Posts Tagged ‘Baltic’

Warsaw court jails lawyer for spying for Moscow

March 20, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | A lawyer has been jailed in Poland for giving Russia information on a new liquefied natural gas terminal at Swinoujscie, whose port is pictured above, on the Baltic coast
WARSAW (AFP) – A Polish-Russian lawyer has been sentenced to four years in prison for spying for Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency, a Warsaw court said Monday.The lawyer, a man with dual citizenship identified only as Stanislaw Sz. for legal reasons, pleaded not guilty at the trial held behind closed doors. He can appeal the verdict.

Judge Agnieszka Domanska said the man gave Russia information on Poland’s energy sector, in particular regarding a new liquefied natural gas terminal at Swinoujscie on the Baltic coast, according to the Polish news agency PAP.

He notably got hold of a secret report by the national audit chamber NIK on natural gas contracts and the launch last June of the Swinoujscie terminal, which Poland built to ease its dependence on Russian gas.

Poland currently relies on Russia for about forty percent of its gas, with a third coming from domestic sources and 20 percent from central Asia.

Stanislaw Sz. was arrested in October 2014, at the same time as a Polish officer, Zbigniew J., who was sentenced last year to six years in prison by the Warsaw military court for spying for Russia.

Their cases were related but the two men did not work together, according to Polish media reports.

Sweden is ‘preparing for war’ with Russia

December 15, 2016

Image may contain: 3 people, outdoor

Officials in Sweden have been ordered to ensure that they are ready for war as fears of a Russian invasion grow. Pictured are Swedish troops training

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4033994/Sweden-warns-preparing-war-Officials-ordered-ensure-civil-defence-infrastructure-ready-fear-Russian-invasion-grows.html#ixzz4Suu33ucV
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  • Officials in Sweden have been ordered to make sure they are ready for war 
  • The government says local authorities should be better prepared for aggression
  • Comes as fears of a Russian invasion in Sweden grow following annex of Crimea
  • But some have criticised the demands for war readiness calling them ‘unrealistic’ 

Officials in Sweden have been ordered to ensure that they are ready for war as fears of a Russian invasion grow.

The country’s Civil Contingencies Agency has sent out a letter to all local authorities telling them they must be better equipped to respond to the threat of war.

It is believed the letter was prompted by Sweden returning to their old Cold War-era ‘Total Defence Strategy’.

And according to Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, the letter sent out reads: ‘This places a high demand on… operational speed, decision making, information sharing, crisis communication, flexibility, robustness and handling secret information.’

THE SWEDISH ARMED FORCES

 The size of the Swedish armed forces has been in decline since the Cold War in line with shrinking military budgets.

The Swedish army currently has only 20,000 men in comparison to as many as 180,000 men in the 1980s.

This is also reflected in the defence budget as spending on defence has reduced from 3.1 per cent in 1981 to 1.1 per cent in 2016.

Earlier this year it was revealed that Sweden’s voluntary service had only attracted 2,500 recruits.

This means that is likely by 2018, that conscription will return in Sweden to plug the widening gap.

But despite the instructions, the MSB’s information head Svante Werger said: ‘There is nothing to indicate that war is likely, but we have the government’s mandate to plan for it.’

However, there has been a backlash against the letter, with some local leaders saying the requirements placed on municipalities were unrealistic.

Meanwhile others have accused the Swedish government of using the excuse of Russian aggression to justify spending more on the country’s military.

The letter comes as officials on Gotland, Sweden’s militarily strategic island in the Baltic Sea, said they likely will turn down a Russian request to rent harbour space after the government warned it could harm the country’s defense and political interests.

‘Following the information we got from the government, we very likely will say ‘no,” Tommy Gardell, head of the island council’s technical board, said. ‘We will align with the government.’

Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist said renting out harbor space on Gotland — considered of strategic importance for military control of the Baltic Sea — would ‘negatively affect Sweden’s defense and political interests.’ He did not elaborate, citing security reasons.

Tensions in the region have grown between Baltic NATO members and Moscow, including reports of airspace violations by Russian military aircraft.

The strategy places emphasis on defending the nation from overseas threats by taking economic and civilian precautions as well as military ones. Pictured are Swedish troops training in the Baltic 

The strategy places emphasis on defending the nation from overseas threats by taking economic and civilian precautions as well as military ones. Pictured are Swedish troops training in the Baltic

Non-aligned Sweden and Finland have watched with increasing trepidation, stepping up their own military activity with cross-border exercises and drills with NATO countries.

In September, Sweden stationed permanent troops on Gotland, which Hultqvist described as sending a signal after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and its ‘increasing pressure’ on the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Meanwhile in October Sweden’s neighbours Finland accused the Kremlin of running a ‘systematic lying campaign’.

It shares an 833 mile border with Russia, but questions over the legality of the country’s independence have made Finnish leaders uneasy.

MILITARY HISTORY OF SWEDEN

Sweden has fought in many historical wars including a two year conflict with Russia between 1788 and 1790.

It was provoked by the Swedes attacking St Peterburg prompting Denmark, Norway, Prussia and Great Britain to declare war on Sweden.

However, the Swedes suffered a heavy defeat during the Battle of Öland, but months later they recorded a victory during the Seocnd Battle of Svenskund and soon after a treaty was signed to end the conflict.

During the Union Era of Sweden, the country then fought its last war with Norway, which ended in 1814 after Norway gained independence.

Sweden then declared neutrality during the First and Second World Wars and didn’t take any part in either.

More recently, the country had been taking part in Nato exercises with countries such as Great Britain and the United States in the Baltic.

Russia’s military escalation on Europe’s border has triggered the West’s biggest show of force in the region since the Cold War as Nato continues to square up to Vladimir Putin.

The moves are designed to stop Moscow taking over or undermining its former Eastern European satellites as it has with Crimea and Ukraine.

Russia’s Buildup in Kaliningrad to Test Donald Trump on NATO

December 9, 2016

U.S. calls Moscow’s moves to reinforce its territory between Poland and Lithuania ‘destabilizing’

The Kabardino-Balkaria anti-submarine ship firing a missile during a parade of Russian Baltic Fleet ships on Russian Navy Day in July off the coast of Kaliningrad.

The Kabardino-Balkaria anti-submarine ship firing a missile during a parade of Russian Baltic Fleet ships on Russian Navy Day in July off the coast of Kaliningrad. PHOTO: ZUMA PRESS
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Updated Dec. 9, 2016 6:06 a.m. ET

KALININGRAD, Russia—Military maneuvering here in the Baltic region by Russia and NATO presents a challenge for President-elect Donald Trump and his commitment to America’s European allies.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization plans to station a multinational force on its eastern flank by May as a deterrent following Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine. But already in January, a brigade from the U.S. Army 4th Infantry Division will arrive in Germany and then move to Poland—before Inauguration Day, according to U.S. military officials.

After conducting systems tests in Poland, one battalion will go back to Germany to the training center, another battalion will go to the Baltic states and one battalion will go to Romania, the officials said.

NATO military officials held an exercise last week to help plan the deployment. “There are units ready to deploy on the other side of the holidays,” U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Russia has been moving in recent months to deploy new antiship missile systems, S-400 air defenses and nuclear-capable Iskander missiles to the Kaliningrad region, long its citadel on the Baltic Sea.

The exclave is now sandwiched between new NATO members Poland and Lithuania. Officials in Washington and Brussels have said the buildup is meant to test the Western alliance—a postwar mutual-defense pact that Mr. Trump raised questions about during his campaign.

State Department spokesman John Kirby last month called the deployment unwarranted and “destabilizing to European security.”

Moscow quickly fired back.

“Russian state security is the prerogative of our country’s leadership alone,” said Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the ministry of defense. “So any claims and suggestions about where, when, what and how we need to ensure our security on our territory, keep to yourselves.”

Russian officials have described the Iskander deployment as a counterweight to missile-defense systems the U.S. has put in Romania and plans to install in Poland. Washington says the systems are to guard against missiles fired toward Europe from countries such as Iran, but Russia sees them as a threat.

Asked in November about the missile deployment, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskovwas quoted by the news agency Interfax as saying: ”NATO is an aggressive bloc, so Russia is doing everything necessary to respond to that.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg described the alliance’s moves as measured.

“We don’t want confrontation,” he said Wednesday. “But we have to respond when we see a more assertive Russia acting the way that they have done in Ukraine and the military build up close to our borders.”

Despite the heated rhetoric, President Vladimir Putin said Russia is “ready to cooperate” with the Trump administration. “It is important to normalize [ties] and begin to develop a bilateral relationship,” he said on Dec. 1.

Iskander missile launchers in the Victory Parade in Moscow in 2015 marking the 70th anniversary of the defeat of the Nazis in World War II. Russia has been moving to deploy the missiles in its exclave of Kaliningrad.
Iskander missile launchers in the Victory Parade in Moscow in 2015 marking the 70th anniversary of the defeat of the Nazis in World War II. Russia has been moving to deploy the missiles in its exclave of Kaliningrad. PHOTO:ASSOCIATED PRESS

During his campaign, Mr. Trump expressed admiration for Mr. Putin’s leadership and said the U.S. and Russia could cooperate more on fighting terrorism.

Meanwhile, his comments about NATO’s collective defense obligations have raised hackles among U.S. allies. In an interview with the New York Times, Mr. Trump said that if Russia attacked the Baltic states, he would consider coming to their defense only after reviewing “if they have fulfilled their obligations to us.”

Kaliningrad, called Königsberg when it was part of Prussia and Germany, traces its origins to a fortified medieval town. It was blasted into ruins during World War II, pounded first by British bombers and then by a final Soviet assault in spring 1945.

The Soviets expelled the German population and renamed it after a Communist revolutionary. Much of the center was rebuilt with concrete-block housing that left little trace of its prewar splendor.

Today, Kaliningrad wants to project an image of a trading center and window to Europe.

“Kaliningrad is a very peaceful city,” said deputy mayor Artur Krupin. “Residents of Kaliningrad are very peaceful and good, they want in the best sense of the word to represent Russia’s interests within the European Union. They want to invite guests.”

The walled fortifications that remain in the city, he added, “have lost their original meaning.”

Russian army soldiers waiting to supervise visitors at a display of military vehicles during Russian Navy day at the Vistula lagoon in Baltiysk, Russia, on July 31. The Kaliningrad region has increasingly returned to its Soviet-era role as a garrison on the strategic Baltic Sea coast.
Russian army soldiers waiting to supervise visitors at a display of military vehicles during Russian Navy day at the Vistula lagoon in Baltiysk, Russia, on July 31. The Kaliningrad region has increasingly returned to its Soviet-era role as a garrison on the strategic Baltic Sea coast. PHOTO: ANDREY RUDAKOV/BLOOMBERG
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Mr. Krupin described Kaliningrad as “a platform for international dialogue” because of its proximity to markets in Eastern Europe. Local residents say economic ties have been set back by Russia’s chilly relations with NATO members, however.

In July, the Polish government did away with visa-free travel for Kaliningrad residents and neighboring Ukrainians to Polish border regions, citing security reasons ahead of a NATO summit and a visit by Pope Francis.

While Poland has since reinstated local border traffic with Ukraine, it decided not to with Kaliningrad, ending a brisk suitcase trade in household goods.

Asked about the matter in September, Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said the exclave was heavily militarized and has a new governor close to the Kremlin.

Russia’s economic crisis has also hit the region, which depends on tourism in addition to manufacturing and trade. A vendor selling amber souvenirs in the Baltic resort of Svetlogorsk said most visitors were retirees with little to spend because the Russian government hadn’t adjusted pensions in line with inflation.

“I hope there is a revolution!” he said. “Nothing will change as long as these guys are in charge.”

Despite saber-rattling over the region, however, little anti-Americanism is in evidence. Kaliningrad even has a restaurant downtown called Obama Pizza. Its slogan: Yes We Eat.

“We’re not changing it to Trump,” the pizzeria’s manager said.

Write to Nathan Hodge at nathan.hodge@wsj.com

http://www.wsj.com/articles/russias-buildup-in-kaliningrad-to-test-donald-trump-on-nato-1481279401

Russia accused of Estonia airspace violations as Finland signs defense pact with US

October 8, 2016

Estonia and Finland have accused Russia of again violating their airspace. Finland and the US have signed a bilateral defense cooperation pact.

Estonia has delivered a formal protest to the Russian ambassador in Tallinn, the Estonian military said on Friday. It accused Russian forces of violating its airspace for the fifth time this year.

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A Su-27 fighter aircraft entered Estonian airspace without permission or identification and remained near the Baltic island of Vaindloo for less than a minute, the Estonian army said.

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According to an Estonian radio report, Russia was planning to install an Iskander-M ballistic missile system, with a range of 400 kilometers (248 miles), in the Russian province of Kaliningrad, which lies on the Baltic coast between Poland and Lithuania. The report claimed that the short-range missile system was being delivered from St Petersburg in a civilian transport ship with substantial air escort.

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Finland and US pact

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Finland has expressed increasing concern over Russia’s activities in the Baltic Sea region. Helsinki authorities suspect that Russian SU-27 fighter jets violated the country’s airspace on two separate occasions in the Gulf of Finland on Thursday.

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On Friday, US Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert O. Work and Finnish Defense Minister Jussi Niinisto signed a bilateral defense cooperation pact pledging closer military collaboration. Finland’s close neighbor Sweden made a similar kind of military pact with the US in June. Neither Sweden nor Finland are members of NATO, but they both signed similar defense cooperation agreements with the UK earlier this year.

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“The US presence in and around the Baltic Sea undergirds stability in the region, and creates opportunities to increase defense cooperation between our countries,” the text stated.
Moscow denied the accusations, saying the planes flew over international waters “in strict compliance with the international regulations.”


Russian President Vladimir Putin and Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto met in July. (Reuters/Lehtikuva/J. Nukari)

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Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila said it was “serious” that two such incidents took place on the same day. He urged a thorough investigation.

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US Baltic concerns

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The US has expressed concern over Russian activities on the Baltic Sea, and Sweden, Estonia and Latvia have also reported air violations. Russia’s military has also been reported to be active near US aircraft and ships in the region.

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“Unfortunately, these (Russian air intrusions) are becoming a norm rather than an exception,” Work told a news conference after a regular, scheduled meeting with Nordic and Baltic defense officials. “It’s hard for me to fathom that Russia would consider Finland a threat in any way, and activities like these are hard to understand.”

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Helsinki and Washington have cooperated closely via joint military air, land and sea drills but the non-legally binding pact seeks to deepen the ties through information exchange and joint research and development in areas such as cyber defense and training.

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The agreement also covers cooperation in ship building, nuclear defense and developing technologies for the Arctic.

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jm/bw (dpa, AP)

http://www.dw.com/en/russia-accused-of-estonia-airspace-violations-as-finland-signs-defense-pact-with-us/a-35994791

Russia Says It Is Creating Three New Divisions to Counter NATO Moves

May 4, 2016

Western officials have said the alliance will send about 4,000 troops to Poland and the Baltics

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu delivers a speech in Moscow on April 27.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu delivers a speech in Moscow on April 27. PHOTO: REUTERS
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By Thomas Grove
The Wall Street Journal
May 4, 2016 — 11:12 a.m. ET
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MOSCOW—Russia is creating three new divisions to counter the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s planned expansion along its eastern flank, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Wednesday, in a move that comes amid rising tensions in the region.

Moscow has threatened it will respond to NATO plans to boost its troops’ presence along its border with Russia. Western officials said last week the alliance will send four battalions—about 4,000 troops—to Poland and the ex-Soviet Baltic countries.

“The Defense Ministry is taking a series of measures to counter the expansion of NATO forces in direct proximity to the Russian border,” Mr. Shoigu said at a ministry meeting shown on state television.

The Pentagon has said new NATO troop deployments are in response to Russia’s “provocative” military exercises along its borders with alliance members. Russia says its exercises are partly a result of the increased NATO presence.

The announcements of troop increases at the border follow incidents that have raised concerns about a potential crisis in the Baltics. Russian warplanes intercepted a U.S. Navy destroyer and Air Force plane last month.

According to the U.S. account, Russian warplanes and a military helicopter repeatedly buzzed the USS Donald Cook, flying to within 75 feet of the warship as it carried out operations on the Baltic Sea.

Alexander Golts, a Russian military analyst and visiting researcher at Uppsala University in Sweden, said such incidents would continue until Russian President Vladimir Putin believed Washington was treating Moscow on an equal basis.

An aircraft believed to be a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 passes over the bow of the USS Donald Cook during a patrol in the Baltic Sea. The U.S. alleges that Russian planes repeatedly buzzed the Donald Cook, passing close by the ship in a deliberate and aggressive manner.
An aircraft believed to be a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 passes over the bow of the USS Donald Cook during a patrol in the Baltic Sea. The U.S. alleges that Russian planes repeatedly buzzed the Donald Cook, passing close by the ship in a deliberate and aggressive manner. PHOTO: ZUMA PRESS

“The West cannot ignore Russia. If they try to ignore Russia, they will undertake more and more risky missions,” said Mr. Golts, who said Russia and NATO need to figure out a way to communicate to avoid accidents. “What is needed is more mechanisms to make sure such incidents don’t have disastrous consequences.”

In a news conference in Mons, Belgium, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance’s planned troop buildup in the Baltic States wouldn’t have happened if Russia had not used force against Ukraine in 2014. Mr. Stoltenberg said he had seen reports about Russia’s additional military buildup “close to NATO’s borders.”

“This is part of a broader picture and pattern we have seen for many years now,” Mr. Stoltenberg said.

NATO’s planned deployment, he continued, was a reaction to a more assertive Russia that has demonstrated the will to change borders with force.

“What we do is defensive,” he said. “We do that because we need to send a clear signal that we stand together, we have a credible defense and deterrence. And we will continue to respond.”

Mr. Stoltenberg confirmed the alliance was contemplating a battalion-sized presence in several Eastern European countries. He said a final decision on the military presence will be made at the Warsaw summit in July. But he said the troops will be multinational, “sending a clear signal [that] if you attack one country you attack the whole alliance.”

Russia has already spent billions of dollars to reform its military and modernize its arms industry, though an economic crisis brought about by lower oil prices as well as U.S. and EU sanctions has slowed some plans. Mr. Putin has promised to spend more than 21 trillion rubles, or more than $300 billion, to revamp Russia’s fighting forces by the end of the decade.

Three divisions would represent around 30,000 troops, but military analysts said it was unclear whether or not the units would be created from scratch or from existing formations in those regions.

Two divisions in Russia’s western military district are likely intended to directly counter increased NATO troop numbers in the Baltics and Poland, while an additional division in the south will increase troop presence along the border with Ukraine, Mr. Golts said.

Mr. Shoigu said work had already started to build up the units’ new headquarters.

Moscow is planning to increase the number of its armed forces by 10,000 this year as the military pushes to turn the armed forces into a one-million-man fighting force.

Write to Thomas Grove at thomas.grove@wsj.com

http://www.wsj.com/articles/russia-says-it-is-creating-three-new-divisions-to-counter-nato-moves-1462360562#:LZ6f4wuKWF8jLA

Related:

 

China Watchers Sit Up and Notice: Storm Warning Ahead

May 3, 2016

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Something is happening in China. That we know for sure.

The term “Crackdown” has been tossed about some. Maybe “Closure” is more appropriate.

Even during 2014 when the streets of Hong Kong were filled with protesters the “feel” of China was not ominous the way it is today.

Something is happening in China. China watchers say that when the accumulation for news, facts, stories, rumors and innuendo come together to make a tangible “something” — and when we talk to another China watcher and they feel it too — we scurry to collect more information, more Chinese to talk with.

But all the important and honest Chinese have clammed up. It has happened before and it sends a slight tingle of anxiety, maybe even of fear into the neurological system of China watchers.

That’s what’s happening right now. And maybe for the last couple of weeks or even months.

It’s mostly about Xi Jinping. My own professional opinion is this: after he made his State Visit to Washington DC and watched President Obama up close — and not for the first time — he verified for himself what Vladimir Putin certainly had already advised: that China and Russia needed to make whatever moves they wanted to make to assure their international goals now — before the end of the Obama Administration.

My bet is this: China and Russia want to solidify their strength now. Mr. Putin is not going to pull out from Syria, or Crimea or Ukraine. In fact, he may make a move to see how closely NATO is watching — before NATO can add addition forces.

In the South China Sea, we don’t expect China to give back one grain of sand; even if the United Nations Arbitration Court in the Hague has a finding that supports the claims of the Philippines. We do expect China to continue to invest heavily in the nations critical to its western expansion along the “Maritime Silk Road” — Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and always with an eye on India — which seems to be leaning into the Chinese camp and bank balance.

China’s friends along this strategic corridor will all be bought and paid for. As long as the money holds out.

But what about China’s economy? Our insight there has darkened considerably. Despite the urgings for more transparency from everyone: it is clear now that China has rejected the Western view that transparency makes for peaceful neighbors. The eye-hole into China’s economy is shrinking shut.

Xi Jinping has made himself the Commander in Chief,  united the media behind him and stifled dissent for some reason or reasons which will become clear before too long. Getting honest, forthright and candid responses from Chinese officials has stopped — and not we think for just a short black-out. We may have gone into a throw-back to the bad old days, and sadly, for however long it takes, most of the moves right now are up to China and not the West.

Related:

 (No More Mister Nice-Guy)

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And What’s happening in the West?

Putin Flexes Russia’s Wartime Muscle in the Face of a Smaller NATO

February 4, 2016

By MAILONLINE REPORTER and MIA DE GRAAF FOR DAILYMAIL.COM and JULIAN ROBINSON FOR MAILONLINE
PUBLISHED: 12:04 EST, 4 February 2016 | UPDATED: 13:18 EST, 4 February 2016

The Russian air force carried out a mock nuclear attack against Sweden during war games, NATO has revealed.

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The March 2013 exercise saw Russian aircraft cross the Gulf of Finland and approach Swedish airspace.

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A NATO report claimed Russia’s military drills have now reached levels ‘unseen since the height of the Cold War.’

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It comes after US military predictions said Vladimir Putin’s forces could overrun Europe in just three days as NATO has not been bolstering its fleet since Russia took Crimea.

NATO report claimed Russia's military drills have now reached levels 'unseen since the height of the Cold War'

NATO report claimed Russia’s military drills have now reached levels ‘unseen since the height of the Cold War’

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Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of NATO, wrote in his annual report for 2015: ‘Over the past three years, Russia has conducted at least 18 large-scale snap exercises, some of which have involved more than 100,000 troops.

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‘These exercises include simulated nuclear attacks on NATO Allies (eg, ZAPAD a large-scale Russian military exercise]) and on partners [e.g, March 2013 simulated attacks on Sweden],’ he added.

During the military exercise in Sweden, on March 29 2013, two Tupolev Tu-22M3 strategic bombers escorted by four Sukhoi Su-27 jet fighters came within 24 miles of Swedish territory off the island of Gotland, 100 miles from Stockholm..

This is a map of how a US military think tank believes Russia could overrun NATO to take the Baltic States in just 36-60 hours. Even with a week's notice, NATO's 12-strong fleet would be no match against Putin's 27

This is a map of how a US military think tank believes Russia could overrun NATO to take the Baltic States in just 36-60 hours. Even with a week’s notice, NATO’s 12-strong fleet would be no match against Putin’s

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The incident caused controversy at the time because the Swedish military was caught unprepared and had to rely on Danish airforce jets, operating as part of a Nato’s Baltic air policing mission, to respond, the Daily Telegraph reported.

NATO refused to comment, saying it had ‘nothing to add’ to the statement in the report.

This week, it emerged Sweden has re-militarised an old Cold War frontier base on the island of Gotland because of the rising threat from Russia.

Sweden’s Supreme Commander, General Micael Byden, said: ‘This is one of the great challenges right now: What are they up to, and why do they do it?’

It comes after a US military think-thank concluded it would take a resurgent Russia between 36 and 60 hours to push its 27 heavily-armored battalions past NATO’s lightweight 12 to occupy the Baltic States.

Most likely, the study found, Russia would start by launching a two-pronged attack across the Latvian border, sending heavily-armed battalions in from the north and the south.

These battalions would push past the light-weight Latvian and NATO battalions before uniting to take the capital of Riga.

Once secured, the remaining part of Russia’s 27 maneuver battalions would cross the Narva reservoir into Estonia to take the ethnic Russian north-east before heading to Tallinn, the capital.

NATO’s only hope would be to concentrate its forces in Tallinn and Riga while stationing some delays along the main routes.

But eventually, the West ‘would have to launched a belated nuclear attack’.

‘The outcome was, bluntly, a disaster for NATO,’ the report concluded.  

RUSSIA’S FLEET

27 maneuver battalions

Heavily-armored battle tanks in every battalion

Light-armored vehicles in 8 airborne fleets 

Troops stationed in Kalingrad Oblast, surrounding the Baltic States

NATO’S FLEET

12 battalions – 7 of which are the domestic fleets of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia

No main battle tanks

Only one, a single Stryker battalion, has heavy armor

NATO has adequate airpower but this would be futile with weak ground forces 

Russia could overrun Eastern Europe in just three days because NATO has been caught napping by Vadimir Putin and would be outgunned, according to US military predictions

President Barack Obama, in his final budget request to Congress, will ask for $3.4billion — up from $789million for the current budget year — for what the Pentagon calls its European Reassurance Initiative

The report warned NATO’s ground forces are no match for Russia’s.

They do not have any battle tanks; all of Russia’s do. And NATO would have little room for maneuver, annexed in by Russian forces in Kalingrad Oblast.

In the scenario given by the study, NATO would have one week’s notice to defend Eastern Europe.

The study, carried out between 2014 and 2015, suggested even a combination of US and Baltic troops combined with US airstrikes would not be able to prevent Russia advancing.

‘The games’ findings are unambiguous: As currently postured, NATO cannot successfully defend the territory of its most exposed members,’ the report said.

‘Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options, all bad.’

The study claims that ‘avoiding such a swift and catastrophic failure does not appear to require a Herculean effort’ – but it would be expensive.

Airpower and artillery backed up with around seven brigades – three of them heavily armored – in the Baltic area would be enough to ‘prevent the rapid overrun of the Baltic states’.

But this would cost around $2.7 billion a year.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3432133/Russia-s-air-force-conducted-mock-NUCLEAR-attack-against-Sweden-war-games-NATO-reveals-day-claimed-Putin-s-forces-overrun-Europe-days.html#ixzz3zEDY64Kz
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Russia ‘simulated a nuclear strike’ against Sweden, Nato admits — “Russian Military Exercises At An Intensity Not Previously Seen”

February 4, 2016

Russian bombers targeted military and intelligence installations in 2013 war game that caught Swedish airforce unprepared

 

Russian Tupolev Tu-22M supersonic strategic bombers fly above the Kremlin in Moscow

Russian Tupolev Tu-22M supersonic strategic bombers fly above the Kremlin in Moscow Photo: AFP

The Russian airforce conducted a mock nuclear strike against Sweden during war games less than three years ago, Nato has said.

The 2013 exercise, which saw a contingent of Russian aircraft approach Swedish airspace after crossing the Gulf of Finland, was one of several examples of dummy nuclear attacks against Nato and its allies in recent years, according to a new Nato report.

‘Over the past three years, Russia has conducted at least 18 large-scale snap exercises, some of which have involved more than 100,000 troops’
Jens Stoltenberg, Nato

“As part of its overall military build-up, the pace of Russia’s military manoeuvres and drills have reached levels unseen since the height of the Cold War,”Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of Nato, wrote in his annual report for 2015.

“Over the past three years, Russiahas conducted at least 18 large-scale snap exercises, some of which have involved more than 100,000 troops.”

“These exercises include simulated nuclear attacks on Nato Allies (eg, ZAPAD [a large-scale Russian military exercise]) and on partners (eg, March 2013 simulated attacks on Sweden),” he added.

Russian Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback tactical bombers, Su-27 Flanker fighters and Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters fly over Red Square

Russian Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback tactical bombers, Su-27 Flanker fighters and Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters fly over Red Square  Photo: AFP

Two Tupolev Tu-22M3 strategic bombers escorted by four Sukhoi Su-27 jet fighters crossed the Gulf of Finland and came within 24 miles of Swedish territory off the island of Gotland, 100 miles from Stockholm, on March 29, 2013.

They veered off after apparently completing dummy bombing runs against targets believed to include a military base in southern Sweden and the headquarters of Sweden’s signals intelligence agency outside Stockholm.

The incident caused controversy in Sweden at the time because the Swedish military was caught unprepared and had to rely on Danish airforce jets, operating as part of a Nato’s Baltic air policing mission, to respond.

Nato declined to comment further on the incident, saying it has “nothing to add” to the statement in the report.

Russia’s ministry of defence has not publicly responded to the claims, but one retired general told the Telegraph that the report was “nonsense designed to stir up hysteria about the Baltic states”.

“This statement about a supposed nuclear strike on Sweden is nothing more than a provocation,” said Evgenny Buzhinsky, a former general who now heads the PIR analytical centre in Moscow.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and subsequent involvement in the war in eastern Ukraine have raised military tensions in Europe to Cold War levels.

British defence officials have expressed mounting concern at an increase in the number of Russian military flights probing Nato airspace, including around the British Isles.

‘We haven’t had to worry about this for 25 years. While I wish it were otherwise, now we do’
Ash Carter, US defence secretary

The United States on Tuesday saidit wanted to quadruple military spending in Europe as a direct result of Russia’s actions in the region.

Ash Carter, the American defence secretary, said spending on military deployments designed to reassure eastern European countries who fear Russian meddling or attack will jump from £547 million ($789 million) to £2.4 billion, according to a 2017 budget proposal.

“We haven’t had to worry about this for 25 years, and while I wish it were otherwise, now we do,” he said while unveiling the plans.

The announcement followed the release last month of an “updated theatre strategy document” that identified countering Russian aggression as the number one priority for EUCOM, the United States European Command.

Most concern has focused on the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, three former Soviet republics which share a border with Russia and are home to Russian-speaking minorities.

Some analysts have speculated that Russia could use protection of those minorities as a pretext for a Crimean-style annexation.

 

That’s too close ... Russian Army Su-25 jet fighters fly near the Baikal Lake in Russia i

That’s too close … Russian Army Su-25 jet fighters fly near the Baikal Lake in Russia in this 2013 file photograph. Picture: AP

Nato has deployed an air-policing contingent of jet fighters to the region and conducted a series of joint exercises to reassure eastern allies and deter possible Russian adventurism.

But a recent report by the RAND corporation concluded that even with these precautions it would take Russian forces just 60 hours to overrun the three countries.

Gen Buzhinsky dismissed such concerns as unfounded, saying seizing the Baltic states would bring no strategic benefit to Russia and that the Russian speaking minority has no interest in military “protection”.

But he warned that Russia would respond to any increase in Nato’s military presence in the region.

“Of course that is a reason for concern from the Russian side, and of course if the United States deploys heavy equipment towards us, we would do the same,” he said.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/12139943/Russia-simulated-a-nuclear-strike-against-Sweden-Nato-admits.html

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Putin gives go-ahead to Belarus military airbase plan

September 19, 2015

Reuters

Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin has backed the establishment of an airbase in neighboring Belarus, the latest move by Moscow to project its military power abroad.

Saturday’s announcement, which comes at a time of tension with the West over Russian involvement in Ukraine and Syria, may also signal the Kremlin’s interest in keeping unpredictable Belarus within its geopolitical orbit.

Putin said in a statement he had agreed a government proposal to sign a deal for the military airbase and ordered defense and foreign ministry officials to start talks with Belarus. The plan is not expected to face major obstacles.

The idea of setting up an airbase in the ex-Soviet republic was revealed by Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu in 2013, and follows a 2009 agreement under which Russia and Belarus agreed to defend their common external frontier and airspace.

Russian defense officials have said the base would be used to station Su-27 fighters.Russia already has some fighter aircraft in Belarus but this would be the first full-scale base there since Soviet times.

Russia has scaled back its military presence abroad, closing bases in distant Cold War allies such as Cuba and Vietnam.

However, a naval base at Tartus in Syria has recently become the focus of world attention as Russia has boosted its troop presence there in a move seen as bolstering its diplomatic influence in the region.

Russia already has military bases in ex-Soviet neighbors Kyrgyzstan and Armenia, which like Belarus are also members of a Eurasian Economic Union that Putin sees as the embryo of a new geopolitical bloc.

Last year Russia annexed the Ukrainian province of Crimea, partly due to fears it would be pushed out of its large naval base in the Crimean port of Sevastopol.

The creation of a base in Belarus may also be a signal to the West that Russia will not tolerate intrusion in its traditional sphere of influence.

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus since 1994, is seen as a long-standing Russian ally and is often criticized in the West for his record on human rights.

He has a reputation for being unpredictable because of his common practice of playing off Russia against the West.

Spooked by Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Poland and the Baltic states have repeatedly asked NATO to station forces permanently in their territories along the alliance’s eastern flank in Russia’s vicinity.

(Reporting By Jason Bush; Editing By Helen Popper)

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Pentagon Is Preparing New War Plans for a Baltic Battle Against Russia — “Russia is no longer a potential partner”

September 19, 2015

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But the really troubling thing is that in the war games being played, the United States keeps losing.

Geopolitical reality: Russia is no longer a potential partner

*

For the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. Department of Defense is reviewing and updating its contingency plans for armed conflict with Russia.

The Pentagon generates contingency plans continuously, planning for every possible scenario — anything from armed confrontation with North Korea to zombie attacks. But those plans are also ranked and worked on according to priority and probability. After 1991, military plans to deal with Russian aggression fell off the Pentagon’s radar. They sat on the shelf, gathering dust as Russia became increasingly integrated into the West and came to be seen as a potential partner on a range of issues. Now, according to several current and former officials in the State and Defense departments, the Pentagon is dusting off those plans and re-evaluating them, updating them to reflect a new, post-Crimea-annexation geopolitical reality in which Russia is no longer a potential partner, but a potential threat.

Dmitry Medvedev arrives amid a show of Russian power in Syria. Russia’s alliance with Syria goes back half a century, with many Syrian military officers receiving training there and Moscow maintaining a naval base in the port of Tartus. RIA NOVOSTI/AFP/File

“Given the security environment, given the actions of Russia, it has become apparent that we need to make sure to update the plans that we have in response to any potential aggression against any NATO allies,” says one senior defense official familiar with the updated plans.

“Russia’s invasion of eastern Ukraine made the U.S. dust off its contingency plans,” says Michèle Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense for policy and co-founder of the Center for a New American Security. “They were pretty out of date.”

Designing a counteroffensive

The new plans, according to the senior defense official, have two tracks. One focuses on what the United States can do as part of NATO if Russia attacks one of NATO’s member states; the other variant considers American action outside the NATO umbrella. Both versions of the updated contingency plans focus on Russian incursions into the Baltics, a scenario seen as the most likely front for new Russian aggression. They are also increasingly focusing not on traditional warfare, but on the hybrid tactics Russia used in Crimea and eastern Ukraine: “little green men,” manufactured protests, and cyberwarfare. “They are trying to figure out in what circumstances [the U.S. Defense Department] would respond to a cyberattack,” says Julie Smith, who until recently served as the vice president’s deputy national security advisor. “There’s a lively debate on that going on right now.”

This is a significant departure from post-Cold War U.S. defense policy.

After the Soviet Union imploded, Russia, its main heir, became increasingly integrated into NATO, which had originally been created to counter the Soviet Union’s ambitions in Europe. In 1994, Moscow signed onto NATO’s Partnership for Peace program. Three years later, in May 1997, Russia and NATO signed a more detailed agreement on mutual cooperation, declaring that they were no longer adversaries. Since then, as NATO absorbed more and more Warsaw Pact countries, it also stepped up its cooperation with Russia: joint military exercises, regular consultations, and even the opening of a NATO transit point in Ulyanovsk, Russia, for materiel heading to the fight in Afghanistan. Even if the Kremlin was increasingly miffed at NATO expansion, from the West things looked fairly rosy.

After Russia’s 2008 war with neighboring Georgia, NATO slightly modified its plans vis-à-vis Russia, according to Smith, but the Pentagon did not. In preparing the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, the Pentagon’s office for force planning — that is, long-term resource allocation based on the United States’ defense priorities — proposed to then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to include a scenario that would counter an aggressive Russia. Gates ruled it out. “Everyone’s judgment at the time was that Russia is pursuing objectives aligned with ours,” says David Ochmanek, who, as deputy assistant secretary of defense for force development, ran that office at the time. “Russia’s future looked to be increasingly integrated with the West.” Smith, who worked on European and NATO policy at the Pentagon at the time, told me, “If you asked the military five years ago, ‘Give us a flavor of what you’re thinking about,’ they would’ve said, ‘Terrorism, terrorism, terrorism — and China.’”

Warming to Moscow

The thinking around Washington was that Mikheil Saakashvili, then Georgia’s president, had provoked the Russians and that Moscow’s response was a one-off. “The sense was that while there were complications and Russia went into Georgia,” Smith says, “I don’t think anyone anticipated that anything like this would happen again.” Says one senior State Department official: “The assumption was that there was no threat in Europe.” Russia was rarely brought up to the secretary of defense, says the senior defense official.

Then came the Obama administration’s reset of relations with Russia, and with it increased cooperation with Moscow on everything from space flights to nuclear disarmament. There were hiccups (like Russia’s trying to elbow the United States out of the Manas base in Kyrgyzstan) and less-than-full cooperation on pressing conflicts in the Middle East (the best the United States got from Russia on Libya was an abstention at the U.N. Security Council). But, on the whole, Russia was neither a danger nor a priority. It was, says one senior foreign-policy Senate staffer, “occasionally a pain in the ass, but not a threat.”

Ochmanek, for his part, hadn’t thought about Russia for decades. “As a force planner, I can tell you that the prospect of Russian aggression was not on our radar,” he told me when I met him in his office at the Rand Corp. in Northern Virginia, where he is now a senior defense analyst. “Certainly not since 1991, but even in the last years of Gorbachev.” Back in 1989, Ochmanek thought that Washington should be focusing on the threat of Iraq invading Kuwait, not on the dwindling likelihood of Soviet military aggression. For the last 30 years, Ochmanek has shuttled between Rand, where he has focused on military planning, and the nearby Pentagon, where he has done the same in an official capacity: first in the mid-1990s, when he was the deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy, and then for the first five years of Barack Obama’s administration, when he ran force planning at the Pentagon.

It was there that, in February 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin caught Ochmanek and pretty much every Western official off guard by sending little green men into Crimea and eastern Ukraine. “We didn’t plan for it because we didn’t think Russia would change the borders in Europe,” he says. Crimea, he says, was a “surprise.”

War games, and losing

In June 2014, a month after he had left his force-planning job at the Pentagon, the Air Force asked Ochmanek for advice on Russia’s neighborhood ahead of Obama’s September visit to Tallinn, Estonia. At the same time, the Army had approached another of Ochmanek’s colleagues at Rand, and the two teamed up to run a thought exercise called a “table top,” a sort of war game between two teams: the red team (Russia) and the blue team (NATO). The scenario was similar to the one that played out in Crimea and eastern Ukraine: increasing Russian political pressure on Estonia and Latvia (two NATO countries that share borders with Russia and have sizable Russian-speaking minorities), followed by the appearance of provocateurs, demonstrations, and the seizure of government buildings. “Our question was: Would NATO be able to defend those countries?” Ochmanek recalls.

The results were dispiriting. Given the recent reductions in the defense budgets of NATO member countries and American pullback from the region, Ochmanek says the blue team was outnumbered 2-to-1 in terms of manpower, even if all the U.S. and NATO troops stationed in Europe were dispatched to the Baltics — including the 82nd Airborne, which is supposed to be ready to go on 24 hours’ notice and is based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

“We just don’t have those forces in Europe,” Ochmanek explains. Then there’s the fact that the Russians have the world’s best surface-to-air missiles and are not afraid to use heavy artillery.

After eight hours of gaming out various scenarios, the blue team went home depressed. “The conclusion,” Ochmanek says, “was that we are unable to defend the Baltics.”

Ochmanek decided to run the game on a second day. The teams played the game again, this time working on the assumption that the United States and NATO had already started making positive changes to their force posture in Europe. Would anything be different? The conclusion was slightly more upbeat, but not by much. “We can defend the capitals, we can present Russia with problems, and we can take away the prospect of a coup de main,” Ochmanek says. “But the dynamic remains the same.” Even without taking into account the recent U.S. defense cuts, due to sequestration, and the Pentagon’s plan to downsize the Army by 40,000 troops, the logistics of distance were still daunting. U.S. battalions would still take anywhere from one to two months to mobilize and make it across the Atlantic, and the Russians, Ochmanek notes, “can do a lot of damage in that time.”

Ochmanek has run the two-day table-top exercise eight times now, including at the Pentagon and at Ramstein Air Base, in Germany, with active-duty military officers. “We played it 16 different times with eight different teams,” Ochmanek says, “always with the same conclusion.”

The Defense Department has factored the results of the exercise into its planning, says the senior defense official, “to better understand a situation that few of us have thought about in detail for a number of years.” When asked about Ochmanek’s conclusions, the official expressed confidence that, eventually, NATO would claw the territory back. “In the end, I have no doubt that NATO will prevail and that we will restore the territorial integrity of any NATO member,” the official said. “I cannot guarantee that it will be easy or without great risk. My job is to ensure that we can reduce that risk.”

Protect the Baltics

That is, the Pentagon does not envision a scenario in which Russia doesn’t manage to grab some Baltic territory first. The goal is to deter — Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced this summer that the United States would be sending dozens of tanks, armored vehicles, and howitzers to the Baltics and Eastern Europe — and, if that fails, to painstakingly regain NATO territory.

The Pentagon is also chewing on various hybrid warfare scenarios, and even a nuclear one. “As you look at published Russian doctrine, I do believe people are thinking about use of tactical nuclear weapons in a way that hadn’t been thought about for many years,” says the senior defense official. “The doctrineclearly talks about it, so it would be irresponsible to not at least read that doctrine, understand what it means. Doctrine certainly doesn’t mean that they would do it, but it would be irresponsible to at least not be thinking through those issues. Any time there is nuclear saber rattling, it is always a concern, no matter where it comes from.”

There is a strong element of disappointment among senior foreign-policy and security officials in these discussions, of disbelief that we ended up here after all those good years — decades, even — in America’s relations with Russia.

“A lot of people at the Pentagon are unhappy about the confrontation,” says the State Department official. “They were very happy with the military-to-military cooperation with Russia.” There are also those, the official said, who feel that Russia is a distraction from the real threat — China — and others who think that working with Russia on arms control is more important than protecting Ukrainian sovereignty. Not only would they rather not have to think about Moscow as an enemy, but many are also miffed that even making these plans plays right into Putin’s paranoid fantasies about a showdown between Russia and NATO or between Russia and the United States — which makes those fantasies, de facto, a reality. In the U.S. planning for confrontation with Russia, says the Senate staffer, Putin “is getting the thing he always wanted.”

Yet despite this policy shift, the distinctly American optimism is confoundingly hard to shake. “We would like to be partners with Russia. We think that is the preferred course — that it benefits us, it benefits Russia, and it benefits the rest of the world,” the senior defense official says. “But as the Department of Defense, we’re not paid to look at things through rose-colored glasses and hence must be prepared in case we’re wrong about Russia’s actions and plan for if Russia were to become a direct adversary. Again, I don’t predict that and I certainly don’t want it, but we need to be prepared in case that could happen.”

Provocation or preparation?

So far, the Pentagon’s plans are just that — plans. But they are also signals: to Russia that the United States is not sitting on its hands, and to Congress that America’s foreign-policy priorities have shifted drastically since the last Quadrennial Defense Review, which was released as the crisis in Ukraine was unfolding and barely mentioned Russia. It is also a signal that the Pentagon feels that sequestration hobbles its ability to deal with the new threat landscape. In his July confirmation hearing to ascend to the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford made headlines when he said that Russia posed an “existential threat” to the United States and said that America must do more to prepare itself for hybrid warfare of the type Russia deployed in Ukraine.

“It’s clearly a signal to the Hill,” says Smith. “When I come and ask for a permanent presence in Europe or money for a European presence, I don’t want you to say, ‘Gee, this is a surprise. I thought it was all about [the Islamic State].’” Dunford’s statement angered the White House, which saw it as potentially provocative to Moscow, but it was also a signal to everyone else. The commander in chief has the final say on whether to use these new contingency plans, but Obama’s days in office are numbered, and the Pentagon isn’t taking any chances.

Photo at the top: 
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (L), Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (2nd L) and WW II veterans watch a military parade during the nation’s Victory Day celebrations in Moscow on May 9, 2011 in commemoration of the end of WWII. Russia was due Monday to march 20,000 soldiers and its most advanced missiles across Red Square in a parade marking victory in World War II and reinforcing the country’s belief in its Soviet-era might. AFP PHOTO / NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA (Photo credit should read NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images)

http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/09/18/exclusive-the-pentagon-is-preparing-new-war-plans-for-a-baltic-battle-against-russia/

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