On three occasions this week AlertsUSA subscribers have been notified via SMS messages to their mobile devices regarding additional escalation of tensions between Russia, the U.S. and NATO over developments in Eastern Europe. On Monday, the Russian TASS news agency reported Russia's Ambassador to NATO, Alexander Grushko, stated that Moscow will take all measures, including military-technical, to neutralize possible threats from a NATO presence in Ukraine. He went onto say that "by their actions some of the NATO countries are adding fuel to the fire of this conflict.".
Within hours of Grushko's comments, U.S. 173rd Airborne Brigade Commander Colonel Michael Foster announced U.S. soldiers would in fact be deploying to Ukraine by week's end. [video]. According to Colonel Foster, six companies of U.S. soldiers would be training six Ukrainian companies throughout the summer, and there are discussions about increasing the duration and the scope of the training mission. Readers are reminded that last week AlertsUSA subscribers were notified that British Prime Minister David Cameron announced the UK would also be sending troops to the Ukraine to assist in the training mission.
12,000 RUSSIAN TROOPS IN E. UKRAINE
50,000 RUSSIAN TROOPS ON BORDER OF UKRAINE
29,000 RUSSIAN TROOPS IN CRIMEA
On Wed U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR) Commander Lt-Gen Frederick “Ben” Hodges, revealed that Russia currently has more than 12,000 troops inside Eastern Ukraine (with an additional 50,000 staged on the border and 28,000 now in Crimea). He accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of seeking to destroy NATO and warned of the possibility of Russia employing the sort of “hybrid warfare” seen in eastern Ukraine against a NATO member to test the alliance. As an example, Putin could try to destabilize a NATO member by using a rebel militia as in eastern Ukraine, but in the absence of an overt Russian attack, some NATO members could be reluctant to invoke Article 5 of the NATO defense treaty which calls for a collective response by all members. According to Hodges, “Once Article 5 is gone, our alliance is over.”
CALL FOR U.S. TANKS IN BALTICS
Lt-Gen Frederick Hodges also called for U.S. tanks to be deployed in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Romania and Bulgaria. Readers may recall that in 2013, the U.S. had just completed the removal of all U.S. tanks from Europe for the first time since the Normandy invasion. This absence only lasted a few months. In early 2014, the U.S. began the process of returning more than 200 tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles back to Europe in response to events in Ukraine.
U.S. SOLDIERS NOW IN UKRAINE
On Thursday, the Department of Defense confirmed U.S. military forces have now formally entered Ukraine. Multiple arms of the Russian government lashed out at the move. The Foreign Ministry called the arrival of U.S. troops a provocation and threat to Russia's security. Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said the deployment of U.S. forces was intended to teach Ukrainian soldiers “how to use overseas military equipment.” Readers are reminded that Congress has already passed the Ukraine Freedom Support Act which authorizes the provision of lethal military aid to Ukraine, though President Obama has yet to formally sign off on the measure.
OPERATION ATLANTIC RESOLVE
AlertsUSA and Threat Journal have been reporting on the buildup of U.S. forces in the region. Under a broad effort at reassuring allies and demonstrating the United States continued commitment to the collective security of NATO, the U.S. alone has deployed tens of thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve to augment the air, ground and naval presence in the region and to enhance previously scheduled exercises. This week alone there are joint exercises underway in Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania, war games and patrols involving NATO warships in the Black and Baltic Seas as well as near constant fighter jet and reconnaissance patrols in the skies above the region.
SOMETHING TO KEEP IN MIND...
SYRIA: ANOTHER POTENTIAL U.S. - RUSSIA FLASHPOINT
Tensions with Russia are not limited to the situation in Ukraine, but extend into another region thousands of miles away. Readers may recall that in the Fall of 2013, President Obama was on the verge of ordering U.S. military strikes in Syria against the government of President Bashir Assad due to accusations of chemical weapons use. At the time, U.S. mainstream media put forth the story line that President Obama decided at the last minute to pull back on the military threat and give diplomacy a chance following his deliberative walk around the White house grounds with Chief of Staff Denis McDonough.
A major aspect of this decision NOT widely reported by U.S. media was the chilling threat issued by Vladimir Putin just days before during the 2013 G20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. At that meeting, Vladimir Putin openly declared that Russia was already supplying arms to Syria and would become more deeply involved in the conflict if President Obama went forward with the attack. Add to this the buildup of Russia's naval forces off the coast of Syria.
As it turns out, Russia maintains longstanding cultural, commercial, military and strategic ties with Syria.
KERRY AGAIN RAISES PROSPECT OF MILITARY ACTION
Fast forward to this week and it appears that the table is once again being set for U.S. military action against Bashir Assad. On Thursday of this week during meetings with Gulf State foreign ministers in Saudi Arabia, Secretary of State John Kerry indicated once again that military pressure may be needed to oust Syria's President Bashar al-Assad,
"Ultimately a combination of diplomacy and pressure will be needed to bring about a political transition. Military pressure particularly may be necessary given President Assad's reluctance to negotiate seriously."
Readers are reminded U.S. and EU interests in Syria, at their core, likely have little to do with accusations of chemical weapons use or the actions of a tyrannical Syrian leader. Far more compelling is the fact that the Syrian civil war kicked off soon after agreements were signed regarding the construction of a new Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline which would carry product from Iran's giant South Pars field, traverse Iraq and Syria, with ultimate delivery to the European market.
SOMETHING ELSE TO KEEP IN MIND...
This pipeline would compete with / block / hamper / usurp the profits of a proposed pipeline also intended to supply Europe with natural gas from opposing Gulf States such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Regardless of the reasoning, the potential for armed conflict involving U.S. forces in these two regions is significant.
AlertsUSA continues to closely monitor developments in these different regions and will immediately notify service subscribers of changes in the overall threat environment as it applies to U.S. citizens and interests, as events warrant.