Kaarel Kaas, editor of Estonia’s Diplomaatia monthly, has compiled a detailed survey of the state of Russia’s conventional forces near Estonia’s borders.
Military training “Zapad-2013” continues
The large landing ships of the Northern, Baltic and Black Sea forces involved in the strategic exercises “Zapad-2013” set the course for Kaliningrad where they will disembark the Belarusian landing troops. The troops will participate in the maneuvers in anti-aircraft and anti-diversionary defense of the ship formation. According to the plan of the military training, the Belarusian military men will also participate in the final stage of “Zapad-2013” on the polygons of the Baltic fleet.
While the presidents of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia are in Washington, DC to meet with President Obama to discuss economic cooperation and theTransatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, Estonian President Hendrik Ilves sat down with Atlantic Council Executive Vice President Damon Wilson for an exclusive interview on Estonia’s role in cyber security and its importance in the global context.
The curious standoff between two types of political extremism on the fringes of Europe – yet in close proximity to the Russian Federation – continues unabated. Most recently, Finland’s Helsingin Sanomat daily newspaper reported on one aspect of the affair, namely the news that Finland’s public prosecutor is demanding a jail term for the Finnish businessman Mikael Storsjö, who is accused of illegally helping dozens of Chechen refugees to enter Finland. But this is only a part of the ongoing situation, which involves a vitriolic campaign by two Finnish pro-Russian activists – the Lutheran pastor Juha Molari and the university lecturer Johan Bäckman – whose aim is apparently to call into question the activities of human rights campaigners in the North Caucasus, and also at the same time to challenge the policies of governments in the Baltic states, particularly those of Estonia and Latvia, with regard to their Russian-speaking minorities.
The problem for outside observers who are trying to make sense of it all is that the confrontation between Molari/Bäckman on the one hand, and Storsjö/pro-Islamist (Doku Umarov) Kavkaz Center website on the other, looks suspiciously like a manufactured conflict representing two sides of the same extremist coin. Since most of the details are published either in Finnish or Russian on websites not normally visited or read by Western media, the potential for disinformation on these and related issues is probably rather high.
Ever since the announcement of the controversial Mistral arms deal between France and Russia on Christmas Eve 2010, the Swedish press has been publishing articles about the implications of the deal for Baltic security, and Sweden’s security in particular. On January 7 Dagens Nyheter noted that concern about the sale of the Mistral assault ships to Russia was high because these helicopter carriers can be used for landing operations – presumably in the course of a military invasion. Bo Pellnäs, a Swedish defence analyst, commented that although the carriers will be based in Murmansk, they can be moved anywhere. This, against the background of reports that Russia is to increase its military expenditure by 60 percent, and last fall held its largest military exercise in the Baltic Sea since the 1980s, is giving rise to fears in Sweden that the country’s security may be compromised.
On January 5 a member of the Swedish parliament, Mikael Oscarsson, requested a statement from Foreign Minister Carl Bildt on what the deal means for the security of the Baltic Sea as a whole. Oscarsson also said that it was necessary to ask Russia about the purpose of the invasion capability, and that a tightening of Sweden’s defence with Poland might be needed.
Now, in an interview published in the Swedish current affairs journal Världen idag (The World Today), Oscarsson says that his concerns are heightened by the internal political situation in Russia in the aftermath of the recent unsolved murders of journalists and the sentencing of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev.
"We need greater cooperation between Sweden, Poland and the Baltics, but we should also invite Russia to talks. I’m not one of those who say that the Russians are coming, but we cannot assume that anyone else will defend us. Therefore, we need to respond and ensure that we have a fleet that works."
In Poland, Polskie Radio has taken up Mikael Oscarsson’s question, and there are reports that the military ties between Sweden and Poland may strengthen in response to Russia’s investment in the new warships.
he U.S. think tank and news agency Stratfor’s East Europe analyst Marko Papic says that just five days into the new year Mikael Oscarsson’s question to Carl Bildt shows that the geopolitical map may be redrawn.
"The area of Sweden, Poland and Russia will be crucial for European security and political issues in 2011," he said in a statement.
In the run-up to the November 19 Lisbon NATO-Russia summit, an article in the latest issue of Newsweek looks at the ways in which Russia is currently drawing advantage from the Western powers’ difficulties in Afghanistan. These difficulties are highlighted by the impending major defence cuts in the UK and other European states, and by Russia’s projected 140% increase in military spending over the next three years. In particular, the article considers the possibility of a trade-off between Western security needs in the Afghan conflict and Russia’s plans for Eastern Europe, still seen by Moscow as a legitimate sphere of military and political influence. Excerpt:
In return for cooperation in Afghanistan, Moscow is asking for substantial concessions from NATO. A draft agreement on NATO-Russian cooperation penned by the Kremlin and released last December includes proposed restrictions on NATO deployment of any force bigger than a 3,000-strong brigade in the combined territory of all former Soviet bloc members. Russia is also demanding that NATO not attempt to station more than 24 aircraft in Eastern Europe for more than 42 days a year. Most controversially, Russia also has demanded veto power on any Western military deployments of large additional forces anywhere in Central Europe, the Balkans, or the Baltics. To top off the wish list, the Kremlin wants limits lifted on Russian troops in the breakaway enclaves of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Hat tip: Wiseman
Ahead of the annual NATO summit to be held in Lisbon on November 19 , the Polish daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza has published information about NATO’s new plans for the defence of Poland and the Baltic States in the event of a Russian aggression. Nine divisions, of which four are Polish form part of the plan. In addition to these a further five divisions will be transported to Eastern Europe with British, American and German units by land and sea links. Observationsplatsen has more details.