Posts tagged ‘Russia’

FRIDAY FOTO (August 5, 2022)

DELIVERING CHAOS.

(U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Sergeant Tara Fajardo Arteaga)

U.S. soldiers assigned to Chaos Company, 1st Battalion of the 68th Armor Regiment exit an M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle during a live-fire exercise at Drawsko Pomorskie, Poland on July 13, 2022.

That’s right — Poland. The U.S. Army now has a permanent post in the former Warsaw Pact country, which has been a member of NATO since 1999. In addition to its small 144-mile (232 kilometer) land border with the Russian enclave, Kaliningrad Oblast, Poland also has a 328-mile (528 kilometer) coast along the Baltic Sea, a region roiled by Russia’s increasingly aggressive behavior, starting with the seizure of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. The United States has been beefing up its military presence in Eastern and Central Europe since Vladimir Putin started massing troops along Russia’s border with Ukraine before launching a vicious invasion on February 24.

President Joe Biden announced in June, during NATO’s summit in Madrid, that the U.S. will establish a new garrison in Poznan, where the Army’s V Corps coordinates troop movements in Europe. The primary mission of the new forward headquarters will be to conduct operational planning, mission command and oversight of the rotational forces in Europe. It will also provide additional capability to support allies and partners in the region, according to the U.S. Army.

Biden said the V Corps, headquartered in Poland, will become permanent, and a new rotational brigade will operate out of Romania, giving the military a boost in the strategic Black Sea region, according to the Stars and Stripes website.

The new post will be named Camp Kosciuszko, after Thaddeus Kosciuszko, a Polish army officer and statesman who gained fame both for his role in the American Revolution and for his leadership of a national insurrection in his homeland. Appointed a colonel of engineers in the continental army in 1776,  Kosciuszko was responsible for strategic fortifications at Saratoga, New York and reinforcing West Point as a defensive position along New York’s Hudson River. In the spring of 1781 in South Carolina, Kościuszko conducted the Battle of Ninety-Six and then a lengthy blockade of Charleston. At the end of the war he was given U.S. citizenship and was made a brigadier general in the U.S. Army. In 1784 Kościuszko returned to Poland,  where he commanded troops fighting a Russian invasion in 1792.

The 68th Armored is part of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, which is among other units assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, providing “combat-credible forces” to V Corps, America’s forward-deployed corps in Europe, according to the Army.

August 5, 2022 at 6:03 pm Leave a comment

BALTIC-2-BLACK: Sweden, Finland Move Closer to NATO Membership; Russia Blusters and Threatens

Sweden, Finland and NATO.

The Nordic nations of Sweden and Finland, neutral during the Cold War, have been moving closer to NATO — participating in multi-national exercises with the forces of the western alliance — since Russia seized Crimea and grew increasingly belligerent in its military moves both on and above the Baltic Sea.

Russia’s February 24 invasion of non-NATO member Ukraine alarmed the Eastern members of NATO who used to be under the sway of Moscow — like Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic — to spend more on their defense forces and participate in more NATO exercises.Several are also supplying arms, medical equipment and technology to embattled Ukraine.

Finnish Troops participate in Exercise Cold Response 2022, a multinational Arctic weather military exercise hosted by Norway between March 14 and March 31. (Maavoimat – Armén – The Finnish Army, photo via Facebook)

The war in Ukraine pushed leaders in Sweden and Finland to publicly announce plans to consider joining the 30-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization — where an attack on one means an attack on all.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused Finland to review our security strategy,” Prime Minister Sanna Marin said at a joint press conference in Stockholm on April 13 hosted by Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson. “I won’t offer any kind of timetable as to when we will make our decision, but I think it will happen quite fast. Within weeks, not within months. The security landscape has completely changed.”

Finland, which shares an 830-mile border with Russia, is “highly likely” to join NATO despite the Russian government’s threats to deploy nuclear weapons, Finnish Minister for European Affairs Tytti Tuppurainen said in an interview with Sky News Friday.

The people of Finland, they seem to have already made up their mind,” Tuppurainen told Sky News, noting that polls show overwhelming support for joining NATO.

The Finnish government is expected to submit a report to parliament on the changed security environment by the end of this month, kicking off a debate and eventually a recommendation on applying for NATO membership, according to Axios.

Meanwhile, Sweden has decided to examine a range of security-related options, including deepening Nordic defense cooperation and urging the European Union to develop enhanced defense policies to offer greater military protection to EU member states that border the highly sensitive Baltic Sea and High North regions, Defense News reports.

The Swedish government is expected to deliver its National Security Report to the Riksdag, the country’s legislature, before May 31.

“What we need to do is to carefully think through what is in the best long-term interests of Sweden, and what we need to do to guarantee our national security, our sovereignty and secure peace in this new heightened tension and situation,” said Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

“Russia’s invasion has dramatically changed the political discourse in Sweden and Finland and also crucially public opinion,” Alistair Shepherd, senior lecturer for European security at Aberystwyth University, told Al Jazeera.

There are indications both Finland and Sweden are heading towards a genuinely historic change of course in their respective security policies. During the Cold War, Sweden and Finland were essentially considered neutral states, although for different reasons.

“Sweden’s neutrality was much more part of their national identity, whereas Finland’s neutrality was more pragmatic and virtually forced upon them by the Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance signed between Finland and the USSR in 1948,” said Shepherd.

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Moscow Reacts with Threats

Russia warned Finland and Sweden on Thursday (April 14) that if they join NATO, Moscow will reinforce the Baltic Sea region, including with nuclear weapons, the Washington Post reported.

The threat came just a day after Finnish officials suggested their country could request to join NATO within weeks, while Sweden mulled making a similar move.

Dmitry Medvedev, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin who serves as deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said that NATO expansion would lead Moscow to strengthen air, land and naval forces to “balance” military capability in the region.

“If Sweden and Finland join NATO, the length of the land borders of the alliance with the Russian Federation will more than double. Naturally, these boundaries will have to be strengthened,” he wrote on Telegram. “There can be no more talk of any nuclear-free status for the Baltic — the balance must be restored,” Medvedev added.

Even before his invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Sweden and Finland of “retaliation” should they join NATO.

The New York Times notes that “if his invasion of Ukraine has succeeded at anything so far, it has been to drive the militarily nonaligned Nordic countries into the arms of NATO, as Russian threats and aggression heighten security concerns and force them to choose sides.

Finland and Sweden’s shift to NATO membership “would be another example of the counterproductive results of Mr. Putin’s war. Instead of crushing Ukrainian nationalism, he has enhanced it. Instead of weakening the trans-Atlantic alliance, he has solidified it. Instead of dividing NATO and blocking its growth, he has united it,” the Times observed April 13.

 

More that 1,600 Swedish troops and civilian personnel participated in Exercise Cold Response 2022, Norway’s multi-national Arctic military training exercise. (Swedish Armed Forces photo by Mats Carlsson/Försvarsmakten)

 

April 15, 2022 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

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

FRIDAY FOTO (February 25, 2022)

Falling Stars.

(U.S. Army photo by Sergeant Mark Pierce) Click on photo to enlarge.

Members of the U.S. Army Parachute Team conduct night jumps over Homestead, Florida, with pyrotechnics on February 23, 2022.

The Army Parachute Team, also known as the Golden Knights, is conducting their annual certification cycle for the upcoming show season.

Editor’s Note:

While news of the crisis spawned by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is splashed across front pages, airwaves and web sites, 4GWAR thought we would — at least for today’s FRIFO — present a different, artistically interesting image.

However, in the coming days, and probably weeks, we’ll be addressing the challenge Russia presents the United States and its allies and partners — not just in Ukraine, but from the Barents Sea, at the top of the world, to the Black Sea, where Europe and Asia meet, and the region of the Baltic Sea, a crowded neighborhood of NATO members, non-aligned countries and Russia.

February 25, 2022 at 3:15 pm Leave a comment

ARCTIC NATION: Operation Nanook; U.S. Coast Guard Patrol; Arctic Fighter Jet Drill

UPDATE: Sept. 3, 2021

Operation Nanook.

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Richard Snyder takes part in the Canadian military’s Operation Nanook in the Labrador Sea on August 13, 2021. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by USCGC Richard Snyder)

Two U.S. Coast Guard cutters, ranged far from home recently to participate in the annual Canadian military exercise in the Arctic, Operation Nanook 21.

The 154-foot Fast Response Cutter (FRC) Richard Snyder, and the 270-foot Medium Endurance Cutter Escanaba worked alongside two Royal Canadian Navy vessels, HMCS (Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship) Harry Dewolf and HMCS Goose Bay, to enhance their abilities to respond to safety and security issues in the High North through air and maritime presence activities as well as maritime domain defense and security exercises.

The Richard Snyder, with a crew of about 24, was the first Sentinel-class FRC deployed to the region. Based in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, the cutter primarily focuses on living marine resources and search and rescue operations, said its skipper, Lieutenant Commander Gregory Bredariol. “The FRC has fared exceedingly well in the Arctic. Our major concerns were fuel and food, and there have been no issues with either as the cutter continues to steam through the operational area and complete all training and interactions with stellar results,” he added.

Operation NANOOK, which runs this year through September 12, is the Canadian Armed Forces’ signature northern operation. It comprises a series of comprehensive, joint, interagency, and multinational activities designed to exercise the defense of Canada and security in the Arctic region. In 2021 it comprised three distinct operations:

Op NANOOK-TUUGAALIK (August 3-10) A maritime defense domain and security exercise off the coast of Labrador and Baffin Island, designed to assist the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) in building capacity in Canada’s northern regions.

Op NANOOK-TATIGIIT (August 10-15) An interagency territorial exercise engaging other Canadian government departments and agencies in a response to a simulated major incident and serach and rescue mission in the North.

Op NANOOK-NUNAKPUT: (August 9 – September 12) A series of presence activities along the Northwest Passage to demonstrate Canada’s ability to deploy forces in the Arctic as well as build the CAF’s domain awareness of the region.

The two U.S. Coast Guard cutters participated in the first two operations.  “The joint effort during Tuugaalik and Tatigiit included multi-ship small boat training, formation steaming, hailing and signals exercises, and more,” said Commander Ben Spector, skipper of Escanaba.. “Weather, especially in the Arctic, is a genuine consideration, and increasing sea state and fog tested us,” he said, adding the Coast Guard “remains committed to conducting operations and combined maritime exercises throughout the Atlantic and the Arctic region.”

Operation Nanook is the third of four major deployments of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Atlantic Arctic Season. In June, the tall ship Eagle visited Iceland, where Vice Admiral Steven Poulin, the Atlantic Area commander, hosted Icelandic officials for Arctic discussions. Also, in June, the cutter Maple participated in the Danish Joint Arctic Command’s annual exercise, Ex Argus, in Southern Greenland. Later this fall, the medium ice breaker Healy will make stops along the U.S. East Coast after transiting the Northwest Passage on its circumnavigation of North America.

While the Richard Snyder heads back to North Carolina, the Boston-based Escanaba, with a crew of about 100, is next slated to participate in Frontier Sentinel, an annual exercise of the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, and Royal Canadian Navy.

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Patrolling with the Russians.

Two other U.S. Coast cutters, one very far from home, spent the summer patrolling the Bering and Chukchi Seas off the Coast of Alaska, with Canadian — and Russian counterparts.

In late July, the crew of Coast Guard Cutter Midgett, one of the service’s National Security Cutters, conducted combined operations and training with the Canadian coast guard Ship Sir Wilfrid Laurier in the Chukchi Sea, and a joint patrol of the U.S.-Russia maritime boundary north of the Diomede Islands with the Russian Border Guard vessel Kamchatka. Just 3.8 kilometers (2.4 miles) separate Big Diomede Island (Russian territory) and Little Diomede Island (part of Alaska), according to NASA.

Midgett is the Coast Guard’s eighth National Security Cutter and is homeported in Honolulu. Featuring advanced command-and-control capabilities, national security cutters are the flagship of the Coast Guard’s fleet, deploying globally to confront national security threats, strengthen maritime governance, and promote economic prosperity.

Midgett also did a joint transit of the Bering Strait with the Coast Guard Cutter Healy, one of the service’s two operational polar icebreakers. Air crews from Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak deployed to Kotzebue, Alaska in an HC-130J Hercules aircraft, an extended-range, search and rescue airplane, to support both cutter operations, according to SEAPOWER magazine.

In addition to being a medium polar ice breaker, Healy is the only U.S. military surface vessel that routinely deploys to the ice-covered waters of the Arctic to provide access and secure national interests related to our maritime borders and natural resources.

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Nordic Fighter Jets over Lapland.

Fighter jets from the Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian Air Forces began taking to the skies August 30 over Lapland, Finland’s northernmost region, for the Arctic Fighter Meet 21 (AFM 21) live air exercise.

Lapland Air Command will host the AFM 21 exercise at Finland’s Rovaniemi Air Base. The Finnish Air Force will take part in the exercise with F/A-18 Hornet multi-role fighters and Hawk jet trainers. The Royal Norwegian Air Force will participate with F-16 Fighting Falcons and the Swedish Air Force with JAS 39 Gripen C/D fighters, according to the Finnish Air Force.

Flight operations of the exercise will take place in Finnish airspace in the training areas used by Lapland Air Command from Monday August 30 to Friday September 3.

Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian aircraft in close formation (Photo Finnish Air Force) CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE.

The objective of the annual Arctic Fighter Meet exercises is to fly air combat training with different types of fighters, and to familiarize the youngest fighter pilots with international exercises, according to the Finns.

However, the Barents Observer notes the air exercise will take place just two weeks before Russian armed forces launch their large-scale Zapad-21 (West 21) exercise. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, this exercise is being closely monitored following Russia’s recent mobilization of an estimated 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s border with Russia and within Crimea (which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014). Russia’s military buildup in its Arctic borderlands has raised concerns for United States and other NATO nations in the Arctic (Canada, Norway and Denmark, which controls Greenland). Baltic and Nordic nations have been rattled by Russia’s antagonistic behavior since it seized Crimea. Some have reinstituted the draft or increased their defense budgets. There were numerous reports of Russia probing Nordic defenses, from an underwater vehicle  entering Swedish waters to Russian bomber flights violating Swedish and Finnish airspace.

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ENVIRONMENT: UPDATE Sept. 3, 2021

U.S. Judge’s Ruling Upsets New Alaska Oil Project 

A federal judge reversed on August 18, the U.S. government’s approval of ConocoPhillips’ planned $6 billion Willow oil development in Alaska, citing problems with its environmental analysis, according to Reuters.

The ruling is a fresh blow to a massive drilling project that Alaskan officials hoped would help offset oil production declines in the state. A ConocoPhillips spokesperson said the company would review the decision and evaluate its options for the project. (Hat Tip to High North News.)

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Coast Guard medium ice breaker Healy (U.S. Coast Guard photo)ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military and environmental developments in the Far North. The 2013 U.S. National Strategy for the Arctic Region described the United States as “an Arctic Nation with broad and fundamental interests” in the region. “Those interests include national security protecting the environment, responsibly managing resources, considering the needs of indigenous communities, support for scientific research, and strengthening international cooperation.”

September 2, 2021 at 11:55 pm Leave a comment

BALTIC 2 BLACK: Black Sea Exercise Ends; Poland buying Abrams tanks; Norway-German submarine deal

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

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. Concerns about a resurgent Russia have grown in the Black Sea region since Russia attacked neighboring Georgia in 2008, seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and has supported Ukrainian separatists fighting a bloody hybrid war in eastern Ukraine since 2018.

While the United States and its allies have imposed sanctions on Russia, the U.S. military has been upping its presence in the Baltic and Black seas — as well as the Barrents Sea in the Arctic — to deter Russian belligerence.

Sea Breeze 21, “Who’s Provoking Whom?

Sounding like a script from a Cold War era newscast, the United States and its allies accuse Russia of dangerous aggressive behavior during a recent multinational training exercise in the contested waters of the Black Sea.

Noting that Russian aircraft overflew U.S. Navy ships at dangerously low altitudes during the recently ended Exercise Sea Breeze 21, Admiral Robert Burke said the Russians were creating a tactical risk that could morph into a strategic issue. “And that’s a big concern with this increasing aggressiveness,” Burke said, adding “We’re not going to flinch and we’re not going to take the bait.”

The guided-missile destroyer USS Ross sails in formation during Exercise Sea Breeze 2021 in the Black Sea on July 9, 2021.  (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Damon Grosvenor))

Burke, the commander of U.S. Naval Forces in Europe and Africa, said the latest bad behavior underscores Moscow’s increasingly provocative actions in the air and at sea, SEAPOWER reported in an article by your 4GWAR editor.

Russia’s embassy in Washington called for the exercises to be cancelled, and the Russian defense ministry said it would react to protect its own national security, Al Jazeera reported on June 28, the day Sea Breeze 21 began.

Upping the ante, Russian warplanes later practiced bombing simulations of enemy ships in the Black Sea during the U.S.-Ukrainian exercises, as the friction grew following an earlier incident with a British warship.

For nearly a decade, a resurgent Russia has mounted a huge military buildup in the North Atlantic, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Arctic and the Black Sea. “They want to be in control of those waters, for their own exclusive use,” Burke said, adding “We can’t cede that to the Russians.”

When officials notified Russian authorities about their plans three weeks before Sea Breeze 21 began, Moscow reacted by closing off half of the western part of the Black Sea and announcing their own ship bombing exercise. “If it wasn’t so threatening, it would be laughable,” Burke told a live-streamed edition of the United States Navy Memorial’s SITREP speakers series July 20.

(Black Sea region map Norman Einstein via wikipedia)

Sea Breeze, a long-standing exercise in the Black Sea to enhance interoperability and capability among participating forces in the region, has grown from eight participants in 1997 to 32 this year. The 2021 exercise included 5,000 personnel, 30 ships and 40 aircraft supplied by 17 NATO members, U.S. allies like Australia, and partner nations like Sweden and Senegal.

The admiral praised U.S. and allied commanders for their restraint. “When a strike aircraft overflies a destroyer at 100 feet altitude, right over top, our COs are making a judgment call of whether that strike fighter is on an attack profile or not,” Burke said. “It could be argued that they’re baiting us into shooting first. We’re not going to do that first without provocation, but I’m also not going to ask my commanding officers to take the first shot on the chin,” he added without elaboration.

A Marine, assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment  2d Marine Division, cuts through barbed wire during Exercise Sea Breeze 2021 in Oleshky Sands, Ukraine on July 2, 2021.  (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Trey Fowler)

In June, Russia said one of its warships fired warning shots and an aircraft dropped bombs near Britain’s Royal Navy destroyer, HMS Defender, to force it away from territorial waters, claimed by Russia, near Crimea — which Moscow seized in 2014. Russia denounced the Defender’s maneuver as a provocation and warned that the next time it might fire to hit intruding warships, according to the Associated Press.

The Royal Navy insisted the Defender wasn’t fired upon on and said it was sailing in Ukrainian waters when Russia sent its planes into the air and shots were heard during the showdown.

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Poland Buying M1 Abrams tanks

Poland’s defense minister announced July 14 that the NATO member will buy 250 M1A2 Abrams SEPv3 tanks from the United States, confirming previous reports of a planned acquistion, according to Defense News.

The Abrams M1A2 SEPv3 is an upgrade to the U.S. Army’s current main battle tank. The upgrade was designed to defeat or suppress enemy tanks, reconnaissance vehicles, infantry fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers, anti-tank guns, guided missile launchers (ground and vehicle mounted), bunkers, dismounted infantry and helicopters.

A soldier provides ground guidance for an M1A2 SEP V2 Abrams Tank at Ware Range, Fort Benning, Georgia on July 20, 2021. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Staff Sergeant Austin Berner)

The announcement came just two months after Polish defense leaders said they were buying 24 armed drones from fellow NATO member Turkey.

The U.S. and allies in NATO have made reinforcing Poland and the nearby Baltic states a focal point since Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine. Since then, U.S. tanks from units rotating overseas have been a consistent presence in Poland, according to the Stars and Stripes website.

Baltic Region (Map: CIA World Factbook)

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Norwegian-German Submarine Deal.

The military procurement agencies of Germany and Norway have reached an industrial agreement to buy new, common submarines from Germany’s Thyssekrupp Marine Systems, the Norwegian government announced July 8, 2021.

The identical submarines will be delivered starting in 2029, with operational service expected to last into the 2060s. The agreement on industrial cooperation will help open up the German market to the Norwegian defense industry, according to the announcement. A ceremony in Kiel, Germany this Fall will include the unveiling of a model of the new, common of the 212CD class submarines.

Norway will order four submarines from Thyssenkrupp for 45 billion crowns ($5.3 billion), while Germany will purchase another two, the defense ministries of both countries, said, Reuters reported.

As part of the deal, Norway and Germany also agreed to buy missiles jointly, and to finance the development of a new type of naval strike missile from Norway’s Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace.

In 2017, Norway and Germany, both NATO members, agreed in principle to build the submarines as part of a closer cooperation of their navies.

July 29, 2021 at 8:52 pm Leave a comment

ARCTIC NATION: Dynamic Mongoose; Russian Military Drills; Canadian Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessel

Dynamic Mongoose Anti-Submarine Exercise.

Sailors and airmen from seven NATO nations (Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States) are participating in NATO’s anti-submarine warfare exercise Dynamic Mongoose off the coast of Norway.

The exercise, which began June 28 and runs until July 9, includes two submarines, six surface ships and eight maritime patrol aircraft.

Dynamic Mongoose is an exercise held in the High North every summer. It is hosted alternately by Norway and Iceland. Dynamic Mongoose provides the opportunity for personnel from participating nations to engage in realistic maritime training to build experience, teamwork and knowledge that strengthens interoperability, according to MARCOM (Allied Maritime Command), the central command of all NATO maritime forces .

During the exercise submarines will take turns hunting and being hunted, closely coordinating their efforts with the air and surface participants. Airbases in the UK, Iceland and Norway are also involved.

Aviation units from Canada, Germany, the U.K., Norway, the U.S. and the Netherlands are participating. Rotary winged aircraft will operate from the ships, and land-based maritime patrol aircraft will operate from Lossiemouth, U.K., Keflavik, Iceland, and Andoya, Norway, according to Seapower magazine.

Briefing reporters on the exercise June 28, French Vice Admiral Didier Piaton, the MARCOM deputy commander was asked if the exercise was an attempt to send a message to Russia. Piaton said Dynamic Mongoose — like all NATO exercises — is conducted in a transparent and unprovocative manner with a declared defensive posture. “NATO’s daily mission is deterrence. We’re here to train our crews and make sure our deterrence is credible,” he said, Seapower reported.

Chief of the Royal Norwegian Navy, Rear Admiral Rune Andersen noted the annual exercise has been taking place for many years, and is occurring within Norway’s EEZ. “It’s quite far from Russia, actually,” he said.

*** *** ***

Russian Arctic Military Drills.

Meanwhile, Russia says it will conduct strategic military drills in the Arctic this autumn.

Russia’s new Trefoil Military Base on Franz Josef Land a Russian archipelago in the Arctic sea. (Photo copyright Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation via Wikipedia)

Russia’s Northern Fleet command announced the “strategic military exercise” on June 1 to check the “readiness of the forces and troops” serving in and around the Arctic, according to Radio Free Europe/RadioLiberty.

Northern Fleet command added that the exercises will also “ensure the safety” of the Northern Sea Route. The growing accessibility of natural resources and navigation routes in the Arctic as climate change makes it more accessible has attracted global competition. Russia has invested heavily to develop the route, which cuts the journey to Asian ports by 15 days compared with using the traditional Suez Canal route.

As Moscow seeks to assert its influence in the Arctic, military disputes have intensified in recent years, with both Russian and NATO forces carrying out maneuvers to display their ambitions.

*** *** ***

Canadian Arctic Patrol Vessel.

On June 26 Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Harry DeWolf, the Royal Canadian Navy’s lead ship in its class of Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessels, was commissioned in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

HMCS Harry Dewolf sails under the Confederation Bridge between Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick on November 25, 2020.
(Photo by Corporal David Veldman, Canadian Armed Forces)

The Harry DeWolf is the first ship completed as part of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy and was built at Irving Shipbuilding’s Halifax Shipyard. The ship is named after Vice Adm. Harry DeWolf, a former head of the Royal Canadian Navy. This is the first time a class of ships will be named after a prominent Canadian navy figure in the RCN’s 108-year history, according to Seapower magazine.

The Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) will significantly enhance the Canadian Armed Forces capabilities and presence in the Arctic, better enabling the Navy to assert and uphold Arctic sovereignty. The AOPS will also augment Canada’s presence offshore, and will be capable of conducting a wide variety of operations abroad.

The Harry DeWolf will help to assert Canadian sovereignty in Arctic and coastal Canadian waters in addition to supporting international operations as required. It will deploy for its first mission in August.

*** *** ***

Nuclear submatine USS Toledo (SSN-769) in the Arctic Ocean 2020. (U.S. Navy Photo by MC1 Michael B. Zingaro)

ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military and environmental developments in the Far North. The 2013 U.S. National Strategy for the Arctic Region described the United States as “an Arctic Nation with broad and fundamental interests” in the region. “Those interests include national security protecting the environment, responsibly managing resources, considering the needs of indigenous communities, support for scientific research, and strengthening international cooperation

July 1, 2021 at 11:36 pm Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: Annual SOFIC Conference Goes Virtual

Special Operations Forces Industry Conference.

tampa-rescue-demo

Multi-national commandos participate in a special operations demonstration at 2014 the NDIA Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa, Florida. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

The massive, annual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa, Florida — like many large scale conferences and expos this year — turned virtual because of the restrictions placed on travel and large gatherings by the coronavirus pandemic.

Your 4GWAR editor has gone to several of them in recent years (see photo above) but, like every other visitor, speaker, exhibitor this year took to the internet to see live-streamed presentations by top leaders of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

SOCOM commander, Army General Richard Clarke explained, in one session streamed from Tampa — home to SOCOM headquarters —  how special operators who have been battling violent extremist organizations (VEOs) groups for decades now have a role to play in the Great Power Competition with Russia and China, according to Seapower  magazine’s website.

“Going after the VEOs is not mutually exclusive to competing with great powers,” Clarke said, he added that the capabilities required of Special Ops forces fighting terrorists in places like Asia and the Pacific serve a dual purpose. “By being there, we are also countering great nation states,” he added.

This dual role has implications for the defense industry, Clarke said. “No longer can we just build counter-VEO capabilities that serve a single purpose. As we look at the precision, lethality and mobility requirements as examples, we absolutely have to develop them so they can compete and win with Russia and China, but they could also work in a counter VEO fight,” he added.

But Clarke also said countering violent extremist groups was a generational issue and would remain the number one priority for U.S. special operators. He explained that allies, partners and maintaining alliances will be an integral part of addressing near-peer rivals in the future.

“Great power competition is about influence” and American special operators have a “unique role” to play in this through presence, partnerships and training, Clarke explained, according to Military Times.

May 14, 2020 at 11:54 pm Leave a comment

Droids, Drones & ‘bots: Lost U.S. Drone; French Drone-Equipped Patrol Boats; Russian Armed Robots

DEFENSE

Did Russians Down U.S. Drone over Libya?

The U.S. military believes that an unarmed American drone that disappeared near Libya’s capital in November was shot down by Russian air defenses and U.S Africa Command (AFRICOM) is demanding the return of the aircraft’s wreckage, according to Reuters.

U.S. Army General Stephen Townsend, AFRICOM’s commander, said he believed the operators of the air defenses at the time “didn’t know it was a U.S. remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) when they fired on it.”

Such a shootdown would underscore Moscow’s increasingly muscular role in the energy-rich nation, where Russian mercenaries are reportedly intervening on behalf of east Libya-based commander Khalifa Haftar in Libya’s civil war, Reuters noted on December7. Rival armed groups have been fighting for control of Tripoli for months

When the unarmed aircraft was lost November 21, AFRICOM said drone operations are conducted in Libya to assess the ongoing security situation and monitor violent extremist activity. Those operations were said to be critical to counter terror activity in Libya and are fully coordinated with appropriate government officials.

*** *** ***

France Orders Drone-Equipped Patrol Boats.

France has ordered six 70-meter-long (230-feet-long) offshore patrol vessels –  equipped with drones — to patrol its vast economic exclusive zone, Defense News reported December 6.

The French Armed Forces Ministry said in a statement that the ships has been ordered  “in a context of increasing threats to our fishing resources, biodiversity and international maritime rules.”France has the largest economic exclusive zone (EEZ) in the world, at about 4,514,000 square miles. By comparison, the United States’s EEZ comes in at about 4,383,000 square miles, Defense News said.

Technical specifications, issued by the DGA procurement agency in 2018, called for the ships to be able to deploy a 700-kilogram-class rotor-blade drone, and to be able to keep it under cover.

*** *** ***

Russia Developing Armed Robot Plans.

The Russian military is assembling proposed tactics, techniques and procedures for using robots in urban and coastal combat, the state news agency, RiaNovosti, announced Sunday (November 24).

If you clicked on the link above, you saw that report was in Russian. No we didn’t/couldn’t read it but someone at Defense One did. Here’s what they gleaned:.

The defense ministry has asked various military-industrial enterprises to provide proposals for review by early next year to the military’s Combined Arms Academy. Quoting the Russian agency, Defense One noted the initiative was meant to address “the virtual absence of a unified concept for the use of military robotics by the Russian armed forces.”

According to Defense One, the increased interest in robotic weapons may reflect Russian President Vladimir Putin’s desire for more unmanned systems as well as the military’s experience in Syria, where numerous ground and air vehicles made their first operational appearance.

December 13, 2019 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (October 18, 2019)

Arctic Puma.

Eye in the sky

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sergeant Justin Toledo)

A Marine launches an RQ-20 Puma unmanned aerial system (UAS), a tactical drone, in Setermoen, Norway, on October 10, 2019. Manufactured by California-based  AeroVironment, the Puma is a battery-powered, hand launched, small reconnaissance and surveillance drone. It weighs a little over 13 pounds and can stay aloft for two-and-a- half hours.

The Marine is part of a rotating contingent of Leathernecks based in Norway.

With a long history of service in the Asia-Pacific region from the mid-20th Century until now, the Marine Corps is looking to the future and gearing up for operations in Arctic conditions. Since 2017, a small force of 330 U.S. Marines, based near the town of Vaernes on Norway’s midwest coast, have been rotating in and out of the country every six months. Now with the agreement of the Norwegian government, that rotational deployment has more than doubled in size. “In times of crisis and war Norway will rely on U.S. and other allied military reinforcements. This is at the core of Norwegian security policy and is further emphasized by our NATO-membership,” Norwegian Minister of Defence Frank Bakke-Jensen said in June.

Melting Arctic sea ice, caused by climate change, has touched off a race to establish commercial sea lanes across the top of the world as well as accessing untapped fishing stocks and vast underwater petroleum and mineral stores.  Territorial disputes have also touched off a mini arms race in the polar region, with Russia, Norway, Canada and the United States all boosting their military presence at a rate not seen since the Cold War.

About 700 Marines took over the Corps’ mission in Norway on September 27, marking the latest troop rotation into a country where American forces have been focused on cold weather warfare tactics, according to the Stars and Stripes newspaper’s website.

Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment are now operating out of Setermoen — which is much farther North, above the Arctic Circle — as well as Vaernes,   where they will be training with NATO allies and other partners in the Nordic region. The unit replaced the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, which had been deployed to Norway for the previous  six months.

The 6th Marines are the sixth rotation to Norway. Known as the Marine Rotational Force-Europe, the unit’s headquarters is at Norway’s mountainous Setermoen Army base in the Troms region, which is closer to Russia’s Arctic territory on the Barents Sea.

That move hasn’t set well with Moscow, which has been beefing up its own Cold War-era bases and building new ones in the region — including a large base at Alexandra Island in the Franz Josef Land archipelago (see map below) about 160 miles east of Norway’s Svalbard island group.

In June the Russian Embassy in Norway warned of consequences.  Russia argues Oslo’s decision is in violation of agreements Norway made when it joined NATO in 1949. Norway agreed not to base permanent foreign forces in the country unless threatened or attacked, according to Defense News. But rising Russian belligerence from the Baltics to the Black Sea — especially its 2014 annexation of Crimea and incursion into eastern Ukraine — has unsettled all the militaries in Scandanavia.

Arctic Region

October 18, 2019 at 5:03 pm Leave a comment

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