Posts tagged ‘Russia’

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

FRIDAY FOTO (September 9, 2022)

BOUND FOR UKRAINE.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matt Porter)

Senior Airman Natasha Mundt, 14th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, and other airmen assigned to the 305th Aerial Port squadron, load Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System munitions to a C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey on  August 13, 2022.

The munitions cargo is part of an additional security assistance package for Ukraine. The security assistance the U.S. is providing to Ukraine is enabling critical success on the battlefield against the Russian invading force.

On Thursday, September 8, the Pentagon announced another authorization of security assistance valued at up to $675 million to meet Ukraine’s critical security and defense needs. This authorization is the Biden Administration’s twentieth drawdown of equipment from Defense Department inventories for Ukraine since August 2021.

Weaponry and other equipment includes more ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) that have been playing havoc with Russian facilities — including ammo dumps and command centers — behind the front lines, as this CBS News piece illustrates.

Also going to Ukraine will be: Four 105mm Howitzers and 36,000 105mm artillery rounds; additional High-speed Anti-radiation missiles (HARM) that destroy enemy radar-equipped air defense systems; 100 Armored High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV); 1.5 million rounds of small arms ammunition; more than 5,000 anti-armor systems; 1,000 155mm rounds of Remote Anti-Armor Mine (RAAM) Systems; 50 armored medical treatment vehicles; plus additional grenade launchers, small arms, night vision devices and other field equipment.

Additionally, the U.S. State Department notified Congress it intends to make $2 billion available in long-term investments in Foreign Military Financing. One billion to bolster Ukraine’s security and the other $1 billion for 18 of Ukraine’s regional neighbors.

To date, the United States has committed approximately $15.2 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since January 2021. Since 2014, when Russia illegally annexed Ukrainian territory in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, the United States has committed more than $17.2 billion in security assistance — and more than $14.5 billion since the beginning of Russia’s unprovoked and brutal invasion on February 24.

September 8, 2022 at 11:57 pm 2 comments

ROBOTS, DROIDS & DRONES: More Drones and Equipment for Ukraine; Air Force Drone Crash in Libya

DEFENSE.

Drones in Latest U.S. Ukraine Aid Package.

On the 31st anniversary of Ukraine’s independence, the United States announced its latest military aide package — almost $3 billion to train and equip the Ukrainian armed forces, including a more small, land-based unmanned aircraft and support equipment for a land and maritime drone.

The $2.98 billion aid package President Joe Biden announced Thursday (August 24, 2022) to provide weapons and equipment through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, (ASAI) “will allow Ukraine to acquire air defense systems, artillery systems and munitions, counter-unmanned aerial systems, and radars to ensure it can continue to defend itself over the long term,” he said.

Unlike a Presidential Drawdown, which the Pentagon has used to deliver equipment urgently needed by Ukraine from Defense Department stockpiles, USAI permits the U.S. government to procures needed capabilities from industry.

A U.S. Marine an RQ-20B Puma unmanned aerial vehicle during Exercise Snow Panzer in Setermoen, Norway, February 11, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Nghia Tran)

AeroVironment’s Puma, a small, hand-launched unmanned aerial system (UAS), and support equipment for the larger Boeing-Insitu Scan Eagle UAS are included in the package, according to the Defense Department. An earlier assistance package promised 15 catapult-launched Scan Eagles, which originally were developed for the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq and can be launched from land or ship.  Both unmanned systems are unarmed and designed for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. The Defense Department gave no details on the number of Pumas or type of supplies for Scan Eagle being sent to Ukraine.

Since Russia is also using unmanned aircraft, the aid package will provide VAMPIRE Counter-Unmanned Aerial Systems to the Ukrainians.

In addition to marking the date Ukraine declared its independence for the old Soviet Union, August 24 is exactly six months from the start of Russia’s invasion of its neighbor.

The United States has committed more than $13.5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since January 2021. In total, the United States has committed more than $15.5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since 2014, according to the Pentagon.

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AFRICOM Investigating Air Force Drone crash in Libya.

U.S. Africa Command is investigating the cause of an Air Force surveillance drone to crash near Benghazi, Libya, the military said Wednesday (August 23, 2022).

The drone was surveilling the area Monday ahead of planned diplomatic meetings, AFRICOM said. It did not specify what type of drone was involved or whether the crash was the result of enemy fire, Stars and Stripes reported here.

August 24, 2022 at 11:43 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

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.

***

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

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