rick rozoff

Western military activity in northern seas at level not seen since WW2: Russian naval commander
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, May 13 2021

The Arctic Security Forces Roundtable, a military-to-military forum established by the US and Norway in 2010, originally consisted of twelve nations; the eight Arctic coastal states (Canada, Denmark through Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the US through Alaska) and Britain, France, Germany and the Netherlands. Russia has been excluded from the semi-annual meetings that constitute the group’s activities since 2014 after its reabsorption of Crimea. Russia has the longest Arctic coastline, accounting for over half of all Arctic Ocean coastline and encompassing the Barents Sea, Kara Sea, Laptev Sea and East Siberian Sea. The other eleven members are all either NATO members or NATO Enhanced Opportunities Partners (Finland and Sweden) which for all intents and purposes are members without flying the NATO flag in their capitals. So when military officials of those nations met for two days last week for what EUCOM called strategic discussions (in a virtual format), Russian concerns were not addressed. They were not heard. They were not considered. Instead the discussions were focused entirely on the role of three organizations: the Arctic Council, EU and NATO. The first consists of the eight coastal nations mentioned above, those that have sovereignty rights in the Arctic. The second and third, interrelated in numerous ways and sharing most members in common (21 of 27 EU members are in NATO, hence 21 of 30 NATO members are in the EU), are transparently pitted against Russia in the Arctic as they are in Europe. And in fact globally. The US official most involved in this year’s iteration, EUCOM’s Army Major General Charles Miller, said:

The amount of focused attention and activity, commercially, militarily, environmentally, in the Arctic, along with the region’s continued strategic importance, makes this high-level military gathering an imperative for us.

The other founding-nation representative involved, Commodore Solveig Krey, Defence Staff Norway’s Assistant Chief of Staff Operations, spoke in a similar vein:

The roundtable serves a critical role in ensuring that each participating senior military leader representing some 11 nations gains a clearer understanding of the Arctic, working in concert with the full range of bilateral and multilateral exercises and operations.

The Pentagon has recently acquired access to four new Norwegian bases, two in the Arctic Circle, which has caused serious concerns for the Russian Foreign Ministry. Admiral Alexander Moiseyev, the commander of Russia’s Northern Fleet, has recently expressed alarm over the increasing presence of US and other NATO nations’ ships and submarines in the Barents Sea and Norwegian Sea, which he said is at the highest level since WW2.(Evidently meaning vessels from nations that later joined NATO.) He also condemned larger and more frequent NATO military drills that are occurring closer to Russian borders and the recent prevalence of nuclear-capable strategic bombers near Russia’s northwest and Arctic borders. All of which, he warned, have caused “an increase of the conflict potential in the Arctic.” The recent docking of the US nuclear submarine New Mexico near Tromsø in northern Norway could not have reassured him. The 21st century has seen the top of the world become a strategic battlefield in which NATO and Russia are facing off against each other.

US Marine Harriers conduct long-range strike in backyard of Belarus, Kaliningrad
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, May 13 2021

Three US Marine Corps AV-8B Harriers conducted a long-range bombing run on a range in Lithuania today. Attached to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, the vertical-takeoff multirole combat aircraft took off from the assault ship Iwo Jima in the Atlantic and flew 2k nautical miles straight (with aerial refueling) to the target in the Baltic Sea nation, a member of NATO since 2004. It borders both Belarus and Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave, so the Pentagon may be familiarizing itself with the local terrain in the course of dropping inert Mark 82 bombs there. Since the year it joined NATO Lithuania has hosted NATO fighter jets at the air base in Šiauliai (as has Estonia at Ämari since 2014) under the quaint name of air policing. The main purpose of the regular rotation of NATO member states’ warplanes is to engage with Russian aircraft entering and exiting Kaliningrad. But practice bombing runs like today’s open up other possibilities in relation to both Kaliningrad and nearby Belarus. Lithuania also hosts one of four NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroups, the others being in neighboring states Estonia, Latvia and Poland. The battegroups are led by major NATO powers (Britain, Canada, Germany and the US). That in Lithuania is led by Germany, which cannot be comforting to Kaliningrad (a former German territory) and Belarus, which lost as much as a third of its entire population in a German invasion eighty years ago.

The nation also is home to American troops and armored vehicles as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, which like the air patrols based in Estonia and the NATO battlegroups have been justified as a reaction to Russia’s response to the coup and armed conflict in Ukraine in 2014. After the presidential election and resultant anti-government agitation in Belarus starting in August of last year, Lukaskenko and the Defense Ministry both warned of a NATO military build-up in neighboring Lithuania and Poland, poised for intervention in their nation. In recent days Ukrainian officials, including the president, have been exploiting the canard of an invasion of their country through Belarus. In regard to today’s Marine mock bombing run in coordination with Lithuanian ground controllers, the commander of the Marine Expeditionary Unit in charge of the long-range mission said:

Conducting a joint long-range mission supported by Allies and partners demonstrates the strength and versatility of the NATO Alliance.

Tomorrow’s bombs may not be dummies. And tomorrow’s target may not be a bombing range in Lithuania.

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