Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Read All About It...!

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (3rdL) speaks with Spanish Defence Minister Pedro Morenes (4thL) as they arrive at San Gregorio training ground near Zaragoza to attend the Trident Juncture Exercise on Nov. 4. Agence France-Presse
"Ukraine is the place of most importance to Russia, but they went to Syria for three reasons. President [Vladimir] Putin had to get in there before Assad fell so that Russia could retain its foothold in the Middle East with its airport and naval base. Secondly, he wanted to show his domestic population and the world that Russia is a global power. And finally, he needed to distract the world's attention from Ukraine."
"Putin still has 25,000 soldiers in Crimea and there is still a large Russian military presence on Donbass, which is why he won't let the [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe] in to see what they are doing."
"I hope Russia is watching this exercise [Operation Trident Juncture]. We believe a central part of deterrence is not only having deterrence but showing capability in a transparent way that will help deter any possible conflict with the Russians."
Lt.-Gen.Ben Hodges, commanding general, U.S. Army in Europe

"There should be messaging on a number of levels. It shows our ability to work together -- inter-operability. It also demonstrates political will: these are not insignificant resources that each [member-NATO] country has contributed to this exercise."
Lt.-Gen.Steve Bowes, commander, Canadian troops

"This is where we need to be with the world where it is. We need to be prepared. It is all about readiness. It was not just command and not just stability but a war fight. We did it all. There is no doubt in my mind that Putin understands there is a significant exercise."
Maj.-Gen.Dean Milner, commander, 1st Canadian Infantry Division

"The last time NATO regularly held exercises of this magnitude, we were in the midst of the Cold War, facing the Soviet threat."
"Now, we have a far more unstable and potentially more dangerous situation. In this new world, NATO’s allies and partners must be able to move quickly and act decisively."
Alexander Vershbow, NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg’s deputy, ranking U.S. civilian, NATO
US paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg in North Carolina, jump of the US C-17 Globemaster aircraft during a NATO military demonstration in Zaragoza, Spain, Wednesday Nov. 4, 2015. NATO is putting on its most fearsome display of military might in over a decade with soldiers, ships and planes meant to hone and test its abilities as well as send an unequivocal sign to Russia and other real or potential foes. For three weeks which started Oct. 21, more than 36,000 personnel from all 28 NATO allies and eight partner nations, 160 aircraft and 60 ships will be taking part in exercises across a wide swath of southern Europe from Portugal to Italy. (AP Photo/Abraham Caro Marin)
US paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg in North Carolina, jump of the US C-17 Globemaster aircraft during a NATO military demonstration in Zaragoza, Spain, Wednesday Nov. 4, 2015.  (AP Photo/Abraham Caro Marin)
When Operation Trident Juncture was in its planning stages it was meant to present as a relatively modest tactical exercise with ten thousand troops involved. That changed after Russian forces invaded and annexed Crimea last year. Along with NATO's deep concern over Russian forces mobilized in support of pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine. It then became a more stringent "dramatic show of force", to emphasize to the Kremlin NATO's commitment to its allies.

Hundreds of warships and warplanes, and over 36,000 soldiers were spread out across the eastern Atlantic, the Mediterranean, Portugal, Spain and Italy. And a Spetnaz [Special Forces] colonel and other Russian officers were invited to drop by to see the action in real-time, to take their impressions back to Vladimir Putin. Signals are that Russia's strongman is not dreadfully impressed. And he's rather busy at the moment, on several fronts, so distractions are irritating.

Beginning on Oct. 21, more than 36,000 personnel from all 28 NATO allies and eight partner nations, as well as over 160 aircraft and 60 warships, were scheduled to take part in exercises across a broad swath of southern Europe stretching from Portugal to Italy. The objective of the manoeuvres, to ensure that NATO's enhanced Response Force would be prepared for any eventuality, to respond in record time, reflecting NATO's commitment to defence of Europe should a crisis involving member-states erupt.

Preparations for the event have been in the planning stages for over a year, and plans have been altered in response to worrisome moves made by Russia within Europe, unsettling countries formerly part of the Soviet bloc of nations. A not-inconsiderable concern has emerged as well from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, occasioning NATO to recognize new security threats from armed Muslim extremist groups threatening the Middle East and North Africa.

The Russian press is reporting on the NATO exercises, and is typically critical. The story line emphasizes the great cost and energy involved in these vast military showpieces, and contrasts their usefulness to what could be accomplished if all of that funding and action went into a humanitarian effort on behalf of rescuing desperate Syrian refugees. Irony? It abounds, in spades. For Russia has made no effort to aid any of the refugees by offering haven.

Moreover, Russia's incursion into the Syrian quagmire with its bombing missions and its terrifying presence to Syrian civilians who find themselves targeted alongside the Syrian rebels that Bashar al Assad is so anxious to destroy, also kills them. The situation has conspired to influence another estimated 120,000 Syrians to flee the country, further inflating the number of refugees flooding into Europe.

A Syrian refugee cries while disembarking from a flooded raft at a beach on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea from the Turkish coast on an overcrowded raft, October 20, 2015
AP Photo, Yannis Behrakis
"The refugee crisis has reached historic levels in the Balkans and the Mediterranean. Yet instead of providing assistance, NATO holds a gigantic Mediterranean military maneuver simulating confrontation with Russia."

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