various updates

NATO deploys Polish troops to Turkey for war with Syria
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Apr 22 2021

NATO announced the deployment of Polish troops to Turkey as part of the military bloc’s six-year Tailored Assurance Measures for Turkey mission instituted to protect Turkey from Syria, as NATO described it. That measure was taken after Turkey requested an Article 4 consultation with the other members of the now-thirty-nation military bloc in 2015 (as it did again last year). The following year Turkey began direct military activities inside Syria after harboring, arming and training anti-government insurgents since 2011. The Turkish government claimed it was the victim of aggression and not the nation it had invaded. (As it had invaded northern Iraq in 2008.) The NATO package included and continues to include AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) aircraft, naval activities in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and assistance with Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR). Two years before that, in 2013, NATO deployed three Patriot (or equivalent) missile defense systems to Turkey on the Syrian border. The batteries have been provided by the US, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain. In 2015, a Turkish F-16 fighter jet shot down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24M attack aircraft near the Syria–Turkey border. The Sukhoi’s pilot was shot and killed by Turkish-backed rebels after parachuting from the plane; a Russian soldier assigned to a rescue helicopter was also killed. As Wikipedia points out, it was the first time a Russian/Soviet military aircraft had been shot down by a NATO member since the Korean War. Five years later Russia sold S-400 anti-aircraft units to Turkey, which it has refused to provide to Syria and Iran. Following the NATO summit in Brussels in 2018 the military alliance released a declaration that in part stated:

We remain concerned that Turkey has been hit three times in the last four years by missiles launched from Syria. We continue to monitor and assess the ballistic missile threat from Syria.

The range of Syrian missiles, based on their own soil for defense of the nation against outside aggression, the alliance stated, “covers part of NATO’s territory and some of our partners’ territories.” (NATO partners in the region at the time were Mediterranean Dialogue members Israel and Jordan.) Furthermore, NATO said:

The increasing threat posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles in the vicinity of the south-east border of the Alliance has been and remains a driver in NATO’s development and deployment of a ballistic missile defense system, which is configured to counter threats from outside the Euro-Atlantic area.

NATO’s southeastern border, courtesy of Turkey, is Syria, Iraq and Iran. The bloc also pledged the use of its NATO Response Force and the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force as needed. On the first of this year Turkey assumed command of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force as it’s also recently been given the lead role in the NATO training mission in Afghanistan. NATO has never issued a word, needless to say, about Turkish military incursions into Syria, gross violations of international law. At the same summit NATO assigned a key role in its training of the Iraqi army to Turkey, as it was stated, to “put forward effective combat strategies against PKK and Daesh terrorists.” The PKK is the Kurdish Workers’ Party, against which Turkey has waged a counter-insurgency war since 1978, frequently across its borders, the longest such campaign in the world. It was in the name of combating PKK forces that the Turkish military entered Iraq in 2008. So now Polish troops, an estimated 80, have been deployed to Turkey to conduct naval patrols in the Mediterranean and surveillance and reconnaissance flights over the Black Sea coordinated with other NATO operations in theater. Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak said of the NATO deployment:

Polish soldiers are present where allied solidarity requires it. They carry out tasks of various nature, ensuring stability and security, as well as transferring their knowledge and skills. Joining the NATO mission in Turkey is another expression of the fact that Poland treats its alliances seriously and works for security on a global scale.

Yesterday it was Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Today it is Turkey. Tomorrow it may be Ukraine and Belarus. Much closer to home, but still on NATO’s global scale.

Ukraine asks EU to consider cutting off Russia from SWIFT payment system as Kiev seeks more sanctions against Moscow
Jonny Tickle, RT.com, Apr 22 2021

Ukraine has requested that the European Union consider the possibility of disconnecting Russia from SWIFT, the international system of transfers between banks, suggesting that the measure be added to a new package of sanctions. Moscow has previously warned it would consider the move “a declaration of war.” Former Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who now serves as the deputy chairman of the Security Council of Russia, has also dubbed it a “punch in the gut.” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba told Reuters on Wednesday that he personally brought up the idea with his counterparts from the EU. Kuleba believes this measure could be used to deter Moscow in event of the situation in eastern Ukraine escalating. he told Reuters:

If Russia decides to launch another wave of its open military aggression against Ukraine, a new round of sectoral sanctions, including for example banning Russia from SWIFT and these kind of things, should be immediately imposed on it.

SWIFT is an international, interbank messaging system, used by financial institutions to quickly and securely send information, such as instructions to transfer money. Removing Russia from this facility has been proposed as a potential sanction since 2014, in response to Moscow’s alleged role in the Donbass conflict. Still, it seems to have never been seriously considered. Cutting Russia off from SWIFT would be a serious escalation of the sanctions regime. In fact, in 2018, the then-US special representative for Ukraine, Kurt Volker, called it the “nuclear option.” Though aimed at punishing Moscow, removing Russia’s access to SWIFT would also have severe consequences for Kiev. Ukraine makes billions of dollars each year from transporting Russian gas, all paid through the international banking mechanism. This sanction would force the two parties to find alternative means, which may have serious costs. According to Tom Adshead, director of research at the Macro-Advisory consulting firm, large transactions would likely find a way through, even if Russia was cut off from SWIFT. However, complications would arise for ordinary citizens, who could find themselves unable to use their credit cards abroad, and may struggle to buy items online. Citing Russian companies paying their employees abroad as an example, he told RT:

Beyond payment cards and online payments, there are thousands of daily transfers between Russian banks and the West that cover all sorts of transactions.

In Moscow, however, after seven years of threats, Russia is now in a position where losing access to SWIFT would be a major blow, but no longer a disastrous one. The country has created its own alternative, called SPFS. Although it only currently works within Russia, there have been discussions with many other countries, such as Moscow’s BRICS allies, to integrate the system internationally. In particular, there are plans to integrate SPFS with CIPS, China’s own financial network. It’s not just SWIFT that now has a Russian domestic alternative. In 2015, Moscow set up the Mir payment facility, when several Russian banks were temporarily unable to use Visa and Mastercard. Mir has now expanded internationally, and is now used in countries such as Armenia and Turkey. In response to Kuleba’s threat, the vice speaker of Russia’s Federation Council, Konstantin Kosachev, accused Ukraine of building up “anti-Russian hysteria.” he said:

The European Union does not need Ukrainian agricultural products and Ukrainian workers. The only thing it needs from Kiev is Russophobia.

Russia to withdraw troops from deployment on border with Ukraine, Moscow confirms, as major snap exercises in Crimea conclude
RT.com, Apr 22 2021

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has announced that troops deployed in the west and south of the country in recent days will soon begin returning to base, saying they have now passed tests of their combat readiness. The chief of the country’s military revealed on Thursday that a number of units of the regular army and airborne divisions had been transferred to the area, near the shared border with Ukraine, as part of surprise military exercises. The buildup had caused alarm in Kiev, and been cited by Western nations as a potential precursor to an invasion, which the Kremlin repeatedly denied. According to Shoigu:

The goals of the sudden inspection have been fully achieved. The troops demonstrated their ability to ensure reliable defense of the country. As a result, I have ordered commanders to plan and begin the return of troops to their places of regular deployment, beginning from Apr 23. By the end of the month, the personnel of the 58th Army of the Southern Military District, the 41st Army of the Central Military District, the 7th, 76th Air Assault and 98th Airborne Divisions of the Airborne Forces will return to their normal bases. However, we shall react and respond adequately to all changes in the situation near Russian borders.

Earlier the same day, the Ministry of Defense released footage of troops storming the beaches in Crimea in simulated wargames, with amphibious landing ships making ground on the disputed peninsula. In a statement, it said:

The exercises have allowed us to practice the tasks of landing troops and overcoming the anti-landing defenses of the conditional enemy.

Earlier this month, Shoigu paid a visit to troops stationed near the border with Ukraine, and said:

The exercises show full readiness and ability to fulfill the tasks of ensuring the country’s military security. Currently, these associations and formations are engaged in drills and exercises, in response to the military activity of the alliance, which threatens Russia.

On Wednesday, Western media reported that Washington was mulling expanding its shipments of weaponry to Ukraine, including handing over missiles and anti-air equipment. The country has previously requested support from NATO in defending against what it claims is Russian “aggression.” Fighting between Kiev’s forces and soldiers loyal to two breakaway republics in the east has escalated in recent weeks, and Moscow has warned it could intervene to prevent a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe.

Russian military creating system to make areas of airspace inaccessible to foreign missiles and drones, reports say
Jonny Tickle, RT.com, Apr 22 2021

Russia’s electronic warfare specialists will practice creating ‘protection areas’ in the country’s airspace that could render foreign satellite navigation systems completely useless, disabling an enemy’s high-precision weapons. According to Moscow daily Izvestia, citing a source in the Defense Ministry, radio-electronic warfare troops will practice using the technology during exercises this year, with the practice to be held nationwide in 2022. The system, known as Field-21, creates interference that disorients foreign satellite navigation systems, including the American GPS NAVSTAR. According to experts, the creation of special zones could be used to protect military facilities, as well as industrial areas, making the airspace virtually impenetrable. They believe the new approach will radically increase national security. With satellite navigation foiled, enemy high-precision weapons and drones will not be able to direct themselves towards their target. Military historian Dmitry Boltenkov told Izvestia:

Electronic warfare systems hit several cruise missile systems at once. Satellite navigation interference causes them to get ‘lost’ in space and dramatically reduces their accuracy. If the radio altimeter signal is suppressed, the ammunition will also not be able to perform its combat mission as expected.

Radio-electronic troops have already been deployed in Syria, where an electronic warfare protection dome has been created over the areas of Tartus and Khmeimim, protecting the military from attacks by militant drones. Russia has been involved in the Syrian Civil War since 2015, when it was invited by the Damascus government, led by President Bashar Assad, to help fight against a terrorist insurgency in the country. In Russia’s Far North, the powerful Murmansk-BN system has been deployed on the Arctic coast, and is capable of interfering with the communication, navigation, and control systems of ships, submarines, and aircraft illegally crossing the border. In March 2019, the Norwegian Defense Ministry officially complained to Moscow, stating that the jamming technology is affecting security in Norway’s own air space.

Russia: No War Now
South Front, Apr 22 2021

The troops of the Southern and Western military districts will begin to return from the southern Russian borders to the points of their permanent deployment in Apr 23. The statement was made by the Russian Defence Minister. Shoigu said at a meeting in the Crimea (quoted by TASS):

The goals of the surprise inspection have been fully achieved. The troops demonstrated the ability to provide a reliable defense of the country. In this regard, I decided to complete the verification activities in the Southern and Western military districts.

On Apr 22, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu arrived in Crimea, where the exercises of the Southern Military District and the Airborne Forces, which are part of a sudden global check of combat readiness, are taking place. Shoigu flew by helicopter around the areas of deployment of troops and military equipment, checked their readiness for the exercises. According to him, during the check, actions on the anti-amphibious defense of the coast were worked out, the exercises involved coastal missile systems, drones, patrol boats, as well as “other latest advanced weapons.” Units of the field army, Air Force and Air defense units, warships and vessels, military units of the coastal troops of the Black Sea Fleet, part of the forces of the Caspian Flotilla of the Southern Military District, as well as units of the Airborne Troops will take part in the training ground in Crimea. The troops were transferred there a day before. A group of ships of the Black Sea Fleet, part of the forces of the Caspian Flotilla went to the area of the exercise a few days before. Previously, on Apr 18, the Sunday Times reported that Britain would deploy its warships in the Black Sea in order to show solidarity with Ukraine and Britain’s NATO allies.

After West builds up war hysteria for weeks, Russian troops return to bases after drills end
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Apr 22 2021

The Russian defense minister confirmed today that troops deployed to the south and west of the country, Crimea and areas east of Ukraine, have completed what were described as surprise combat readiness checks and would return to barracks starting tomorrow. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu is quoted by government news agency TASS as saying:

I believe that the surprise inspection’s goals have been achieved in full. The troops demonstrated ability to reliably defend the country. Therefore, I have made a decision to complete the inspection measures in the Southern and Western Military Districts.

End of story. But not until after Western officials and news media attempted to terrify the world into believing a Russian invasion of Ukraine by a WW2-size military juggernaut was imminent. Estimates of Russian troop deployments near Ukraine steadily grew from 4k (NYT) to 80k (CBS News) to 103k (Ukrinform) to 120k (Reuters) to 150k (the European Union’s Josep Borrell), then down to 100k (Borrell again). One Ukrainian official even said that the above-mentioned exercises represented the largest troop movements in Russia since WW2. We live in a world in which the US and its NATO allies have over the past twenty or so years waged wars in Southeastern Europe, South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa on the slimmest of pretexts, indeed on outright lies. And in which the peace of individual nations as well as that of the world as a whole rests on a hair trigger. In such a world the unconscionable inflation of troop numbers in a volatile situation like that along the Ukraine-Russia border comes precariously close to an incitement to military overreaction. To war.

NATO on End of Military Drills in Southern Russia: Steps Towards De-Escalation Important
Sputnik News, Apr 22 2021

BRUSSELS – NATO believes that “any steps” towards de-escalation are important, a NATO official said on Thursday, when commenting on the Russian Defence Ministry’s announcement on the conclusion of military drills in the country’s south. Earlier in the day, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu announced the completion of snap combat readiness checks in the southern and western military districts. He also ordered the general staff, the military districts’ chiefs and the airborne forces to start returning the troops to the places of their permanent deployment starting Friday, conduct a detailed analysis and sum up the results of the checks. The official said:

We have taken note of the announcement by Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu. Any steps towards de-escalation by Russia would be important and well overdue. NATO remains vigilant and we will continue to closely monitor Russia’s unjustified military build-up in and around Ukraine. NATO stands with Ukraine, and we continue to call on Russia to respect its international commitments and withdraw all its forces from Ukrainian territory.

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