resembling a traditional manned aircraft. The aircraft was first discovered to be in use in early 2014, when one was shot down in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, The Moscow Times wonders if the worldwide drop in the price of oil, the driving force in Russia’s economy, could slow Russia’s activities – military and commercial – in its Arctic region.

Polar bears need ice to hunt (NOAA photo by K. Elliott, 2005)

Polar bears need ice to hunt (NOAA photo by K. Elliott, 2005)

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.”

 

 

January 22, 2015 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment


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