Contains selective news articles I select

Archive for the ‘Military Alliance of NATO’ Category

NATO chief: Both sides expected to behave despite drills

October 30, 2018

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — NATO’s secretary-general said Tuesday he is confident that both the Western military alliance and Russia “will act in a respectable way” as the two sides hold drills in the same area in waters off Norway’s coast.

Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday as he attended the Trident Juncture war games in his native Norway that “this is not a Cold War situation,” stressing it is “purely to prevent, not to provoke.” Russia has been briefed by NATO on the exercises and invited to monitor them, but the move has still angered the Russians.

Moscow has warned it could be forced to respond to increased NATO military activities and said its navy plans to test missiles in international waters, close to where the alliance is conducting its largest military exercise since the end of the Cold War.

The Russian missile tests will take place Nov. 1-3 off western Norway. The NATO drill, scheduled to end Nov. 7, takes place in central and eastern Norway, the North Atlantic and the Baltic Sea. The maneuvers come amid persistent tensions between NATO and Russia, and Moscow believes the alliance is behaving provactively near its borders.

“This is a necessary exercise” to “send a strong signal of unity,” Stoltenberg told reporters as he visited the NATO maneuvers that involve around 50,000 personnel from all 29 NATO allies, plus partners Finland and Sweden.

There also are 65 ships, 250 restoring Norway’s sovereignty after an aircraft and 10,000 vehicles in a hypothetical scenario that involves attack by a “fictitious aggressor.” The U.S. Navy admiral commanding the war games said Russia has been monitoring the drill with “curiosity,” judging from recent regional movements of Russian troops in the air and at sea. He did not elaborate.

“I have no issue with that as long as it doesn’t interfere with what we do,” Adm. James Foggo told reporters in Finland on Friday, adding that he expected Moscow to take a “professional” stance to the drill and dispatch military observers.

“No-one should have an issue of us (NATO) operating on international waters or international airspace,” Foggo said. He called Finland and Sweden “very, very capable” NATO partner countries, and said the drills offer a chance for the alliance and the two Nordic nations to test their cooperation.

The countries have been alarmed by neighboring Russia’s substantially increased military maneuvers in the region during the past few years. Hundreds of Finnish and Swedish air, infantry and naval troops will be involved with Trident Juncture, prompting Russia’s foreign ministry on Thursday to remind the two countries that NATO’s drill “fits within the policy of the United States toward making Europe less secure”.

Adm. Foggo said it was the first time since the end of the Cold War that a U.S. aircraft carrier is sailing so far north above the Arctic Circle. In conjunction with Trident Juncture, the USS Harry S. Truman, a massive aircraft carrier, was leading a U.S. strike carrier group conducting air, surface and underwater exercises in the rough Arctic seas, he said.

Tanner reported from Tallinn, Estonia.

Advertisements

NATO chief calls arms buildup unlikely, Putin warns Europe

October 24, 2018

BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday that allies blame Russia for violating an important Cold War-era missile treaty but he does not expect them to deploy more nuclear warheads in Europe in response.

In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin followed up on U.S. President Donald Trump’s declared intention to pull out of the 1987 arms control pact by warning that if the U.S. deploys the now-banned missiles in Europe, Russia would target the nations hosting them.

The European Union has described the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty as a cornerstone of European security and urged Russia and the United States to uphold it. But Stoltenberg did not encourage the U.S., the biggest and most influential member of NATO, to stay in the treaty.

“I don’t foresee that allies will deploy more nuclear weapons in Europe as a response to the new Russian missile,” Stoltenberg told reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels. However, he noted that the 29 allies were assessing “the implications of the new Russian missile for our security.”

Putin said he hoped the United States did not plan to put the kind of missiles the treaty banned in Europe, if it does withdraw from the pact. “If they are deployed in Europe, we will naturally have to respond in kind,” Putin said at a news conference after talks with visiting Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. “The European nations that would agree to that should understand that they would expose their territory to the threat of a possible retaliatory strike.”

The Russian leader strongly rejected U.S. and NATO allegations that Moscow has violated the treaty. He charged it was the U.S. that violated pact with missile defense facilities in Romania that could be used to hold cruise missiles in violation of the INF.

With tensions over the treaty’s possible unraveling mounting, NATO on Thursday officially launches its Trident Juncture war games in Norway, its biggest maneuvers since the Cold War. Russia, which shares a border with Norway, has been briefed by NATO on the exercises and invited to monitor them, but the move has still angered Moscow. Russia’s defense minister warned that Moscow could be forced to respond to increased NATO military activities near its western border.

“NATO’s military activities near our borders have reached the highest level since the Cold War times,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said, noting that the war games will be “simulating offensive military action.”

Speaking on a trip to Belarus, Shoigu also warned that Poland’s plan to permanently host a U.S. army division would affect regional stability and trigger a Russian response. He said Moscow would have to “take retaliatory measures to neutralize possible military threats.”

The NATO maneuvers in Norway will involve around 50,000 personnel, 65 ships, 250 aircraft and 10,000 vehicles in a hypothetical scenario that involves restoring Norway’s sovereignty after an attack by a “fictitious aggressor.”

The United States insists that a new Russian missile system — known as the 9M729 — contravenes the 1987 INF treaty. NATO allies agree that is probably the case. The pact between Moscow and Washington bans an entire class of weapons — all land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range from 500-5,500 kilometers (310-3,410 miles.)

Experts say the Russian system would operate at lower altitudes, making it tough to detect and bring down. It could also reach targets across Europe and even the U.S. west coast if stationed in Siberia.

Stoltenberg said he was concerned about the weapons, but did not expect a repeat of the so-called “Euromissiles crisis” in the 1980s. Back then, the United States deployed cruise missiles in Europe to counterbalance a perceived threat from Russia’s SS-20 nuclear warheads.

“The INF is a landmark treaty, but the problem is that no treaty can be effective, can work, if it’s only respected by one” side, Stoltenberg said, adding that the “U.S. is in full compliance.” He said, based on U.S. intelligence and Russia’s reluctance to discuss the missile system with NATO, “the most plausible explanation is that Russia is in violation of the treaty.”

Asked whether he thought the United States should stick with it, Stoltenberg said: “The challenge, the problem, is the Russian behavior which we have seen over many years.” In Berlin, Germany’s foreign minister urged his Russian counterpart to do everything possible to preserve the treaty. The German Foreign Ministry said Heiko Maas told Russia’s Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday that includes clearing up the allegations that Moscow has violated the pact.

Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.

Russia warns of ‘horrible’ conflict if Georgia joins NATO

August 07, 2018

MOSCOW (AP) — An attempt by NATO to incorporate the former Soviet republic of Georgia could trigger a new, “horrible” conflict, Russia’s prime minister said Tuesday in a stern warning to the West marking 10 years since the Russia-Georgia war.

Dmitry Medvedev said in an interview with the Kommersant daily broadcast by Russian state television that NATO’s plans to eventually offer membership to Georgia are “absolutely irresponsible” and a “threat to peace.”

Medvedev was Russia’s president during the August 2008 war, which erupted when Georgian troops tried unsuccessfully to regain control over the Moscow-backed breakaway province of South Ossetia and Russia sent troops that routed the Georgian military in five days of fighting.

The Russian army was poised to advance on the Georgian capital, but Medvedev rolled it back, accepting a truce mediated by the European Union. After the war, Georgia entirely lost control of both South Ossetia and another separatist region, Abkhazia. Russia has strengthened its military presence in both regions and recognized them as independent states, but only a few countries have followed suit.

The European Union on Tuesday reiterated its “firm support to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders” and lamented the Russian military presence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

In a show of support for Georgia, foreign ministers of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, and a Cabinet member from Ukraine, visited Tbilisi Tuesday, urging Russia to withdraw its troops from Abkhazia and South Ossetia. “Nowadays no country can change the borders of another country by force,” said Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz.

Russian-Georgian relations have improved since the war, but the issue of the breakaway regions remains, preventing the full normalization of ties. Medvedev warned that NATO’s attempt to embrace Georgia could have catastrophic consequences.

“There is an unresolved territorial conflict … and would they bring such a country into the military alliance?” he said. “Do they understand the possible implications? It could provoke a horrible conflict.”

Medvedev pointed to Moscow’s recognition of independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the Russian military bases there, saying that any attempt to change the status quo could lead to “extremely grave consequences.” ”I hope that NATO’s leadership will be smart enough not to take any steps in that direction,” he said.

The Russian prime minister described NATO’s eastward expansion as a major security threat to Russia. “Whatever our colleagues from the alliance may say, NATO countries see Russia as a potential enemy,” he said. “We can’t help getting worried when the circle around our country keeps narrowing as more and more countries join NATO. NATO’s expansion clearly poses a threat to the Russian Federation.”

Bigger is better? NATO opens up to Macedonia as rifts linger

July 11, 2018

BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO has invited Macedonia to start membership talks, a step toward adding its 30th member despite Russia’s objection and a show of unity at a time of growing discord between the Trump administration and Europe.

The invitation Wednesday came at a NATO summit at which U.S. President Donald Trump demanded more military spending by some allegedly deadbeat allies, as countries like Canada and Britain committed more to new manpower than new money.

Macedonia was given a pathway to membership on condition that it finally iron out its years-long standoff over its name with Greece, which took a big step forward with their deal last month that could rename the country North Macedonia.

Macedonian voters and the Greek parliament still must sign off on that deal, which could also dissipate any Greek objections to the Skopje government’s ambition to join the European Union. “Once all national procedures have been completed to finalize the name agreement, the country will join NATO as our 30th member,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said. “It cannot become a member if it doesn’t change its name. That’s in a way the simple choice, and that’s up to the people.”

Russia, NATO’s most prominent rival, has bemoaned the possible addition of another alliance member — reviving Cold War-style tensions. Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev hailed the invitation but noted objections from Moscow.

“Very obviously, they are against our integration in NATO,” he said during a panel talk on the sidelines of the summit. Zaev alleged “some activities” by Russia had attempted to thwart the deal, but he did not elaborate.

The overture toward expansion came amid a backdrop of strain in NATO, notably continued pressure by Trump on allies to shoulder a bigger share of military spending — including a swipe at Germany for being “captive” to Russia.

Instead of new money, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his country will lead NATO’s new military training mission in Iraq, with up to 250 troops. Canada isn’t meeting an informal alliance target for member states to devote at least 2 percent of their economic output to defense spending.

Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain, which is meeting that target, announced it would send 440 military personnel for a similar training mission in Afghanistan — by far the alliance’s biggest foreign venture.

The pledges came as NATO has been keen to play a major role in the fight against terrorism and demonstrate its resilience against an aggressive Russia that has annexed Crimea and sown instability in Ukraine.

Canada’s offer is part of NATO’s attempt to help Iraq rebuild and ensure the Islamic State group can’t gain a new foothold there. The commitment was part of the alliance’s expansion of the number of trainers from around a dozen currently to several hundred operating out of the capital, Baghdad.

“Those sorts of tangible elements are at the heart of what NATO stands for,” Trudeau said, in an apparent bid to outflank Trump’s call for money. “You can try and be a bean counter and look at exactly how much this and how much money that, but the fundamental question is: is what you’re doing actually making a difference?

The British commitment in Afghanistan came as NATO agreed to fund the Afghan army through 2024. Britain’s addition will beef up efforts that are already training some 16,000 troops. “I think that shows when NATO calls, the U.K. is one of the first to step up,” May told reporters.

In another show of resolve to Russia, the leaders rubber-stamped a plan to ready a crisis response contingent that can be rapidly deployed — 30 battalions, 30 air squadrons and 30 battleships within 30 days. It also endorsed two new command headquarters — in Norfolk, Virginia and Ulm, Germany — to help better move troops and equipment across the Atlantic and through Europe.

Questioned repeatedly about Trump’s attacks on European allies and Canada, Stoltenberg acknowledged trans-Atlantic differences, but refused to say whether the U.S. leader’s attacks were damaging the alliance.

“My task is to make sure that we stay together, so if I started to freely reflect on all possibilities, then I would undermine the unity of this alliance,” Stoltenberg said. Trump’s “America First” policies have exposed major differences between the U.S. and many parts of Europe on issues as diverse as climate change, trade and tariff policies, and the Iran nuclear deal that the U.S. leader has rejected.

Stoltenberg sought to depict his alliance as a force for unity that gives Washington a way to project power from Europe into Asia, the Middle East and Africa. “A strong NATO is good for Europe and good for the United States,” he said. “Two world wars and a Cold War taught us that we are stronger together than apart.”

New naval command created to step up presence in Atlantic

May 05, 2018

WASHINGTON (AP) — Amid rising tensions with Russia, the Pentagon on Friday announced the official launch of a new naval command that will bolster the U.S. and NATO presence in the Atlantic Ocean. Outlines of the plan were approved at the February meeting of NATO defense ministers, as part of a broader effort to insure the security of the sea lanes and lines of communication between Europe and North America.

“The return to great power competition and a resurgent Russia demands that NATO refocus on the Atlantic to ensure dedicated reinforcement of the continent and demonstrate a capable and credible deterrence effect,” said Johnny Michael, a Pentagon spokesman. He said the new NATO command “will be the linchpin of trans-Atlantic security.”

The decision reflects escalating worries across Europe and within NATO over Russia’s increased military presence and patrols in the Atlantic region. Under the new plan, the U.S. will set up NATO’s new Atlantic Command headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in February that “we have seen a much more assertive Russia, we have seen a Russia which has over many years invested heavily in their military capabilities, modernized their military capabilities, which are exercising not only conventional forces but also nuclear forces.”

He said the new Atlantic Command will be vital for the alliance to be able to respond. NATO also created a new logistics command, which is expected to be located in Germany. At the same time, the U.S. Navy is re-establishing its 2nd Fleet command, which was eliminated in 2011 in a move to save costs. It was merged with the navy’s Fleet Forces Command.

Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, said the move comes as the security environment “continues to grow more challenging and complex.” The command will oversee ships, aircraft and landing forces on the East Coast and northern Atlantic Ocean, and will be responsible for training forces and conducting maritime operations in the region.

Restarting the command was recommended in the Navy study done following the two deadly ship collisions last year that killed a total of 17 sailors. The destroyer USS Fitzgerald struck a commercial ship off the waters of Japan in June, killing seven U.S. sailors. The destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in coastal waters off Singapore in August, killing 10 U.S. sailors.

The Navy concluded that the two crashes, as well as a third collision in May and a ship grounding, were all avoidable, and resulted from widespread failures by the crews and commanders who didn’t quickly recognize and respond to unfolding emergencies.

A report called for about 60 recommended changes to address the problems. They ranged from improved training on seamanship, navigation and the use of ship equipment to more basic changes to improve sleep and stress management for sailors.

The command will begin operations July 1. It will report to U.S. Fleet Forces, and will initially include 11 officers and 4 enlisted personnel. Those numbers will eventually increase to more than 250 personnel.

Tunisia rejects NATO’s proposal to support establishment of anti-terrorism center

February 13, 2018

On Monday, the Tunisian defense ministry said it had rejected a NATO proposal that would grant Tunisia a 3 million euro grant in exchange for closer ties with the organization. The plan would have engaged a permanent role for NATO experts at an operations center in the country.

Defence Minister Abdelkarim Zbidi said his ministry, “rejected a proposal by NATO to give his country a grant of 3 million euros to receive permanent experts who would provide technical advice to the Tunisian military at an operations center in which the armies cooperate to secure borders and fight terrorism which Tunisia plans to develop.”

During a hearing at the Tunisian parliament’s security and defense committee, on Monday, Zbidi explained that “The ministry is working on a project to complete a joint center for planning, leading operations, for information analysis and to lead joint operations between the military forces.”

He added that his ministry “requested the provision of a grant to Tunisia, provided that no party from outside the Tunisian military establishment would intervene in this center, and that the location where the center is to be established be inside Tunisian territories and chosen by the Ministry of Defense.”

Zbidi also pointed out that the terrorist threat still persists in his country especially on the western borders with Algeria and eastern borders with Libya.

He added: “Some terrorist combatants are still active in the western highlands of the governorates of Kasserine, El Kef and Jendouba.”

According Zbidi, the Tunisian military units carried out about one thousand military operations in suspicious areas in different governorates of the country, which led to the elimination of 5 terrorist combatants, uncovering 28 hideouts, the destruction and neutralization of more than 100 mines, the seizure of equipment and various possessions, the killing of two military agents together with 45 others injured at different degrees.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180213-tunisia-rejects-natos-proposal-to-support-establishment-of-anti-terrorism-centre/.

NATO prolongs chief Stoltenberg’s term for 2 more years

December 12, 2017

BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO extended Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s tenure for two more years at the head of the world’s biggest military alliance on Tuesday. Stoltenberg has held the post since 2014 and his term has been marked by a spike in security challenges, including a resurgent Russia and foreign fighters returning to Europe from Syria and Iraq.

NATO said in a statement that the 29 NATO nations decided to prolong the former Norwegian prime minister’s term until Sept. 30, 2020. It said the allies “congratulate the Secretary-General and have full confidence in his ability to continue his dedicated work to advance NATO’s adaptation to the security challenges of the 21st century.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May lauded Stoltenberg as a “true champion of the NATO alliance.” She said “he has made sure that NATO has stood strong but not stood still, meeting Russian aggression in eastern Europe while reforming to face developing threats such as cyberattacks and hybrid-warfare.”

Last week, the German government backed a two-year extension of Stoltenberg’s term. Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Stoltenberg had “the full support of Germany,” adding that he had “done excellent work modernizing NATO and adapting its structures to a changed security situation.”

She also praised his strong support of closer cooperation between NATO and the European Union, which have 22 member states in common. Stoltenberg took up the position just after Russia had annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and the Islamic State group had seized cities in Syria and Iraq, inspiring a new, more brutal form of terrorism that would wreak havoc in European capitals.

For the NATO secretary-general “2014 was a turning point,” he told The Associated Press during a trip to Poland in late August for talks with top officials and to thank some of about 4,000 NATO troops stationed in eastern Europe to deter an increasingly aggressive Moscow.

“Suddenly the world really changed,” Stoltenberg said.

Tag Cloud