Saturday, November 14, 2015
X-Captive Nations Mobilize vs. Russian Aggression
This blog was to have appeared last night but in respect for the killed and wounded in the horrible terrorist attacks in Paris, I delayed posting it until today.
The historic words by Colonel Charles E. Stanton voiced in 1917 are quite poignant today: “Lafayette, nous voilà.” (Lafayette, we are here)
East Europeans and the Baltic states are not giving too much credence to western analyses that Putin has abandoned his master plan of subjugating Ukraine in favor of military incursions into Syria. Those x-captive nations are “gravely concerned” especially by regional Russian aggression and have initiated their own defense preparations.
Reuters, The Baltic Times and other news media have reported that leaders of nine Central and Eastern European and Baltic states said in a joint statement on November 4 they were gravely concerned about Russia’s “continuing aggressive posturing” and endorsed a sustainable NATO military presence in the region. (See also my blog “X-Captive Nations United vs. Russian Aggression, Monday, November 9.)
Despite NATO’s vacillation about its mission, the x-captive nations, the countries that were to be beneficiaries of the alliance’s military protection, still believe in its ability and commitment to defend their collective independence.
“We will stand firm on the need for Russia to return to respect of international law as well as of its international obligations, responsibilities and commitments as a pre-condition for a NATO-Russia relationship based on trust and confidence,” they said in the joint declaration.
Polish President Andrzej Duda said NATO simultaneously faces threats from the east and the south, necessitating “more troops, more infrastructure and more common actions” as he and his colleagues urged the alliance to take an active role in safeguarding their and by association global freedom.
Russia’s invasion and occupation of Ukrainian Crimea in February 2014 and Moscow’s support for pro-Kremlin rebels in eastern Ukraine as well as its own involvement in the war have alarmed neighboring Baltic and Eastern European countries.
At the same time, leaders of the NATO alliance have been expressing concern at what they see as Moscow’s growing military presence from the Baltics to Syria after Russia launched air strikes in support of President Bashar al-Assad five weeks ago. However, NATO has been caught without an obvious workable response plan.
News reports noted that the x-captive nations’ declaration also said the leaders would join efforts to secure “a robust, credible and sustainable” allied military presence in the region, and would advocate deeper cooperation between NATO and the European Union. ‘Hybrid’ warfare, cyber defense, energy security and strategic communication were listed in the statement as key areas needing their attention.
The statement was issued after a meeting in Bucharest, Romania, of heads of state including Lithuania’s Dalia Grybauskaite, Latvia’s Raimonds Vejonis, Estonia’s Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Slovakia’s Andrej Kiska, Bulgaria’s Rosen Plevneliev and Hungary’s Janos Ader.
The talks were co-chaired by Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis and Poland’s President Andrzej Duda. The President of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, Jan Hamacek, and Deputy Secretary-General of NATO, Alexander Vershbow, also attended.
Unfortunately, there was no mention of an official Ukrainian presence.
The declaration continues East European leaders’ anxieties about their future in the wake of Russian belligerence that they have voiced publically or privately since the fall of the iron curtain.
At a NATO Foreign Ministers meeting in Antalya last spring, Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius emphasized that Russia has tested the alliance’s vigilance and unity, and called on NATO to ensure a permanent presence of its troops in the Baltic states.
He noted that activity of the Russian fleet had interfered with international shipping and legitimate commerce in the exclusive economic zone of Lithuania. As for the threats from the south, Linkevičius assured that Lithuania would contribute to joint efforts to fight the Islamic State and search for solutions to problems concerning migration at the European level.
At the meeting, Linkevičius called on NATO to continue its open door policy, especially with regard to Eastern European countries, and to keep the attention on Georgia. The participants also discussed NATO’s response to security threats from the east and south. The meeting was attended by the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini.
The ministers expressed a consensus about the threat of Russian aggression and increasing military power, and the need to take long-term measures to enhance security in the Alliance’s east region and prevent any possible aggression.
Russia’s enhanced militarization and invasions have prompted several nations to announce plans to boost their military and defense spending. Poland is in the midst of modernizing its armed forces, and the Czech Republic also announced its intention to purchase more weapons. Nordic states also reported Russian aggression along their borders and in the Arctic, with Norway saying it needs to update its defense forces.
The Czech Republic has become the latest European nation to announce the purchase of new weapons to modernize its armed forces, Defense News reported on November 2. Czech Defense Minister Martin Stropnicky said the procurements would allow the military to take part in NATO exercises and help secure the country’s border.
“The reason behind this was, in particular, the deteriorating global security situation, which represents a threat to the security of the Czech Republic and Czech citizens,” said Stropnicky. “After a thorough evaluation of the current risks and threats, the ministry decided to make an effective and adequate response.”
The Czech Republic joins an expanding list of countries in the region looking to bolster their defense capabilities. Its military was expected to add armored personnel carriers and reconnaissance systems, as well as technology to prevent electronic attacks to its inventory and additional weaponry to be used by the army, air force and reserves. Prague increased the military budget for 2015 by 4.2% and was expected to spend $1.78 billion on its military.
Several Central and Eastern European states have also started cutting their defense equipment purchases from Russia and shifting instead to buying from NATO member states, Defense News reported. Slovakia said it was planning to replace old military equipment with new purchases likely coming from NATO member states.
Nordic states have also taken notice of Russia’s military buildup in Arctic with Norway announcing a need to modernize its armed forces, Reuters reported. Norway, a NATO member state, shares a small border with Russia in the Arctic where there has been increased military activity.
“Our neighbor in the east has built up its military capacity, also in areas close to us,” said Admiral Haakon Bruun-Hanssen of Norway’s navy. “They have shown that they are willing to use military force to achieve political ambitions.”
Norway’s defense forces would need more than $21 billion beyond what was budgeted for the next 20 years, Bruun-Hanssen said. Russia’s military actions in both Ukraine and Syria have created uncertainty across Europe. Norway also mentioned it was now facing cyber and terrorist threats, as well.
Norway’s Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide said Western relations with Russia had been permanently altered over Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
“We are faced with a different Russia,” Søreide told CNN. “I want to warn against the fact that some people see this as something that is going to pass. The situation has changed. And it has changed profoundly.”
Other European countries have begun to modernize their defense capabilities amid fear and uncertainty over Russia. Poland has begun a military modernization program at a cost of more than $35 billion. Poland and Sweden signed a military cooperation agreement in September that also cited Russian military fears. Sweden said it had increased its own military spending by 11%.
“Once a sea of peace, the Baltic has become a sea of danger,” observed Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak.
Russia has endangered the region and world and disrupted regional and global peace and stability. The x-captive nations are preparing to meet this threat by bolstering their defenses in hopes of changing Russia’s plans.
They at least deserve the active support and involvement of the US and the free world. G20 leaders have their agenda full this weekend, but unfortunately terrorist Russia is in their midst.