Tag Archives: Russia

Russia’s Next Invasion

Another Russian invasion of an Eastern European nation is brewing, and this time the consequences will be enormous.

Moscow has combined the threat of overwhelming military force with economic and internal political pressure to pull Bulgaria into its orbit. Russian reconnaissance and transport planes are frequently flying on Bulgaria’s eastern border, straining the nation’s antiquated air defense systems. Sources also indicate that Russia has also attempted to gain dominance in Bulgaria by buying influence in local media.

Bulgaria is a member both of NATO and the European Union. By treaty, aggressive acts on one NATO member must be treated as an attack on all, including the United States.

Last fall, According to reports in the U.K.’s Independent,   Bulgaria’s President Rosen Plevneliev warned that after its invasion of the Ukraine, Russia was targeting Bulgaria.  “Russia has trained its sights on the Balkans to wage a ‘hybrid warfare’ campaign aimed at destabilising the whole of Europe.”  Plevneliev accused the Kremlin of launching “massive cyber attacks on Bulgaria’s government institutions and increasingly testing Bulgaria’s airspace…The very efficient and secure way for Russia to destabilise Europe is through the Balkans, so that is what Mr. Putin is focusing on,”

A Bulgarian defense document describes the nation’s security concerns about Russia:  “Hard to predict challenges, risks and threats to the national and global security are generated by the crisis in Ukraine and the development of the ‘hybrid war’; … the unsolved security problems in the Western Balkans; the frozen conflicts in the Black Sea region… In response to the deteriorating security environment NATO is increasing its Rapid Reaction Force to 40,000 troops. A brigade-strength very High Readiness Joint Task Force and enhancement of the Command and Control system with new elements is under way. Their reaction time is substantially reduced. New adequate measures will be taken in case of continued trends towards the increase in threats of asymmetric and hybrid activities adjacent to or on Allied territory. In this regard the Republic of Bulgaria is ready to contribute to the NATO Interim Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) Capability/Solution…the conclusion is that there is a durable and long-term deterioration of the security environment in the immediate vicinity of the Eastern and the South-Eastern NATO flanks. The international order in Europe and the international relations principles of the inviolability of the legitimate international borders, the non-interference in internal affairs of other countries and the respect for the right of self-determination of the nations are now considerably undermined.”

Observers believe that this isn’t just an attack on one nation, but on the whole of Europe. The European Reform organization stressed: “It is time that we properly understand Russian activities in Bulgaria, especially in light of recent developments taking place in Ukraine, Syria, and a number of Eastern European countries. Using its old divide et impera tactics, Russia is challenging the unity among EU Member States by taking advantage of a number of different factors including economic links or support for political parties which have especially strong ties with Moscow (like Ataka in Bulgaria). It is time we look closer at Putin’s game, a big part of which is a conflict in the East of Ukraine, and react before it is too late.”

“If the Ukrainian conflict has taught us anything, it is that Russia has recently diverted much of its resources and focus from mobilising hard power in protecting its interests to soft power, including funding media outlets and political parties. This shift can be seen very clearly in Bulgaria which is suffering from Moscow’s harmful interferences.  In November 2006, Vladimir Chizhov, Moscow’s Ambassador to the EU, famously called Bulgaria ‘Russia’s would-be Trojan horse in the EU’. Although Bulgaria has long been regarded as the European country most vulnerable to Russian influence, there is no place for a passive reaction from the European side.”

Defense News reports that in response to the Russian threat, “The governments of Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria are discussing plans to set up a joint military brigade, according to an announcement by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko following a meeting with his Romanian counterpart, Klaus Iohannis, in Bucharest…The latest move by the three countries follows an earlier initiative by Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania to set up a joint military brigade, dubbed the Litpolukrbrig. The brigade will comprise about 4,000 troops, and it is expected to reach full combat readiness in 2017.”

NATO-Russian Meeting Highlights Differences

Little noticed or reported by the media, the NATO-Russia Council met on April 20 to discuss the deteriorating relations and rising tensions between the western alliance and Moscow. The meeting lasted longer than anticipated and ended without agreement on the key issues.

Russia’s threatening activities continue to increase, reported U.S. Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti during his April 21 testimony  before the House Armed Services Committee. General Scaparrotti is scheduled to become commander of the U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe. He noted that a resurgent Russia is contesting for power with increasingly aggressive behavior that challenges international norms, often in violation of international law.

In addition to aggressive actions against NATO ships and planes, the Kremlin’s submarines and aircraft have frequently acted in a hostile manner in or near the alliance’s air and sea borders.

General Scaparrotti’s comments have been backed up by independent analyses. A Heritage Foundation report on military matters notes: “Russia is both able and willing to use military force against neighboring nations… President Vladimir Putin has challenged the post–Cold War world order. NATO members that share borders with Russia and have large ethnic Russian populations are under severe political, military, and economic pressure from Moscow. Ukraine, which is not a member of NATO or the European Union (EU), has Russian forces on its soil and has struggled to maintain its sovereignty, having lost Crimea…Russia has repeatedly surprised European nations by launching unannounced “snap exercises.” The term “snap exercises” (sometimes called “snap inspections”) refers to major military exercises ordered with little or no notice. The Russian military has claimed that the purpose of such exercises is to test the readiness of its forces, but observers have argued that they are meant to impress the West with Russia’s military strength. In 2014 and 2015, Russia raised concerns among its neighbors by conducting a series of “snap exercises” of a magnitude not previously seen.”

A World Affairs Journal noted President Putin’s 2014 comment that “he could, at will, occupy any Eastern European capital in two days.” Their study states:

“This apparently spontaneous utterance reveals… Moscow’s true assessment of NATO’s capabilities, cohesion, and will to resist. In an echo of Soviet tactics, it also reflects Putin’s reflexive recourse to intimidation—e.g., unwarranted boasting about Russian military capabilities and intentions—as a negotiating strategy. In 2014 alone, Moscow repeatedly threatened the Baltic and Nordic states and civilian airliners, heightened intelligence penetration, deployed unprecedented military forces against those states, intensified overflights and submarine reconnaissance, mobilized nuclear forces and threats, deployed nuclear-capable forces in Kaliningrad, menaced Moldova, and openly violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty of 1987. Russian officials openly declared that the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty of 1989 was dead, and continued a large-scale comprehensive defense buildup in areas ranging from space and counter-space to submarine and ground forces as well as nuclear forces. Seeing as Norway and Estonia’s defense ministers, in separate 2014 speeches in Washington, both indicated that Russia already enjoyed superiority in the Baltic region, these gestures looked like overkill on Putin’s part, to put it mildly. “

At the April 20 meeting, according to NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg,  the two sides held “very different views.” He primarily blamed Russia’s actions against Ukraine for the increased tension, and made it clear that the west stands firm in its support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The alliance, he stressed, does not recognize the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea, and is ‘disturbed’ at the increase in ceasefire violations in eastern Ukraine and the targeting of OSCE  (Organization for Security and Cooperation) monitors in the region. Stoltenberg pointed out that the Allies have seen a decrease in transparency in Russia’s military activities, combined with an increase in military activity and forces, and strong rhetoric. He called this “a dangerous combination.”

However, all 29 members of the NATO-Russia Council agreed on the need for a full and rapid implementation of the Minsk agreements, which call for an agreement to halt the war in the Donbass region of Ukraine.

Although vowing to keep lines of communication with Moscow open, Stoltenberg promised to “remain firm that there can be no return to practical cooperation until Russia returns to the respect of international law.” He maintained that the alliance will engage in defensive actions that merely respond to Russia’s military buildup.

Why Obama Finally Decided ISIS is Genocidal

Long after it had become painfully obvious to even to the most casual observers, the Obama Administration has decided that ISIS is guilty of genocide.  It has, however, failed to admit that its own incompetence led to the conditions allowing ISIS to become a powerful force.

The timing of Secretary of State Kerry’s announcement, and the deployment of Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit to Iraq, reveals much about the mindset of the Administration’s attitude towards foreign affairs, not just in the deeply troubled Middle East but also in its perception of the American role in the world.

Since the end of World War 2, the United States and its NATO partners have been the most powerful alliance on Earth, both politically and diplomatically. That partnership was hugely successful. Another world war was averted, and the Soviet Union was stared down and collapsed without yet another global conflict. A period of extraordinary prosperity was ushered in.  Numerous nations gained independence.

This was not accomplished without major cost, both to the U.S. taxpayer and to those who served and sometimes gave life or limb in the armed forces.  But the results were extraordinary.

Mr. Obama and those who ideologically agree with him nevertheless have been uncomfortable with Washington’s leading role. They disagree with the commitment of many billions of dollars to defense purposes instead of social welfare programs. They are troubled by the American philosophies of capitalism and individual rights. They seek to reduce the influence of the United States.

Reducing America’s international role from one of leadership to just one of many, or in some cases a junior partner, just feels right to them.

The conflict in Iraq had already long lost popular support before Mr. Obama took the oath of office in 2009. However, the continuing post-war presence of American troops served an important purpose.  Iraq’s internal conflicts, never far from the surface, were kept somewhat at bay as the nation moved slowly but significantly towards democracy.  Who can forget the images of Iraqi voters proudly holding up purple thumbs, signifying that they had voted for the first time in a true election? Equally as important, the presence of U.S. troops kept a lid on the influence of the darkest forces in the region.

That salutary effect was eliminated when those troops were wholly withdrawn, the last leaving on December 18, 2011, against the advice of military leaders. In 2015, the Washington Times reported that many current and former  military believed that  the untimely and complete exit “left the door open for the Islamic State’s land grab…The assessment comes from the Army chief of staff, a former Marine commandant, a former U.S. Central Command chief, a former defense secretary and, privately, from the officer running the war in Iraq against…ISIS.”

Not long after, in 2014, ISIS began to seize territory in Syria and Iraq. Since then, as Secretary Kerry noted on March 17,    ISIS (also known as Daesh) “is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims. Daesh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology, and by actions … Daesh is also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these same groups and in some cases also against Sunni Muslims, Kurds, and other minorities.…Daesh killed hundreds of Yezidi men and older women in the town of Kocho … Daesh captured and enslaved thousands of Yezidi women and girls – selling them at auction, raping them at will, and destroying the communities in which they had lived for countless generations. We know that in Mosul, Qaraqosh, and elsewhere, Daesh has executed Christians solely because of their faith; that it executed 49 Coptic and Ethiopian Christians in Libya; and that it has also forced Christian women and girls into sexual slavery. We know that Daesh massacred hundreds of Shia Turkmen and Shabaks at Tal Afar and Mosul; besieged and starved the Turkmen town of Amerli; and kidnapped hundreds of Shia Turkmen women, raping many in front of their own families. We know that in areas under its control, Daesh has made a systematic effort to destroy the cultural heritage of ancient communities – destroying Armenian, Syrian Orthodox, and Roman Catholic churches; blowing up monasteries and the tombs of prophets; desecrating cemeteries; and in Palmyra, even beheading the 83-year-old scholar who had spent a lifetime preserving antiquities there.”

The American military response—limited use of bombing runs– was little more than the armed equivalent of a pinprick.

The premature American withdrawal emboldened more than just ISIS. Moscow has long coveted a much larger role in the Middle East for several reasons.

Russia’s navy is handicapped by a geography that makes many of its ports ice-bound for a portion of the year, so warm water alternatives are a much desired commodity.  Hence, the importance of its naval base at the Syrian city of Tartus. This goal can also be seen in the recent agreement with Cuba to allow the Kremlin’s naval vessels to dock there.

Syria’s Bashir al-Assad has been a valuable ally for allowing the continuation of Russia’s armed presence in his nation, but the value of a powerful presence in the Middle East doesn’t end there.  Moscow’s economy is dependent on the export of energy.  The ability to influence the Middle Eastern energy economy is a major factor in Putin’s aggressive planning for the future.

Russia’s active use of military force in the Middle East was not aimed at stopping the depredations of ISIS, but on the twin goals of propping up a regime friendly to Moscow’s military goals and demonstrating the growing power of the Russian/Iranian alliance, which has now clearly replaced Western influence in the region. Israel, in particular, has been placed greatly at risk by the rise of Iranian influence in the region and Tehran’s increasingly powerful missile arsenal.

President Putin, however, has used the atrocities committed by ISIS as a justification for his commitment of Russian forces in the region. Secretary Kerry’s long overdue acknowledgement of ISIS’ depredations and the deployment of Marines follow in its wake.  What was unacceptable as an American initiative—particularly the commitment of ground troops—is now acceptable to the White House, so long as it is an act that dovetails with, and serves as a junior partner to, the actions of the Russian/Iranian axis.

 

Global Threats Continue to Rise

The New York Analysis continues with its review of the vital study by the Congressional Research Service on the military challenges facing the United States.  The report, which directly contradicts President Obama’s assertion that America is safe and strong, examined evidence that overwhelmingly points to an era of exceptional, indeed, unprecedented danger facing both the U.S. and its allies across the globe.

The June 2015 National Military Strategy released by the Department of Defense (DOD) states: Since the last National Military Strategy was published in 2011, global disorder has significantly increased while some of our comparative military advantage has begun to erode. We now face multiple, simultaneous security challenges from traditional state actors and transregional networks of sub-state groups—all taking advantage of rapid technological change. Future conflicts will come more rapidly, last longer, and take place on a much more technically challenging battlefield. They will have increasing implications to the U.S. homeland….

Complexity and rapid change characterize today’s strategic environment, driven by globalization, the diffusion of technology, and demographic shifts…. Despite these changes, states remain the international system’s dominant actors. They are preeminent in their capability to harness power, focus human endeavors, and provide security.

Most states today — led by the United States, its allies, and partners — support the established institutions and processes dedicated to preventing conflict, respecting sovereignty, and furthering human rights. Some states, however, are attempting to revise key aspects of the international order and are acting in a manner that threatens our national security interests…Russia … has repeatedly demonstrated that it does not respect the sovereignty of its neighbors and it is willing to use force to achieve its goals. Russia’s military actions are undermining regional security directly and through proxy forces. These actions violate numerous agreements that Russia has signed in which it committed to act in accordance with international norms, including the UN Charter, Helsinki Accords, Russia-NATO Founding Act, Budapest Memorandum, and the IntermediateRange Nuclear Forces Treaty.

Iran also poses strategic challenges to the international community. It is pursuing nuclear and missile delivery technologies despite repeated United Nations Security Council resolutions demanding that it cease such efforts. It is a state-sponsor of terrorism that has undermined stability in many nations, including Israel, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Iran’s actions have destabilized the region and brought misery to countless people while denying the Iranian people the prospect of a prosperous future.

North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technologies also contradicts repeated demands by the international community to cease such efforts. These capabilities directly threaten its neighbors, especially the Republic of Korea and Japan. In time, they will threaten the U.S. homeland as well. North Korea also has conducted cyber attacks, including causing major damage to a U.S. corporation…

China’s actions are adding tension to the Asia-Pacific region. For example, its claims to nearly the entire South China Sea are inconsistent with international law. The international community continues to call on China to settle such issues cooperatively and without coercion. China has responded with aggressive land reclamation efforts that will allow it to position military forces astride vital international sea lanes…For the past decade, our military campaigns primarily have consisted of operations against violent extremist networks. But today, and into the foreseeable future, we must pay greater attention to challenges posed by state actors. They increasingly have the capability to contest regional freedom of movement and threaten our homeland. Of particular concern are the proliferation of ballistic missiles, precision strike technologies, unmanned systems, space and cyber capabilities, and weapons of mass destruction.

U.S. and NATO Military Capabilities in Europe

Russia’s seizure and annexation of Ukraine and Russia’s subsequent actions in eastern Ukraine and elsewhere in Eastern Europe have led to a renewed focus among policymakers on U.S. and NATO military capabilities in Europe…. In December 2014, Russia issued a new military doctrine that, among other things, calls for a more assertive approach toward NATO. In June 2015, Russia stated that it would respond to the placement of additional U.S. military equipment in Eastern Europe by deploying additional forces along its own western border…

New Forms of Aggression and Assertiveness

Russia’s seizure and annexation of Crimea, as well as subsequent Russian actions in eastern Ukraine and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, have already led to a renewed focus among policymakers on how to counter Russia’s hybrid warfare or ambiguous warfare tactics.

China’s actions in the East and South China Seas have prompted a focus among policymakers on how to counter China’s so-called salami-slicing tactics in those areas.

Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Deterrence

Russia’s reassertion of its status as a major world power has included, among other things, references by Russian officials to nuclear weapons and Russia’s status as a major nuclear weapon power. This has led to an increased emphasis in discussions of U.S. defense and security on nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence…

Maintaining Technological Superiority in Conventional Weapons

DOD officials have expressed concern that the technological and qualitative edge that U.S. military forces have had relative to the military forces of other countries is being narrowed by improving military capabilities in other countries, particularly China and (in some respects) Russia. To arrest and reverse the decline in the U.S. technological and qualitative edge…

Defense Acquisition Policy

DOD officials and other observers have argued that staying ahead of improving military capabilities in countries such as China in coming years will require adjusting U.S. defense acquisition policy to place a greater emphasis on speed of development, experimentation, risk-taking, and tolerance of failure during development.

Reliance on Components and Materials from Russia and China

Increased tensions with Russia have led to an interest in eliminating instances of being dependent on Russian-made military systems and components for U.S. military systems. A current case in point concerns the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engine, which is incorporated into U.S. space launch rockets, including rockets used by DOD to put military payloads into orbit. Concerns over Chinese cyber activities or potential Chinese actions to limit exports of certain materials (such as rare earth elements) might similarly lead to concerns over the use of certain Chinese-made components (such as electronic components) or Chinese-origin materials (such as rare earth elements) for U.S. military systems.

The Greatest Threat to the USA

There can be little doubt (except, perhaps, in the White House) that terrorism poses an immediate, deadly, and significant threat to the safety of the American people. However, there is an even more dangerous peril facing the nation.

As previously noted by the New York Analysis of Policy & Government, American defense policy remains trapped in a time warp assumption that the potential of massive scale, nation vs. nation warfare, including the use of extensive conventional forces as well as nuclear weapons ended with the fall of the Soviet Union.

Unfortunately, that assumption couldn’t be more incorrect. The extraordinary military buildup, and accompanying aggressiveness, of Russia and China, and the alliance of those two great powers together with Iran and North Korea pose perhaps the greatest threat to the United States since the British burned the White House during the 1812 War. The problem is magnified by the decline in American military power, which is both increasingly outdated, underfunded, and basically half the strength it possessed a quarter century ago

While the Executive Branch downplays the problem, Congressional researchers are documenting the challenge. A newly released study by the Congressional Research Service, “A Shift in the International Security Environment: Potential Implications for Defense,” addresses it. The New York Analysis has reviewed the documented, and excerpts key portions of it.  Our review concludes tomorrow.

A Shift in the International Security Environment: Potential Implications for Defense

World events since late 2013 have led some observers to conclude that the international security environment has undergone a shift from the familiar post-Cold War era of the last 20 to 25 years, also sometimes known as the unipolar moment (with the United States as the unipolar power), to a new and different strategic situation that features, among other things, renewed great power competition and challenges to elements of the U.S.-led international order that has operated since World War II.

…Russia’s seizure and annexation of Crimea, as well as subsequent Russian actions in eastern Ukraine and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, have already led to a renewed focus among policymakers on U.S. and NATO military capabilities in Europe, and on how to counter Russia’s so-called hybrid warfare tactics.

China’s actions in the East and South China Seas have prompted a focus among policymakers on how to counter China’s so-called salami-slicing tactics in those areas.

A shift in the international security environment may also be generating implications for areas such as nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence, maintaining technological superiority in conventional weapons, defense acquisition policy, submarines and antisubmarine warfare, and DOD reliance on Russian-made components.

Background Shift in International Security Environment:  Overview

The United States must come to grips with a new security environment as surging powers like Russia and China challenge American power, said Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work. “Great power competition has returned…Russia is now a resurgent great power and I would argue that its long term prospects are unclear. China is a rising great power. Well, that requires us to start thinking more globally and more in terms of competition than we have in the past 25 years… Both Russia and China are challenging the order that has been prevalent since the end of World War II…

The New Situation

Observers who conclude that the international security environment has shifted to a new strategic situation generally view the new period not as a bipolar situation (like the Cold War) or a unipolar situation (like the post-Cold War era), but as a multipolar situation characterized by renewed competition among three major world powers—the United States, China, and Russia. Other emerging characteristics of the new international security situation as viewed by these observers include the following:

  • renewed ideological competition, this time against 21st -century forms of authoritarianism in Russia, China, and other countries;
  • the promotion in China and Russia through their state-controlled media of nationalistic historical narratives emphasizing assertions of prior humiliation or victimization by Western powers, and the use of those narratives to support revanchist or irredentist foreign policy aims;
  • the use by Russia and China of new forms of aggressive or assertive military and paramilitary operations—called hybrid warfare or ambiguous warfare, among other terms, in the case of Russia’s actions, and called salami-slicing tactics or gray-zone warfare, among other terms, in the case of China’s actions—to gain greater degrees of control of areas on their peripheries;
  • challenges by Russia and China to key elements of the U.S.-led international order, including the principle that force or threat of force should not be used as a routine or first-resort measure for settling disputes between countries, and the principle of freedom of the seas (i.e., that the world’s oceans are to be treated as an international commons); and
  • additional features alongside those listed above, including:
  • continued regional security challenges from countries such as Iran and North Korea;
  • a continuation of the post-Cold War era’s focus (at least from a U.S. perspective) on countering transnational terrorist organizations that have emerged as significant non-state actors (now including the Islamic State organization, among other groups); and
  • weak or failed states, and resulting weakly governed or ungoverned areas that can contribute to the emergence of (or serve as base areas or sanctuaries for) non-state actors, and become potential locations of intervention by stronger states, including major powers.

The Report Continues Tomorrow

Montenegro may join NATO

NATO has invited Montenegro to begin the process of joining NATO.  It could become the alliance’s 29th member.

NATO secretary General Jens Stoltenberg hailed the decision as “historic,” noting that “This is a good day for Montenegro, a good day for the Western Balkans and a good day for the alliance.”

Since 2009, NATO and Montenegro have worked closely together through the Membership Action Plan, which helps nations prepare for possible future membership. Stoltenberg said the decision reflected Montenegro’s “unwavering commitment to our common values and to international security” but advised Montenegro to continue on its reform path, “on defense adaptation, on domestic reform, especially rule of law, and to continue to make progress in demonstrating public support for Montenegro’s NATO membership.”

The negotiations will start in early 2016. Once they are concluded, NATO members will sign an “accession protocol” which will have to be ratified by parliaments in all 28 Allies. Once that process is completed, Montenegro will be able to accede to the Washington Treaty and become a member of the Alliance.

According to NATO sources, the alliance is open to any European country in a position to undertake the commitments and obligations of membership, and contribute to security in the Euro-Atlantic area. Since 1949, NATO’s membership has increased from 12 to 28 countries through six rounds of enlargement. Currently, four partner countries have declared their aspirations to NATO membership: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Montenegro and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

The alliance emphasizes that its ongoing enlargement process “poses no threat to any other country, [and] is aimed at promoting stability and cooperation, at building a Europe whole and free, united in peace, democracy and common values.

Other nations are seeking or considering NATO membership. Macedonia has been assured that it will be invited to become a member as soon as a mutually acceptable solution to the issue over the country’s name has been reached with Greece. Bosnia and Herzegovina was invited to join the Membership Action Plan in April 2010 but its participation is pending the resolution of a key issue concerning immovable defense property. At the 2008 Bucharest Summit, the Allies agreed that Georgia and Ukraine will become members of NATO in the future (since 2010, Ukraine has not been formally pursuing membership.)

In what would be a very significant move, some in Sweden are advocating joining the alliance. However, as noted by Business Insider  “Russia’s ambassador to Sweden has warned the country of the potential military ‘consequences’ associated with joining NATO. In an interview with the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter…Russian Ambassador Viktor Tatarintsev told Dagens Nyheter that Russia does not have any military plans against Sweden, in line with Stockholm’s alliance neutrality. But Tatarintsev warned that this could change if Sweden were to join the NATO alliance…Putin pointed out that there will be consequences, ‘that Russia will have to resort to a response of the military kind and re-orientate our troops and missiles,’ the ambassador said. ‘The country that joins NATO needs to be aware of the risks it is exposing itself to’…An October 2014 poll showed 37% of Swedes were in favor of joining NATO with 36% of Swedes against — the first time that more Swedes have favored joining the alliance than not. This swing in public opinion could be in response to a series of aggressive and provocative Russian actions throughout the region.”

Russian air and naval forces have, over the past several years, engaged in provocative incursions into Swedish territory.

On September 2, notes the website antiwar.com  reported that“The Ukrainian National Security Council formally declaring neighboring Russia to be a ‘military opponent’ and making it a specific priority for the country to try to secure NATO membership .”

Current NATO members include Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey, The United Kingdom, and The United States.

The Iranian-Russian-Chinese axis

It is increasingly evident that a substantial and growing military relationship between Russia, China and Iran exists.

Russia and China have held an extensive number of significant joint training exercises in both the Pacific and Mediterranean Oceans, and both continue to engage in weapons deals with Iran, a continuation of the policy in which Moscow has aided Iran’s nuclear program and provides anti-aircraft technology to protect sensitive sites.

According to the International Business Times, “Russia and China will continue to make weapons deals with Iran under U.N. procedures… Russia currently has a deal in place from April to supply Iran with the S-300 missile defense system. It’s yet to be seen how it will be completed given that Iran is now banned from buying missile technology for eight years. The deal was said to be a gesture of good will for Iran’s co-operation in the negotiations.”

Iran’s possession of the S-300 system substantially strengthens the ability of Iran to violate the already weak restrictions of the recently concluded nuclear arms deal, since it will now have the means to protect violative atomic test sites from air strikes seeking to destroy them.

The Jerusalem Post has reported on a deal, originally revealed in the Taiwanese press in which China will provide Iran with 24 J-10 fighter jets in exchange for Chinese access to the Islamic Republic’s largest oil field for the next 20 years.

The Washington Free Beacon has revealed that Russian and Iran naval forces conducted joint war games  in northern Iran, “in another combined show of force meant to display the two nations’ control of nearby waterways. An Iranian destroyer and team of Russian warships staged a series of war drills and engaged in joint training exercises, according to reports in Iran’s state-controlled press.” IB Times http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/russia-iran-stage-naval-war-games-showcase-combined-strength-1515122 notes that “The joint naval exercise shows increased military ties between Russia and Iran after the two countries signed multiple arms agreements in recent months.”

The Jerusalem Post has also monitored Iranian semi-official outlets which have reported that Iran, Russia, China and Syria are to conduct joint military exercises in Syria next month. Chinese and Russian warships as well as Russian nuclear submarines are to be involved.

According to the report, “China had gained Egyptian approval to allow 12 Chinese ships carrying military equipment to pass through the Suez Canal, and that these vessels would reach the Syrian ports of Tartous and Latakia in two weeks’ time.”  No official sources from Syria, Russia, China or Iran had confirmed the war games would take place, and Russia has denied involvement.

Qassem Soleimari, the Iranian Quds force commander, recently met with Russian officials in Moscow, Fox News reports, citing intelligence sources. Soleimari is designated as a terrorist and is responsible for leading actions resulted in the deaths of numerous U.S. soldiers in Iraq. His Quds force also operates in Latin America.

According to the Middle East Forum “China’s new Middle East strategy is inimical to U.S. nonproliferation goals. Beijing may pledge to adhere to U.S. counter-proliferation policy, but its willingness to cultivate relations with Middle Eastern states, on the back of sales of both conventional weapons and materials applicable to weapons of mass destruction programs, indicates that its promises are insincere.”

Defense News notes that there is an indication of competition between Russia and China in their relationship with Iran. Both seek to sell their indigenous weapons systems to Tehran, particularly anti-aircraft missiles. To pursue that and other goals, it is expected that China’s President Xi will visit Iran in the near future. China has had a long-term relationship with Tehran’s government since the Islamic extremist takeover.

Despite the friendly rivalry, the three nations together serve as the most significant joint threat to the United States, Europe, and aligned nations across the globe to ever have emerged. Their combined massive geography, population, economic power, and scientific sophistication along  with their strategic location and the contiguous land mass of the three produce a threat far greater than that endured during the Cold War, or even the German-Japanese alliance of World War Two.

The Empire’s Returning

Concerns that Vladimir Putin is seeking to re-establish hegemony in the former Soviet Empire, as well as controlling vital regional resources, deepened in the wake of Moscow’s installation of new demarcation signs about 300 feet into Georgian territory in the internationally non-recognized border of Georgia and its breakaway region of South Ossetia.

This is a follow up move to Russia’s military support and recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia independence in 2008. In 2009, Russia took control of the South Ossetia/Georgian border.

The change leaves slightly less than a mile of the Baku-Supsa oil pipeline under Moscow’s control.

Georgia’s ambassador Konstantine Zaldastanishvili  emphasized that the “Russian Federation remains in flagrant breach of the principles of international law and its commitments under the 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement. Moreover, the installation of barbed wire fences and other artificial barriers further violates the fundamental rights and freedoms, including the right to free movement of the local population.”

According to the European Union “The installation of new demarcation signposts along the administrative boundary line of Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia has led to tension in the area, with potentially negative effects on the local population, their livelihood and freedom of movement…The EU reaffirms its full support for Georgia’s territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders.”

The BBC reports that “a flag erected by Georgian protesters near the village of Khurvaleti, just south of the dividing line, has been removed by guards on the South Ossetian side.

Earlier this year, the Foreign Policy Research Institute noted that “Russia and South Ossetia … ironed out final details of a “Treaty of Alliance and Integration.” The treaty was drafted in December 2014 and on January 31, 2015 Georgian news agencies reported that the leader of South Ossetia, Leonid Tibilov, had sent the finalized document back to Moscow…This comes less than three months after the signing of the Russia-Abkhazia treaty of a similar nature, although it is not as comprehensive. The international community and the Georgian government have condemned Russia’s actions and will not recognize either of the treaties but that is not likely to stem Putin’s expansionist policies – if Crimea is any guide…The treaty…[allows] Russia to absorb South Ossetia.”

The U.S. State Department, while issuing no comment on the latest move, had stated earlier this year that “The United States’ position on South Ossetia and Abkhazia remains clear: these regions are integral parts of Georgia, and we continue to support Georgia’s independence, its sovereignty, and its territorial integrity.

The United States does not recognize the legitimacy of any so-called “treaty” between the de facto leaders of Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia and the Russian Federation. Neither this agreement nor the one signed between Russia and the de facto leaders in Abkhazia in November 2014 constitutes a valid international agreement.

Russia should fulfill all of its obligations under the 2008 ceasefire agreement, withdraw its forces to pre-conflict positions, reverse its recognition of the Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states, and provide free access for humanitarian assistance to these regions.

We continue to support the Geneva International Discussions as a means to achieving concrete progress on security and humanitarian issues that continue to impact the communities on the ground in Georgia. In this regard, we are concerned by reports that the signing of this so-called agreement may coincide with the current round of Geneva Discussions on the conflict in Georgia. The United States calls on all participants to seize the opportunity to make progress in this and future rounds.”

Stratfor’s 2008 Analysis remains current and disturbing:The Russian invasion of Georgia has not changed the balance of power in Eurasia. It simply announced that the balance of power had already shifted. The United States has been absorbed in its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as potential conflict with Iran and a destabilizing situation in Pakistan. It has no strategic ground forces in reserve and is in no position to intervene on the Russian periphery. This, as we have argued, has opened a window of opportunity for the Russians to reassert their influence in the former Soviet sphere. Moscow did not have to concern itself with the potential response of the United States or Europe; hence, the invasion did not shift the balance of power. The balance of power had already shifted, and it was up to the Russians when to make this public.”

Taking nuclear assault seriously

The Washington Free Beacon, almost alone among significant American print media sources, reported that two nuclear-capable Russian bombers flew into the U.S. air defense zone in Alaska on April 22. That information is frightening enough.  But further information was even more worrisome.  The U.S. failed to scramble any interceptors to meet the intruders.

Russian nuclear capable craft have repeatedly flown into American air space, and Moscow’s nuclear subs have snuck into the coastlines of Sweden, Finland, and the U.S. gulf coast.

The Scandinavian nations have at least attempted to take measures against the Russian intruders. But the latest information, that no interceptors were scrambled on April 22, raises questions about whether the White House takes the challenge seriously, and whether it understands the dimensions of this clear threat to America’s survival.

Recently, the Lexington Institute  described the danger:

“Nuclear war is the only foreseeable threat to America’s survival in this century, and Russia is the most plausible nation from which a large-scale nuclear attack might originate… The current U.S. strategic posture, which threatens massive retaliation to deter nuclear attack, probably cannot be sustained indefinitely. Some day, in some way, deterrence will break down. Ten nuclear warheads could collapse the U.S. electric grid. Fifty could render every major city uninhabitable. Two hundred might well spell the end of American civilization. Most of the Russian warheads are mounted on long-range ballistic missiles, and Washington currently has no plan for intercepting such weapons if they are launched in large numbers. During the Cold War, U.S. leaders made a deliberate decision to forego strategic defenses of the homeland in order to stabilize the superpower arms race. The current U.S. strategic posture, designed mainly to deter rational adversaries, cannot cope with a wide array of potential scenarios such as irrational leaders, accidental launches or breakdowns in the chain of command. To cope with the full spectrum of ballistic threats to America’s homeland, a layered defense including interceptor missiles and/or beam weapons is required. The system would be costly, but not compared with the value of assets that could be destroyed in a nuclear war. However, current plans call for spending less than one-percent of the defense budget on relevant technologies. The physics of countering large-scale nuclear attacks are daunting but doable. The logical place to begin is by expanding the current Ground-based Midcourse Defense deployed on the U.S. West Coast, which is oriented mainly to threats from North Korea but could be configured to intercept Russian warheads more effectively. Other assets already in the joint force such as the sea-based Aegis combat system could be upgraded to create a nascent layered architecture. A truly robust system would probably require a space-based layer too. If these steps are not taken, there will be no way of protecting America on the day deterrence fails.”

President Obama is well known for his vehement opposition to an adequate Pentagon budget in general—it has dropped precipitously under his watch– and to defenses against nuclear weapons in particular, whether by anti-ballistic missiles, a program he consistently seeks to de-fund, or through the maintenance of nuclear weaponry to serve as a deterrent. He allowed Moscow to gain an advantage in nuclear weapons for the first time in history, and has explored the possibility of further unilateral cuts in the American arsenal.

Recognizing the Russian Threat

As reports of Russian nuclear bombers entering Alaskan air space and Russian submarines intruding into the waters of European nations continue to increase, many have wondered why military leaders have remained relatively silent.

That’s beginning to change. U.S. General Philip M. Breedlove, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, has on two separate recent occasions outlined his growing concern over Moscow’s growing military prowess and aggressiveness. Speaking before the Atlantic Council,  he described Moscow’s “revanchist” attitude:

“Russia’s actions against Ukraine since last year have signaled “a clear end of what I see as two decades of clear Russian struggle over security policy…”  According to the Atlantic Council, Russia is now on a far different course that shifts the relationship between Russia and the West from strategic cooperation to one of strategic competition. This is not a temporary aberration, but the new norm….This is a Russia that recognizes strength and sees weakness as an opportunity.’

Breedlove believes that “Russia is blatantly challenging the rules and principles that have been the bedrock of European security for decades. The challenge is global, not regional, and enduring, not temporary. Russian aggression is clearly visible in its illegal occupation of Crimea, and in its continued operations in eastern Ukraine. But the crisis in Ukraine is about more than just Ukraine. Russian activities are destabilizing neighboring states, and the region as a whole…and Russia’s illegal actions are pushing instability closer to the boundaries of NATO.

“We cannot be fully certain what Russia will do next, and we cannot fully grasp Putin’s intent. What we can do is learn from his actions… And what we see suggests growing Russian capabilities, significant military modernization, and ambitious strategic intent.

“We also know that Putin responds to strength, and seeks opportunities in weakness. We must strengthen our deterrence in order to manage his opportunistic confidence…”

As Russia has increased its military capability, the West has reduced its’ capabilities. One area outlined by Breedlove concerns intelligence assets. “Since the end of the Cold War, our nation’s community of Russian area experts has shrunk considerably, and intelligence assets of all kinds have been shifted to the wars we’ve been fighting or to understanding potential future threats.

Russian military operations over the past year, in Ukraine and in the region more broadly, have underscored that there are critical gaps in our collection and analysis. Some Russian military exercises have caught us by surprise…”