Tensions continue to rise with Russia's ongoing buildup of military assets on the Northern and Eastern borders of Ukraine, as well as counter moves on the part of NATO.
On Wed of this week, NATO's top military commander in Europe, U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, stated that more American troops could be deployed to Eastern Europe in an effort to shore up defenses in allied countries that share a border with Russia. "Essentially what we are looking at is a package of land, air and maritime measures that would build assurance for our easternmost allies."
Breedlove also stated that NATO would be tripling the number of fighter jets patrolling the skies over Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, three member nations without fighter jets of their own.
As reported in last week's issue of Threat Journal, Russian fighter jets have begun flying missions closer the Baltic nation's airspace, already prompting the U.S. to deploy at least 10 F-15 fighter aircraft and support personnel to Siauliai Airbase in Lithuania, 12 F-16s and surveillance aircraft to Poland, as well as additional troops and military assets to bolster air and ground forces already stationed in the region.
And it is not just the U.S.. Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and Turkey are either already contributing air and land forces or are scheduled to do so in the coming days and weeks.
Late this week, the US guided-missile destroyer Donald Cook and a French intelligence warship entered the Black Sea.
Also this week, NATO Headquarters released a package of satellite images showing details of the location and type of Russian units deployed along the border with Ukraine. According to Brigadier Gary Deakin, the Director of NATO's Comprehensive Crisis Operations and Management Center (CCOMC), "The Russians have an array of capabilities including aircraft, helicopters, special forces, tanks, artillery, infantry fighting vehicles… and these could move in a matter of hours.”
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Readers may recall that several weeks ago AlertsUSA Threat Journal called out the disparity in the number of Russian forces reportedly massed on the border of Ukraine. While European sources consistently report numbers between 80 and 100,000 , defense and intelligence officials within the Obama administration have been reporting numbers only around 40,000.
On Friday of this week, the Daily Beast broke a story that a major rift has formed between the Obama Administration and NATO's top military commander, 4 star U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, on this and other topics, including intelligence sharing and other forms of aid to the Ukraine military, the overall threat assessment for Eastern Europe and more.
Make no mistake, while a kinetic engagement has not yet taken place between the Russian Federation and NATO, shots are already being fired in the diplomatic, economic and cultural aspects of the battlespace.
On the diplomatic front, earlier this week the Canadian government declared Russia's military attaches persona non grata and ordered their departure from the country. The U.S. Dept. of Defense suspended all military relations with the Russia in early March.
Further, late this week Russian authorities pulled the plug on the only remaining radio transmissions of Voice of America in the Russian Federation. According to Dmitry Kiselyov, the head of the Russia's state news agency, "It’s as if they broadcast from the underworld. [...] I view these stations as spam on our airwaves."
On the economic front, this week Russian President Vladimir Putin warned European leaders that Russia would cut off natural gas supplies to Ukraine if it did not pay its bills. This in turn would result in a reduction of onward deliveries to Europe. As approximately 1/3rd of Europe's natural gas comes from Russia, and approximately 80% of that is delivered via Ukrainian pipelines, the impact could be disastrous.
And if you think that this would also hurt Russia's revenue stream, think again. Earlier this week it was announced that Russia and China are preparing to enter into what is being referred to in the industry as the "Holy Grail" of gas deals. As Europe and the U.S. have sought to isolate Russia, Moscow simply looked to the East for new business, energy deals, military contracts and political alliances.
The geopolitical and economic shock waves from such a partnership will, for sure, be felt globally.
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.