On multiple occasions this week AlertsUSA customers have been notified via text messages to their mobile devices regarding increasing tensions over Russia's occupation and annexation of Crimea, as well as the continued buildup of military forces on both sides of the Ukraine - - Russia border.
Following a referendum vote this past weekend, a formal ceremony was held early in the week in Moscow, where agreements were signed and the annexation completed. On Friday Russian President Putin signed the final decree making the Crimean Peninsula a part of Russia.
Despite a truce announced on March 16, this week Russian troops have seized several Ukrainian air bases, the headquarters of the Ukrainian navy, as well as a sizeable portion of their naval fleet. More than a dozen of Ukraine's remaining warships have been rendered effectively useless as they are trapped in port by a vessel intentionally scuttled to block their passage.
Earlier in the week, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen delivered an ominous warning stating that the annexation of Crimea is “the gravest threat to European security and stability since the end of the Cold War” and should be a wake-up call for European countries to bolster their own defenses to contain Russia’s imperialistic ambitions.
Vice President Joe Biden traveled to the Baltic region to further reassure Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania that NATO’s Article V collective defense commitment is solid. In short, Article V states that if a NATO ally is a victim of an armed attack, all members of the alliance have an obligation to come to its aid.
Issuing a direct warning to Moscow and attempting to calm NATO allies, Vice President Biden stated the following:
"I want to make it unmistakingly clear to you and to all our allies in the region that our commitment to mutual self-defense under Article 5 of NATO remains ironclad. It is not in question."
For a more detailed NATO map, click HERE (PDF)
A day earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that "NATO remains a military alliance, and we are against having a military alliance making itself at home right in our own backyard; in our historic territory."
Listeners may be interested to know that the first time NATO invoked Article V of the Washington Treaty was following the terrorist attacks of 9/11 when NATO partners sent military aircraft to patrol and monitor the skies over the U.S.. 830 military personnel from 13 different countries deployed to the U.S. during what was known as Operation Eagle Assist.
Vice President Biden also announced that in addition to new NATO exercises, the U.S. was considering rotating American forces to the Baltic region as a step towards ensuring the collective defense of our allies. In fact, those troops deployments have already begun. This is over and above the additional fighter aircraft and hundreds of personnel formally announced during the last couple weeks.
So where are we now?
As of late this week, civil unrest continues to grow in eastern Ukraine, further stoking the potential of a Russian invasion. In addition, Russian officials are now expressing outrage over Estonia’s treatment of its large ethnic Russian minority. Does this sound familiar? It should, as protecting Russian-speakers outside its borders is the pretext the Kremlin used to justify seizing the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine.
Late this week, the Eastern portion of Moldova known as Trans-Dniester, which is on the opposite side of Ukraine, has formally asked that Russia consider admitting the republic into the Russian Federation. Ethnic Russians in Latvia and Lithuania are also getting restless.
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AlertsUSA continues to closely monitor the situation in the Ukraine and will issue additional alert messages to subscriber mobile devices as threats and events warrant.