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.
Instead, Russian President Vladimir Putin may be able to annex pieces of Ukraine simply by encouraging unrest among pro-Russian forces inside the country, said Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, who commands U.S. and European NATO forces.
In Ukraine, Civil Position leader and ex-defence minister Anatoly Hrytsenko writes that Putin’s current foreign policy aims include much more than an annexation of Crimea and East Ukraine. Putin wants the whole of Ukraine, and much more besides. Gritsenko says that the Russian president has decided to demonstrate to the world by his aggression that international law no longer has any validity and that money and power are the only factors that have meaning in the modern world.
Hrytsenko considers that the fears of Western nations that by confronting Putin they will provoke a third world war lag a long way behind the reality of what has actually happened: Putin has already begun such a war, and the West will need to take swift and decisive action to stop it.
Pointing to recent threatening statements from Moscow about the rights of Russian-speakers in the Baltic States, to the movement of heavy artillery and missile launchers to Russia’s borders with Moldova and Transnistria, to the direction of strategic bombers down the Baltic and North Sea, to the redeployment of fighter and long-range aviation including Su-27s, MiG-29s and Tu-22M3s to the Crimean peninsula, to the distribution of airborne assault teams, sabotage units and covert agents throughout Ukraine, and probably also into neighbouring countries, Hrytsenko says that Putin has made no secret of his plans: they are already in operation, without any restrictions.
The West’s attempts to slow the aggression by means of negotiations, diplomacy and economic sanctions have not been effective, Hrytsenko warns. To deter further aggression, the West will need to form an anti-Putin coalition and focus all available means and capabilities on taking practical military steps. These should in the first instance be the relocation and deployment around the territory of Ukraine (Poland, Slovakia , Hungary, Romania , Bulgaria, Northern Turkey) of a powerful NATO aviation group (80-100 F-16s and F-15s), a carrier strike group in the Mediterranean (70+ carrier-based aircraft) plus 7-8 warships in the Black Sea (destroyers and cruisers with powerful air defence) and several airborne brigades – to establish reliable control over Ukraine’s air and sea space in order to prevent Russia from building up additional forces and halt the invasion that is now in progress.
In the belief that Russia could be drawn into greater military cooperation by “engagement” (an unclear term that can be interpreted several ways), Western countries, particularly Germany, directly supported and trained the Russian military – and this even continued until recently, when Russia began its attacks on Ukraine. An article by Josh Rogin in the Daily Beast states that in 2011, for example,
the German defense contractor Rheinmetall signed a $140 million contract to build a combat simulation training center in Mulino, in southwest Russia, that would train 30,000 Russian combat troops per year. While the facility wasn’t officially scheduled to be completed until later this year, U.S. officials believe that Germany has been training Russian forces for years.
Rheinmetall defended the project even after the invasion of Crimea, up until the German government finally shut it down late last month. But many tracking the issue within the U.S. government were not happy with Germany’s handling of the Russian contract, and worry that some of the training may have gone to the kind of special operations forces now operating in and around Ukraine.
Moreover, it also appears that the German help was going not only to Russia’s traditional armed forces but also in a high degree to the sophisticated GRU Spetsnaz units that are now being deployed in the new Russian strategy of intervening “on behalf” of Russian-speakers abroad whenever the latter claim discrimination. While it looks as though now the era of military cooperation with Russia is at an end, some observers are wondering whether the realization of what was really happening may have come too late.
Reuters reports that
NATO plans to sharply increase the size of its exercises in Europe in coming years to ensure allies keep working smoothly together despite winding down combat operations in Afghanistan, senior NATO commanders said on Thursday.
One aspect of the upcoming “Steadfast Jazz” NATO military exercise, to be held from 2-9 November, that may give pause for thought is that in it parts of Finland, Sweden and Norway are deemed to be enemy territory, an article in Finland’s Hufvudstadsbladet explains.
According to Svenska Dagbladet,
Sweden and Finland have been cut into fictional states that previously belonged to a fictional empire, Skolkan. These former Skolkan countries are independent and economically developed but are also marked by corruption, paranoia and a desire to expand.
Three of the six countries (Torrike in central Sweden, Bothnia in western Finland and the new island Lindsey in the Norwegian Sea) are hostile and threaten NATO.
The fourth country, Framland in eastern Norrland, is NATO-friendly, while the fifth, Arnland in southernmost Sweden is a failed state. The sixth country, Otso, in eastern Finland is a neutral buffer state against Russia.
The NATO countries are the same as in reality, except that northern Norway has been added to with a part of Sweden – western Lapland.
Russia and Belarus to the east are not involved in the game but are classified as neutral.
In a response to Zapad 2013, the Russian/Belarusian Baltic Sea military exercises in which land, sea and air forces took part in a simulated confrontation with NATO forces, in November NATO will hold its Steadfast Jazz exercise, which is based on the so-called SKOLKAN scenario. This will likewise focus on the Baltic Sea region, and will feature the defence of a NATO member. An article on the NATO website gives some information:
The change in how NATO trains is one of the most significant organisational modifications for the Alliance in the last 25 years. In addition to revisiting the challenges associated with conducting operations in and from the sovereign territory of NATO Nations and how imperative it is to partner with host-nation governments and military forces, SKOLKAN also allows for the integration of emerging challenges such as cyber defence, ballistic missile defence and energy security into a complex training environment.