rozoff for apr 18/19

Norway: 40k troops in Arctic to train for “larger global conflict involving Russia in the North-Atlantic”
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Apr 18 2021

The Barents Observer reports that next year’s Cold Response war games in northern Norway will include the participation of 40k troops. The biennial exercise has been conducted since 2006 when 10k military personnel were involved. The last iteration in 2020 included 15k service members, but was cancelled after two weeks because of the coronavirus outbreak. So next year’s Cold Response will feature a qualitative increase in the number of soldiers involved. In fact that number will be the largest in any Arctic exercise since the Cold War. Cold Response 2020’s 15k participants came from NATO members Norway, the US, Belgium, Britain, Denmark, France, Germany and the Netherlands and NATO Enhanced Opportunities Partner Finland and Sweden. Traditionally invitations have been extended to all NATO members and partners to participate. In a phone interview with the Barents Observer, the head of the Norwegian armed forces, General Eirik Kristoffersen, provided the 40k figure. He also confirmed that the exercise “will be the largest military exercise inside the Arctic Circle in Norway since the 1980s.” Despite the unprecedentedly large amount of military personnel projected to be involved, it is planned to be largely a naval and air force undertaking. It’s to be held in the Ofoten region in Northern Norway, where it’s recently been announced the Pentagon is to construct a new facility at the Evenes air base. That base will also host Norway’s newly-acquired P8 Poseidon maritime surveillance planes, described by their manufacturer Boeing as “excelling at anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface warfare; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and search and rescue,” along with NATO’s two northernmost Quick Reaction Alert F-35s fighter jets. The region also contains training areas employed by the US, Britain and the Netherlands for Arctic warfare exercises, according to the Barents Observer, which states of it:

For NATO and the Nordic countries’ defense partnership, Ofoten is core strategic important [sic] in case of a larger global conflict involving Russia in the North-Atlantic.

The news site also quotes Norwegian Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen asserting next year’s war games, which he describes as being motivated by purposes of deterrence, were designed to protect NATO interests in the Arctic. Estimates of the number of troops participating in the ongoing Defender Europe 2021 exercise conducted in twelve nations from the Baltic to the Black Seas range from 30k to 37k. The amount to participate in next year’s Cold Response is larger yet. Both are targeted against one nation: Russia.

Sunday Times: Britain to deploy two warships to the Black Sea in show of force to Russia
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Apr 18 2021A

The Sunday Times cites a Royal Navy source stating two British warships will enter the Black Sea next month as the newspaper put it, “tensions continue to rise between Ukrainian and Russian forces.” As always with the Western press it is not indicated where and in what manner there have been tensions between Ukrainian and Russian (presumably armed) forces until now. The account states a Type 45 destroyer armed with anti-aircraft missiles and an anti-submarine Type 23 frigate are the ships in question. The two ships, unnamed in the report, are currently attached to the Royal Navy carrier task group on its way to the Mediterranean. The Sunday Times indicates that RAF F-35B Lightning stealth jets and Merlin submarine-hunting helicopters will be on stand-by aboard the task group’s flagship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, “to support the warships in the Black Sea should they be threatened by Russian warships, submarines or aircraft.” As the US cancelled plans to deploy the USS Donald Cook and USS Roosevelt Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers to the Black Sea on Apr 14 and 15 as earlier reported, the announced British deployment can be seen as replacing them as part of a NATO naval build-up targeted at Russia. The USS Eisenhower nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and its carrier strike group, which includes four guided-missile destroyers, including USS Donald Cook and USS Roosevelt, and a guided-missile cruiser as well as 90 aircraft, has been conducting joint exercises in the Arabian Sea with the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, the only non-American nuclear aircraft carrier, and its strike group. Both carriers and their strike groups will return to the Eastern Mediterranean shortly. In fact the Sunday Times‘ report included the speculation:

Putting the ships off the coast of Ukraine is intended to show solidarity with Kiev and NATO allies in the region after the President Biden decided to cancel the deployment of two American warships to the Black Sea last week.

The paper also mentioned that four British Typhoon fighter jets will fly to Romania next week for NATO air policing operations over the Black Sea, and that hundreds of British soldiers are to be deployed to Ukraine this summer for the Cossack Mace military exercise. Rarely is the prospect of peace in the Black Sea region given a reprieve for a few days than a troubling new report like this surfaces. What is possibly even more menacing a prospect is one Erdoğan broached when recently discussing his nation’s Kanal Istanbul project, which will connect the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara while bypassing the Bosporus, and the Montreux Convention of 1936 which limits the number and size of warships that can enter the Black Sea. He said of the canal:

It has nothing to do with the Montreux Convention. We are bringing about work through which we will establish our own independence, our own sovereignty in full measure.

That would seem to mean Turkey would no longer be obligated to enforce the terms of the Montreux pact and as a result NATO nations could deploy as many warships to the Black Sea as they choose to.

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