rick rozoff marathon catch-up contnued

Defending international order: US, British, Dutch warships converge in Black Sea
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Jun 19 2021

US Naval Forces Europe & Africa reported that the guided-missile destroyer Laboon, deployed to the Black Sea on Jun 11, engaged in passing and communications exercises with two warships assigned to the Queen Elizabeth strike group, currently in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. The latter ships are the British destroyer Defender and the Netherlands De Zeven Provinciën-class frigate Evertsen. Laboon is the fifth US ship sent to the Black Sea so far this year, and the fourth guided-missile warship (three destroyers and a cruiser), all four Aegis Combat System vessels equipped with SM-3 interceptor missiles. Last week the Queen Elizabeth strike group engaged in joint exercises in the Mediterranean with the Charles de Gaulle strike group which included 15 ships and 57 aircraft from FUKUS, Greece, Italy and the Netherlands. The Queen Elizabeth strike group represents the largest-ever deployment of F-35 combat aircraft and the largest fifth-generation fighter carrier air wing in the world. In addition to Defender and Evertsen, the Queen Elizabeth strike group includes the British destroyer Diamond, the US destroyer The Sullivans and the British frigates Richmond and Kent.

Laboon is assigned to the Eisenhower strike group, as are fellow destroyers Mitscher, Mahan and Thomas Hudner and cruiser Monterey. Thomas Hudner and Monterey were deployed to the Black Sea earlier this year. In addition to the four guided-missile warships assigned to the Eisenhower strike group and the one to the Queen Elizabeth strike group, the US maintains four more destroyers at the Naval Station Rota in Spain. So the US currently has ten guided-missile ships in the Mediterranean and Black Seas, capable of firing 55 Tomahawk cruise missiles apiece and SM-3 interceptors of the sort that earlier this month were used to conduct “a ballistic missile intercept in outer space.” The recent exercise in the Black Sea with British, US and Dutch warships was described by its British commander in these anything but modest words:

This opportunity for ourselves and the Evertsen to operate with the Laboon in the Black Sea has again demonstrated the agility and flexibility that exists between NATO allies to be able to work seamlessly together on Maritime Security operations in order to defend international order and promote global peace and stability.

Defending the international order in a region where only one adversary is targeted: Russia.

Pax mundi: Putin embraces Biden, all’s right with the world
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Jun 19 2021

The year’s at the spring,
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hill-side’s dew-pearl’d;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in His heaven –
All’s right with the world!
– from Pippa Passes, Robert Browning

Four days after the three-hour meeting between Biden and Putin in Geneva, TASS reported that chief of the Russian general staff General Valeri Gerasimov was confident of better days ahead regarding relations between the world’s two nuclear superpowers. With what comes across as heartfelt trust, undisguised enthusiasm and emotional ebullience (a skeptic might call it naiveté), the general said of the Geneva meeting and what he believes it portends:

We felt the constructive stance. It seems to me that both our countries will embark on this course.

After the meeting, in words that could make Erdoğan jealous, Putin positively gushed over his first meeting with one of the world’s premier arch-Russophobes, one who is single-handedly keeping alive the legacies of Zbigniew Brzezinski and John McCain, who might be said to be channeling their utter detestation of Russia and all things Russian. Reuters reported the Russian president saying the following the day after the meeting in a story not inappropriately-titled “Putin lavishes post-summit praise on Biden, says media have US leader wrong”:

I want to say that the image of President Biden that our press and even the American press paints has nothing in common with reality. He was on a long trip, had flown across the Ocean, and had to contend with jet lag and the time difference. When I fly it takes its toll. But he looked cheerful, we spoke face-to-face for two or maybe more hours. He’s completely on top of his brief. Biden is a professional, and you have to be very careful in working with him to make sure you don’t miss anything. He doesn’t miss anything, I can assure you.

That Biden, then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was the first major US official to visit Georgia after it provoked a five-day war with Russia in 2008 by invading South Ossetia, and while there pledged $1b to rebuild the nation, was blissfully forgotten. Forgive him his trespasses. That he was instrumental in engineering the 2014 coup in Ukraine, triggering an ongoing war on Russia’s western border, then becoming the first US official to visit the post-coup nation and lay down the law to its parliament, could only add to Putin’s admiration of his professionalism, his effervescent cheerfulness, his engaging sociability (“C’mon, Killer!”) and his being completely on top of his brief. A real pro. A figure worthy of emulation. That Biden was vice-president while Yanukovych was overthrown, while the Ukrainian army shelled the Donbass and beyond and on several occasions wounded and killed Russian civilians on their own territory, while the US deployed troops to Syria to overthrow Assad, while Libya was bombed by the US and NATO for seven and a half months, while NATO battlegroups and US troops and armored vehicles were deployed to Russia’s borders in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, and while president declaring a national emergency this April because of a threat “posed by specified harmful foreign activities of the Government of the Russian Federation,” while … but why go on? If Putin doesn’t hold such peccadilloes against him, why should anyone else? For those familiar with the Gospel of St Matthew:

“Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”
“I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”

A blossoming friendship of the sort Putin celebrates is not to be dismissed, not to be taken for granted, not to be endangered, but to be cherished. Even as the American commander-in-chief’s warships, warplanes (including B-52s) and troops are off the shore of Russia’s Kaliningrad district in the anti-Russian Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) war games. Friends overlook such minor irritants. That’s what friends are for. A paraphrase of St Matthew this time: if your friend takes your Armenia, let him have your Belarus as well. There may indeed be a diminution of tensions between the US and Russia when one leader calls the other a killer and the latter praises him as he has so fawningly done. Whether psychotherapists would consider theirs a healthy friendship is another matter.

US nuclear-capable bombers end month-long mission with flight through Arctic, Pacific
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Jun 19 2021

American B-52H Stratofortress strategic bombers have completed a month-long mission to Europe and Africa by flying over the Arctic, North Africa and the Pacific Ocean on Jun 17-18. The B-52s had been forward-deployed to the Morón Air Base by arrangement with NATO ally Spain and served under the commander of USAF Europe & Africa, General Jeffrey Harrigian, who is also commander of NATO’s Allied Air Command. In the course of their deployment they flew over the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea, the Aegean Sea, North Africa, the Gulf of Guinea and all of West Africa, and on May 31 they flew over all thirty NATO member states in one day, accompanied by some 80 combat aircraft from 20 other NATO nations. The nuclear-capable bombers participated in over a dozen missions during the past month, including the US-led BALTOPS multinational exercise and a special operations maneuver. Even the ever-complaisant Russian government was compelled to take notice of the B-52s flying only a few minutes’ flight from St Petersburg, tweeting:

Use of USAF nuclear-capable B-52H during BALTOPS is provocation.

The commander of USAF Europe & Africa and NATO’s Allied Air Command has a far broader geopolitical perspective than the residents of the Kremlin. At the conclusion of the month-long B-52 deployments, General Harrigian said:

Our unparalleled global strike capability is the backbone of our combat-credible force. That force is the foundation of our extended deterrence strategy that safeguards both US security and that of our allies and partners.

Moscow hasn’t tweeted anything about that comment as far as is apparent.

Turkey, Pakistan plot to control Afghanistan
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Jun 18 2021

The three-day Antalya Diplomacy Forum started in southern Turkey on Jun 18. According to the Turkish Foreign Ministry, its participants include ten current and three former heads of state and government (presidents and prime ministers), 42 foreign ministers and over 50 representatives of international organizations. Topics of discussion include the Balkans, the future of Europe, trans-Atlantic relations, refugees and migrants and terrorism (which with Turkey is usually a reference to the Kurdish Workers’ Party and affiliates). A session was scheduled on Turkey’s proposal for an Eastern Mediterranean conference as well. The conference is another reflection of Ankara’s ambition to establish itself not only as a regional but a latent global power. Evidence of that policy has been seen from the military side in places ranging from Libya to the Caucasus and from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan. Speaking on the sidelines on the first day of the event, the foreign minister of Pakistan, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, called for joint Pakistani-Turkish cooperation in Afghanistan after all US and other NATO forces (except Turkey’s) are withdrawn. Qureshi was quoted by a reporter from Daily Sabah as stating:

I will be meeting the Turkish foreign minister on Jun 20 and I have to hear him out about what is their proposal. I do not know the details yet.

After meeting with the leaders of several other NATO countries at the Jun 14 NATO summit in Brussels, Erdoğan said he intended to invite Pakistan and Hungary to join Turkey in playing a security role in Afghanistan after the departure of US and NATO military forces. Pakistan is an obvious choice for him, as the two nations are solidifying cooperation in several spheres, including the military, but Hungary is not so obvious a selection. One possibility is that the nation has hosted the multinational NATO-supported Strategic Airlift Capability since 2008 and would be best qualified to share control of the Hamid Karzai International Airport with NATO ally Turkey.

Erdoğan, with characteristic lack of timidity, said that his nation was the only one that could continue a foreign security function in Afghanistan after the general withdrawal. On Jun 17 the Afghan Foreign Ministry said that Cihad Erginay, the Turkish ambassador to Afghanistan, met with Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar. Turkey advocated bringing Pakistan into the reconciliation process, by which it might be understood to mean negotiations between the government of President Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban, and its envoy spoke both of continuing a NATO role in the nation and recruiting “the support of regional countries, especially Pakistan” in Afghanistan. The population of Afghanistan is over 40% Pashtun and some 12% Turkic (Uzbek and Turkmen). The first gives Pakistan and the second Turkey the influence of ethnic and linguistic affinity. The largely autonomous warlord in the north, ethnic Uzbek Abd’ul-Rashid Dostum, has lived in Turkey and owns property there. He recently threatened Afghan President Ashraf Ghani with the prospect of a South Turkestan (with Turkish backing) if Kabul doesn’t meet his demands. Turkey dominates the Turkic Council, which also includes its de facto province Azerbaijan and three of Afghanistan’s neighbors in Central Asia: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Afghanistan has an estimated population of close to 40m. Pakistan has a population of 225m and Turkey of 85m.

In what is a revealing indication of what may lie at the root of a Turkish-Pakistani alliance not only in Afghanistan but also much further afield, at the beginning of the month the speaker of the Turkish parliament, Mustafa Şentop, was in Pakistan where he met with Pakistani President Arif Alvi. The Turkish parliamentarian was quoted by the Daily Sabah as stating Turkey and Pakistan should lead the Islamic world together. A Turkish-Pakistani axis, replete as it would be with nuclear weapons, would be a military force to contend with; a combination of NATO’s largest member state outside North America and the most populous of NATO’s forty partners.

Larger conflict looming: Pakistan’s chief of army staff to visit Azerbaijan
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Jun 18 2021

Today’s Azerbaijani news reports that General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of the Army Staff of Pakistan, will visit Azerbaijan on Jun 20. He will lead a delegation to meet with representatives of the host nation’s defense ministry and military officialdom. Details are scarce, but news reports state that the Pakistani general will discuss expanding military cooperation between the two states, which has already grown substantially in recent years. Both nations are NATO partners: Azerbaijan is a member of the Partnership for Peace and Pakistan of Partners Across the Globe. Azerbaijan joined NATO’s North Atlantic Cooperation Council in 1992, making it one of if not the first of what are now forty NATO partners around the world.

On Jun 17, Pakistani Air Vice Marshal Tariq Zia met with the deputy defense minister of Azerbaijan, Air Force Commander Ramiz Tahirov, to discuss strengthening cooperation between the two nations’ air forces. The Azerbaijani defense chief thanked his military counterpart for training Azerbaijani pilots at the Pakistan Air Force Academy, and was paraphrased as saying:

The development of cooperation in the military aviation sphere and ties between the Air Forces contribute to further strengthening the Azerbaijani and Pakistani armies’ combat capability.

It is to be assumed that Pakistani-trained pilots participated in last year’s 44-day war of aggression waged by Azerbaijan against Nagorno-Karabakh. The two sides lauded what is identified as a strategic partnership. A report of the results of the meeting in Trend News said:

During the 44-day war with Armenia in 2020, Pakistan was among the first countries voicing political support for Azerbaijan. Pakistan also supports Azerbaijan in the restoration of the country’s liberated territories.

On Jun 9, a meeting occurred in the Azerbaijan capital of Baku between Pakistani Army Military Operations Director-General Nauman Zakaria and Azerbaijan’s Armed Forces General Staff Deputy Chief Ayaz Hasanov during which the sides deliberated on “ensuring operational interoperability between the various types of troops and units of the two countries’ armies, planning and conducting joint operational exercises and other aspects of mutual interest.” The Azerbaijani Defense Minstry reported that among other issues discussed were joint military exercises. The following day, the Pakistani military delegation met with Azerbaijani Deputy Defence Minister Ramiz Tahirov and the latter expressed gratitude for the training of Azerbaijani pilots at the Pakistan Air Force Academy. The two discussed further military cooperation in various spheres that contributes to “the further strengthening of the Azerbaijani and Pakistani armies’ combat capability.” Plans to expand cooperation between the two countries’ air forces were agreed upon.

At the same time, an Azerbaijani delegation led by Naval Forces Commander Subhan Bakirov visited Pakistan to upgrade cooperation between the navies of the two nations as well as “regional and domestic security.” The navy chief met with Pakistani army head General Qamar Javed Bajwa (who will be in Baku within hours) at General Headquarters in Rawalpindi on Jun 8 to discuss defense and training issues as well as what was described as the regional security situation. It was reported that the Pakistani army chief spoke of “brotherly relations” with Azerbaijan and offered extensive assistance in the military realm. And he also praised the Azerbaijani armed forces’ military prowess (after last year’s war against Nagorno-Karabakh). Azerbaijan’s naval commander thanked Pakistan for its military support. So this month the two nations have held meetings to increase military cooperation with their land, air and naval forces. Pakistan was the second nation to recognize Azerbaijan’s independence in 1991; only Turkey preceded it. To this day Islamabad refuses to recognize Armenia until it acknowledges all of Nagorno-Karabakh as Azerbaijani territory. Information in the next paragraph is from Dr Nazrin Alizada’s Azerbaijan-Pakistan Military Relations, Apr 13 2021:

The two nations signed an agreement on Cooperation in Military and Defence Fields in 2002, and further military cooperation was initiated when President Pervez Musharraf and his Chief of the General Staff Aziz Khan visited the country in 2004, when Pakistani Defense Minister Syed Ather Ali visited in 2010, and when then-former Prime Minister Nevaz Sharif visited in 2016. After the last visit it was announced that the two nations would conduct joint military exercises and that Baku was interested in obtaining Pakistani F-17 Thunder fourth-generation multi-role combat aircraft.

It is uncertain how much assistance Pakistan supplied Azerbaijan in last year’s war. Credible sources state Pakistani “volunteers” fought alongside Azerbaijani troops and that some are buried in a “martyrs cemetery” in Azerbaijan. What is certain is that Azerbaijan, already backed to the hilt by its “one nation, two states” sponsor Turkey and now by Pakistan as well, is emboldened to further acts of military aggression in the Caucasus. And not just the Caucasus. Iran would be well-advised to monitor the emergence of the Ankara-Baku-Islamabad triad. Russia, too, of course, if Russia can be persuaded to pay attention to anything concerning its pan-Turkic allies.

NATO nations, Israel conclude groundbreaking F-35 war games said to target Iran
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Jun 18 2021

The nine-day Falcon Strike 21 air combat exercises in Italy ended on Jun 17. The website of NATO Allied Air Command Europe reported that 600 personnel and F-35 fifth-generation combat aircraft from Britain, Israel, Italy and the US participated in “complex scenarios,” and among other facets of the exercise staged “interoperability” training with units of the British Royal Navy. The war games, hosted by Italy, were the first of their kind: a multinational effort by three NATO founding members and NATO partner Israel to stage integrated drills with the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for prospective use against a common adversary. Respectively, the participants supplied:

  • USAF F-35A Lightning IIs, Marine Corps F-35B Lightning IIs and F-16C Fighting Falcons
  • RAF (Britain) F-35B Lightning IIs
  • IAF (Israel) F-35I Adirs and Gulfstream G550 specialized surveillance aircraft
  • IAF (Italy) F-35A and F-35B Lightning IIs, F-2000 Eurofighter Typhoons, Panavia Tornados, Alenia Aermacchi T-346s, AMX International ground attack aircraft, MQ-1 Predators and Gulfstream G550s

The Queen Elizabeth strike group also participated. NATO’s account of the above reads thus:

Modern F-35 fighter aircraft from three Allies and Partner Israel flew integration missions with Italian Eurofighter, T-346, Tornado and AMX jets, USAF F-16 fighters, tanker aircraft and conformal airborne early warning aircraft as well as the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elisabeth in the Mediterranean Sea.

Drills were held on the Italian mainland and in Sardinia and Sicily. The Times of Israel described them thus:

In first, Israeli F-35s train in Italy, with Iran in their sights. This was the largest and farthest drill that Israeli’s F-35s have participated in to date. Though the explicit goal of the exercise is to improve the overall capabilities of the F-35 jet a senior IAF officer acknowledged that in part, this drill was meant to prepare Israeli pilots for using the fighter aircraft against Iranian forces.

Germany marks Barbarossa anniversary by deploying warplanes to Russia’s borders, singing birthday song for Hitler
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Jun 18 2021

Only three days before the 80th anniversary of the German-led Operation Barbarossa invasion of Soviet Russia on Jun 22 1941, NATO reports that fifteen German warplanes flew near Russia’s northwest border for four days this month, Jun 14-17. Altogether over 40 military aircraft from NATO nations participated in Multinational Air Group Days, with the German planes providing the framework for other warplanes from fellow NATO member states Denmark, Italy, Spain, Turkey and the US. For the first time a Multinational Air Group Days deployment was integrated with the mammoth BALTOPS war games in the indicated region, which are led by the US. NATO expressed the relation between the two exercises in this manner:

The combination of the two training events offered synergies weaving multinational air operations into the maritime play facilitating modern warfighting operations. NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre at Uedem, Germany, an expert for Allied air operations in the region, controlled the aerial training activities.

The NATO press release from which the preceding is excerpted also quotes Lieutenant Colonel Rüdiger Gerhart, German Multinational Air Group Days Project Officer at the German Air Operations Command in Kalkar, Germany:

The way ahead is to achieve an initial operational capability in 2023 allowing Germany to lead an air task force and to further expand and solidify that capability to declare full operational capability in 2026.

The German Air Force, which appeared in the sky over Yugoslavia in 1999 during NATO’s 78-day air war against the nation, after a 54-year hiatus following the defeat of the Third Reich in 1945, is back in business and ready to bomb many of the same cities it did 80 years ago. German multirole combat aircraft rotate to upgraded air bases in Latvia and Lithuania to participate in NATO’s so-called air policing operations with patrols near the Russian border, particularly near the territory of Kaliningrad, and that of Belarus. Latvia borders the main body of Russia; Lithuania abuts Kaliningrad. Both border Belarus.NATO stations Enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, all of which border Russia. The battlegroup in Lithuania is commanded by the German military and also includes troops and equipment from fellow NATO member states Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Norway (which also borders Russia). It is located at Rukla, just a few km from Russia.

Thirty German soldiers attached to the NATO battlegroup in Lithuania were sent home two days ago for alleged racist and anti-Semitic behavior and for, to make the anniversary complete, singing a birthday song for Adolph Hitler. Nostalgic for the glory days of their great-grandfathers, no doubt. Surely NATO has provided them with the opportunity to reflect on such matters. Anyone in Russia or elsewhere who observes that the current configuration of multinational Western military forces along Russia’s entire western border resembles that of 80 years will of course be accused of paranoia, and of “amplifying GRU disinformation.” They will monitored and detected by the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence in Riga, Latvia, which will report them to the government of their nation, and they may receive a knock on their door.

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