Twice this week AlertsUSA notified subscribers via text messages to their mobile devices of significant escalations in the standoff between Ukraine, NATO and Russia. NATO's supreme allied commander in Europe, US Air Force General Philip Breedlove, this week called the size of the Russian force gathered on the border of Ukraine as "incredibly concerning" and says that Russia has massed all the assets it needs to successfully overrun the Ukrainian military and occupy the eastern and southern parts of the country in just three to five days.
As carefully reported by AlertsUSA Threat Journal over the past several weeks (see this, this, this and this), Russia's recent moves in Crimea and the buildup of a revamped, well equipped, well trained military force on the border of Ukraine, as well as more troops now gathering and training closer to the borders of NATO member states Latvia and Estonia, has caught the alliance way off guard, and there is justifiable nervousness in the air.
At a NATO alliance meeting in Brussels on Tuesday, Poland's foreign minister, Radek Sikorski, formally asked for NATO to station two heavy brigades of armored infantry in his country. This equates to about 10,000 troops. Romania's President sent a letter to the lower house of parliament this week informing them of a request by the U.S. for permission to add an additional 600 U.S. troops to the roughly 1,000 currently stationed in the country, as well as more military aircraft.
It was also reported this week that the U.S. has deployed at least 10 F-15 fighter aircraft and support personnel to Lithuania.
Further, it was announced this week that at least one additional warship, the Aegis destroyer USS Donald Cook, currently home ported in Rota, Spain, would be entering the Black Sea sometime in the coming days. According to Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren, the move was intended to "reassure allies of our commitment to the region."
In addition to the growing number of U.S. military aircraft and troops either being deployed to or currently stationed in the region, the USS Harry Truman Carrier Strike Group entered the Mediterranean this past weekend via the Suez Canal. The USS George Bush Carrier Strike Group which had previously been in the Med has itself transited the Suez in the other direction and is now carrying out maritime security operations in the Middle East.
And in a highly provocative move, Ukraine's parliament on Tuesday approved a series of joint military exercises with NATO countries that would put US troops on the ground in direct proximity to Russian forces in the Crimea peninsula. In turn, Russia has issued a stern warning to Ukraine against integration with NATO, saying Kiev's previous attempts to move closer to the defense alliance had had unwelcome consequences.
Readers may recall that last week AlertsUSA Threat Journal speculated on the impact the growing tensions could have on collaborations between NASA and the Russian Federal Space Agency, upon whom the U.S. is completely dependent for travel to the International Space Station given President Obama's premature cancellation of the Space Shuttle program. Fast forwarding to this week, NASA has suspended all contact with Russian government, including travel to Russia, teleconferences, visits by Russian officials to NASA facilities and even the exchange of emails. While space station activities are currently exempt from this agency-wide cut-off, it is clearly just a matter of time before this aspect of the partnership dries up as well. If you doubt it, consider that NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has told Congress that the space station would probably have to be shut down without Russian transport, and if that were to occur, he would recommend that the President completely cancel the new Space Launch System and ...
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AlertsUSA continues to closely monitor the situation in eastern Europe and will immediately notify service subscribers of significant escalations or the outbreak of hostilities as events warrant.