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Category Archives: NATO

NATO chief says 2 experts to attend Russia-Belarus war games …

Posted: August 25, 2017 at 3:50 am

NATO’s chief says the military alliance will send two experts to attend Russia’s war games with Belarus, after Minsk invited them to take part.

The war games, known as Zapad (West in Russian) and starting on Sept. 14, have raised tensions between NATO and Russia. Zapad will see thousands of troops and equipment from Russia and Belarus deployed near the borders with NATO members Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told The Associated Press on Thursday that Belarus said the alliance could attend five distinguished visitor days during the war games. Russia has invited NATO to one such visitors’ day but the alliance is still studying the offer.

Stoltenberg said attending visitors’ days does not constitute real monitoring and that NATO is seeking “a more thorough way of observing” Zapad.

Stoltenberg’s remarks came as he traveled to Poland for meetings with the country’s president, prime minister, foreign and defense ministers. He will also visit NATO troops Friday who are stationed in the country.

A police car escorting Stoltenberg’s convoy to the meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda was involved in a crash Thursday with a van, injuring three people but Stoltenberg’s limousine was not affected, a police spokesman said.

Under international rules enshrined by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, monitors should be invited to observe war games involving more than 13,000 troops. Both Russia and Belarus say the number taking part will be less, but NATO officials say Russia has low-balled troop numbers in the past.

“We call on Russia to fully comply with the (OSEC’s) document, but also to not use loopholes like snap exercises, like many different commands for what in reality is one exercise,” Stoltenberg said.

He said NATO routinely invites Russia to watch its war games as a confidence-building measure, but noted that “Russia has never, since the end of the Cold War, invited any NATO ally to observe any of their exercises.”

Zapad is held roughly every four years. The exercises will be a chance for Russia to flex its military muscle near nervous neighbors that have joined NATO since breaking away from the former Soviet Union.

The alliance, and those neighbors, are concerned that Moscow might leave military equipment behind in Belarus when the exercises are over, raising fears that Russian troops could quickly move across the borders later, as they did in Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014.

Monika Scislowska contributed.

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NATO CCD COE Considering ‘Petya’ Malware a Potential Act of War

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On Saturday, Kevin Scheid, a Department of Defense veteran, was placed in charge of NATOs cyber operations. The appointment wouldnt be big news if it werent for the fact that hes joining the organization at a hair-raising point in history. The vicious malware triggered the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (NATO CCD COE) to announce on Friday that the attack is believed to be the work of a state actor and is a potential act of war.

The 90s cyberpunk thriller Hackers is used too often to illustrate the fearful future of cyber

There was a lot of ruckus back in May when Donald Trump met with the leaders of NATO and failed to confirm that the US is committed to Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. Thats the clause of the agreement that pledges the members of NATO to mutual defense. Legally speaking, if Article 5 is triggered by an attack on one member, the other members are required to join in retaliation. NATOs Secretary General confirmed this week that a cyber operation with consequences comparable to an armed attack can trigger Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty and responses might be with military means. But Fridays press release emphasizes that we dont know enough about the origin of NotPetya or the intentions behind its release at this time.

NATO CCD COE is part of the NATO Allied Command Transformations Centers of Excellence and is classified as an International Military Organisation. It functions in an advisory capacity and helps member nations cooperate in the realm of cyber security. CCD COE researchers have concluded that the malware can most likely be attributed to a state actor, and if a nation is determined to be responsible, this could be an internationally wrongful act, which might give the targeted states several options to respond with countermeasures. What sort of countermeasures? Well, pretty much anything. Independently, the UKs defense secretary announced this week that his country was prepared to respond to cyber attacks from any domain – air, land, sea or cyber.

If our unhinged president in the US wants to start a war for the hell of it, he pretty much has the power to do that. But NATO functions on strict rules. Tom Minrik, a researcher at NATO CCD COE writes:

If the operation could be linked to an ongoing international armed conflict, then law of armed conflict would apply, at least to the extent that injury or physical damage was caused by it, and with respect to possible direct participation in hostilities by civilian hackers, but so far there are reports of neither.

Minrik is outlining what would justify full on IRL military conflict. That doesnt, necessarily, mean that NATO couldnt respond in the cyber-realm if it determined that a government was responsible for NotPetya. He continues:

As important government systems have been targeted, then in case the operation is attributed to a state this could count as a violation of sovereignty. Consequently, this could be an internationally wrongful act, which might give the targeted states several options to respond with countermeasures.

NATO doesnt know whos responsible for NotPetya, and no experts have attributed the attack to one actor with certainty.

Its one of the most fascinating pieces of malware to ever wreak havoc on a large scale. At first, people thought it was ransomware, then it was more likely to be a wiper with some ransomware code. Its become clear that it uses the EternalBlue and EternalRomance exploits that were pilfered from the NSA and released by the hacking group the Shadow Brokers in April. But intriguingly, it appears that whoever created NotPetya had access to those exploits two weeks before they were given to the public.

Another puzzling factor is the motive for releasing this malware that doesnt seem to benefit anyone. No one is getting paid. Its just a really destructive worm that locks up systems. It was first released in Ukraine, and that countrys security services are blaming Russia. But Russians were victims of the attack as well. Its such a pointless and nasty worm that the crime group behind the original Petya actually jumped in and volunteered to help victims. Lauri Lindstrm, a researcher at NATO says, it seems likely that the more sophisticated and expensive NotPetya campaign is a declaration of power – a demonstration of the acquired disruptive capability and readiness to use it.

According to Bloomberg, attacks on NATOs electronic infrastructure increased by 60 percent last year. If its true that a state actor is responsible for NotPetya, its possible that NATO taking notice and talking up Article 5 could make the perpetrator think twice. Then again, if the responsible party gets away without a trace, theyll know that theyre untouchable.

Correction: This post has been updated to clarify that NATOs CCD COE is accredited by the Alliance and serves to give advice, conduct research, and facilitate cooperation among the nations on issues of cyber security.

[CCDCOE via Security Affairs, Bloomberg]

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NATO representative in Kyiv: We support Ukraine every day – Deutsche Welle

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DW: On Thursday Ukraine will be celebrating the 26th anniversary of its independence. For the first time, troops from NATO countries will be participating in a military parade in Kyiv. The second new developmentis that defense ministers from several NATO countries will be attending, including James Mattis from the US. Why now?

Barbora Maronkova: To be honest, I can’t answer why NATO countries are taking part this year in particular. But we are very pleased, because we also celebrated another event this year, which was the 20th anniversary of the NATO-Ukraine distinctive partnership [the Charter was signed in July 1997 ed.]. And we have been working very hard to help Ukraine modernize its armed forces, meet NATO standards and achieve interoperability. In that sense, the participation of military colleagues from both NATO allies and partner countries is a symbolic example of a strong partnership between NATO and Ukraine.

Barbora Maronkova serves as director of the NATO Information and Documentation Center in Kyiv, Ukraine

The US is a key country forNATO. During the previous administration of Barack Obama, the impression was given that Washington didn’t want to provoke Russia by visiting Ukraine. Obama never visitedKyiv, his defense secretary never participated in the Independence Day parade. This year there are several NATO ministers attending the parade, which might be interpreted by Russia as a provocation. Does this mean that NATO no longer cares about Russia’s reaction?

For us, what is important is that NATO partner countries are independent and sovereign nations. If they want to have a military parade with colleagues from other countries, or if they participate in NATO’s military training and exercises, it is their sovereign decision. Ukraine has been participating in NATO’s military exercises for the last few years, and many NATO countries have participated in exercises in Ukraine. For example, every year we have a naval exercise called “Sea Breeze.”

Do you think that this large NATO presence on Independence Day in Kyiv has something to do with Donald Trump’s new administration trying to take a different course?

I wouldn’t want to speculate on what the US administration is doing. Of course, US Defense Secretary Mattis’ visit to Kyiv is important, as was the visit bythe Secretary of State in July. We are happy that various NATO allies are bilaterally supporting Ukraine, just as NATO is providing strong support.

Read more: Tillerson’s sharp words for Moscow during Ukraine visit

Read more: Ukraine’s Poroshenko meets Donald Trump

NATO has intensified its support for Ukraine since the Russian annexation of Crimea 2014. What are the results so far?

We have to look at the overall package of reforms that Ukraine has been undertaking since 2014. Any expert would agree that the pace and intensity of reforms in the past three years were unprecedented. NATO is focusing on defense, security, modernization and standardization. It’s a wide range including logistics, defense procurement, command structures and training. We see progress in some areas more than in others. But we also have the knowledge that such reforms are very difficult and painful under normal circumstances, let alone in a country like Ukraine. Itis facing an aggressive neighbor and part of its territory has been illegally annexed. There are separatists in the east of Ukraine, it is facing hybrid warfare and cyberattacks. NATO offers assistance on a daily basis.

What are beacon projects from NATO’s point of view?

One of the issues that has achieved good results, according to our advisors, has been improving command structures and communication. There has been some good cooperation in the area of cyber defense. We also launched some very impressive projects in the area of medical rehabilitation and are now working together with our Ukrainian partners on psychological rehabilitation, which is a big issue.

NATO does not want to get involved in a military conflict between Russia and Ukraine. How difficult is it against this background for NATO to help Ukraine?

I don’t feel or see any difficulties. We have a team of nearly 50 people working here as advisors in variousformats. There are many other advisors who are directly embedded in various ministries and institutions on a bilateral basis. We talk regularly with Ukrainian citizens, journalists and parliamentarians. I see a positive reaction to our support here.

Read more: NATO skeptical over Russia’s Zapad military exercise

Support for NATO within the Ukrainian population has grown in recent years. Polls put it at 43 to 55 percent, some even higher. What is your experience?

The increased support is obviously a result of the security situation in Ukraine. It is, however, very useful to our work. It allows us to go out more and engage with people, and openly discuss what NATO is and what it is not. There are many Cold War stereotypes that are still prevalent in Ukraine.

Barbora Maronkova is the director of the NATO Information and Documentation Centerin Kyiv, Ukraine.

The interview was conducted by Roman Goncharenko.

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‘Turkey no longer acting as US deputy in NATO’: Analyst – Press TV

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This file photo taken on September 02, 2016 shows Turkish soldiers driving back to Turkey from the Syrian-Turkish border town of Jarabulus. (Photo by AFP)

Turkeys plan for a joint operation with Iran against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants is a big deal for the United States because Washington does not like members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to act independently, says an analyst.

Americas tentacles are wide and Turkey, a NATO member who is now engaged in security operations with Iran that will almost certainly be against the mutual Kurdish threat, this is a big deal to the United States because the United States does not have partners. It has dependents and it has deputies, Adam Garrie, editor of theDuran.com, told Press TVs On The News Line program.

Turkey is no longer acting like a deputy in NATO. It is acting like a free and sovereign nation and President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan will soon find out that America does not like countries in NATO exercising their own prerogative even when it is clear it is in their own self-interest as this rapprochement, as these good relations between Ankara and Tehran certainly are, he added.

Turkeys President Erdogan said on Monday that a joint Turkish-Iranian operation against Kurdish militants was “always on the agenda.”

However, Irans Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has dismissed reports about plans for a joint operation with Turkey against the PKK militants outside the Iranian borders.

Turkey has been fighting against the outlawed PKK militants for decades.

Iran is also fighting PJAK, a PKK offshoot, in its northwestern border region with Turkey. Iranian forces killed five PJAK terrorists in an ambush there last June.

PJAK randomly carries out hit-and-run attacks on Iranian targets, after which they retreat to their lairs in Iraq and Turkey.

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Foreign Minister avuolu attends NATO meeting in Warsaw – Daily Sabah

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Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlt avuolu is visiting Poland today in order to participate in the next meeting of regular political military consultations among the foreign ministers of Turkey, Romania and Poland to be held in Warsaw.

The first round of the trilateral meetings was held in Warsaw on June 9, 2016 and was followed by a second meeting in Ankara on Aug. 25, 2016. The three ministers are expected to exchange views on enhancing NATO’s role in the fight against terrorism, as well as on the security situation on NATO’s eastern and southern flanks in the light of the decisions taken by NATO Heads of State and Government at the 2014 Wales, 2016 Warsaw and 2017 Brussels Summit meetings. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who is envisaged to be in Warsaw at the time of the trilateral consultations, is also expected to participate in a session of the meeting.

On the occasion of his visit to Poland, Minister avuolu is also expected to get together with Turkish citizens in Poland.During the last year’s meeting in Warsaw, President Erdoan had underlined the need for NATO to be more active as global security threats change and stated his expectation of the trans-Atlantic community to put more effort in supporting Turkey against the threats in the region.

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Ukraine marks Independence Day with parade attended by NATO units – TASS

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AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

KIEV, August 24. /TASS/. Downtown Kiev played host to a military parade on occasion of the 26th anniversary of Ukraines independence on Thursday and was attended for the first time by soldiers from NATO member-states.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak met the parades participants in an American military Hummer instead of a traditional open-top Soviet Gaz Chaika.

Some 4,500 servicemen marched down Kievs main thoroughfare, Khreshchatyk, which included more than 230 representatives of NATO and over 1,000 participants from the special operation in Donbass. The countrys top brass and delegations from nine countries – the US, the UK, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Montenegro, Estonia, Turkey and Moldova also attended the parade at Ukraines invitation.

This year military hardware was not displayed at the parade. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry instead held an exhibition of the army equipment on Khreshchatyk titled “The Power of Unbowed.” Among 67 exhibits were armored self-propelled guns, tanks, armored combat vehicles and trucks. Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko said some pieces of this equipment would be sent to the Donbass operation zone shortly after the exhibition.

Addressing the crowd, Poroshenko reiterated that Kiev was on track towards integrating into the EU and NATO. “Theres only one road ahead of Ukraine now – a wide Euro-Atlantic highway, which leads to EU membership and NATO membership,” the president said, recalling that Ukraine already enjoys visa-free travel to EU countries. Poroshenko said that Ukraine is continuing to reform its armed forces in line with NATO standards and traditionally pinned the blame for the Donbass conflict on Russia.

The defense chief said that 28 units of the countrys armed forces already comply with NATO standards.

Some 7,000 law enforcement officers provided Kiev with security on Thursday.

In other media

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NATO’s Black Sea Allies Look Divided and Vulnerable – Balkan Insight

Posted: at 3:49 am

There is a feeling of disharmony as well as of opposing views between the three NATO member states, Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey, about NATOs military engagement in the Black Sea.

Romania has advocated a NATO naval presence on the Black Sea since early 2016.

However, Bulgaria did not want to provoke Russia, although last year it agreed to send 400 soldiers to the multinational naval brigade in Romania.

Turkey, meanwhile, remains cautious. Ankara supports a limited, scaled-up NATO reinforcement in the Black Sea region, but only as long as it does not impact on its interpretation of the Montreux Convention, signed in 1936.

Turkey turns a blind eye also to Russias extensive militarisation of the annexed Crimean peninsula, even though it does not recognise Russias annexation of Crimea.

Its military involvement in northern Syria, where it seeks to keep Islamic State, ISIS, at bay, and Kurdish factions under control, would not have been possible without Russian cooperation.

Ankaras colder relations with the European Union and the United States after the July 2016 failed coup have also pushed Turkey towards warm relations with Moscow, despite the fact that until then they were on the brink of war over Russian support for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and Turkeys support for some Syrian opposition groups.

The three NATO littoral countries are also wary of the others military presence in the Black Sea because of continued disputes over fishing rights and other issues.

Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey and their respective policies in the Black Sea resemble Ivan Krylovs fable, Swan, Pike and Crawfish, in which the crawfish scrambles backwards, the swan strains skywards and the pike pulls toward the sea. The three states may be jolted to agree on a joint policy line only if and when Russia provokes one or all of them.

If the NATO build-up in the Baltic States is a good example of what the Alliance can do for its partners when they are united, the NATO countries around the Black Sea are divided, which leaves them vulnerable to bullying and intimidation by a belligerent Russia.

Russian military build-up in the Black Sea

In response to NATOs increased presence in the Black Sea region, Alexander Grushko, Russias Envoy to NATO, said in July 2016: The decision to increase NATOs naval presence in the Black Sea is yet another step towards escalating [authors italics] tensions in regions of vital importance for Russia. Russia, he added, reserved a right to respond accordingly.

Interestingly, Dan Ciocoiu, Romanian Navys Deputy Chief of the Naval Operation Command, said in January 2017: Assuming there are no radical changes to the naval potential of other countries in the region, the Russian Black Sea Fleet will soon be equal [to] or greater than the combined [authors italics] fleets of all other Black Sea coastal states.

Seven months later, Admiral Igor Kasatonov, former commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, reiterated Ciocoius assessment. In an article published in Izvestia on 21 February 2017, he said: Russia has all the necessary resources, both material and moral, to maintain supremacy on the Black Sea. Our fleet has enough force to oppose [authors italics] NATO force in the Black Sea.

Both statements should have rung bells in Sofia and Ankara but the two countries see the matter differently. They see NATOs military engagement in the Black Sea region as a provocation to Russia, not Russias militarisation in the Black Sea region as a provocation to NATO.

According to a multi-national WIN/Gallup International poll published in February 2017, people in Bulgaria, Greece, Slovenia and Turkey all NATO member states chose Russia as their go-to-defence partner. As a result, leaders of both countries wish to remain neutral.

Thus, Russia has achieved its first tactical success with two out of three NATO littoral states without shooting a bullet. Romanias political and military leadership remains the major focus of Russian (f)ire and is likely to expect Russian provocations.

Russia plays by different rules

At first glance, Russian is unlikely to be eager to provoke NATO. However, Russian politicians do not talk of red lines, like their counterparts in the West; they simply cross these lines.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, as Commander-in-Chief, could decide to disrupt NATO naval operations in an instant. The annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and Russias military engagement in Syria in September 2015 are examples of this fait accompli policy that can no longer be ignored, or are ignored only at the West own peril.

NATO officials might say military confrontation with Russia in the Black Sea would lead to losses on both sides. NATO may also be interested in maintaining a status quo in the region.

Moscow, however, is determined to dominate a region it deems of vital importance. The Russian leadership calculates the benefits of changing the balance of power in its favour and of maintaining the upper hand.

That does not mean Russian policy is in any way reckless. On the contrary, it is calculated and takes into account the potentially belated nature of any reaction from NATO member states.

A NATO counter-attack would happen within 48 to 72 hours, while Russian plans usually envisage a potential attack in less than 24 hours. But, of course, no Russian official would ever admit such a plan exists.

A military confrontation could be triggered by anything. An accident, aircraft or naval collision, could escalate quickly. There have been plenty of air incidents over the Baltic Sea and several in the Black Sea itself in past years, to prove that Russian pilots can behave recklessly.

Whether Bulgaria and Turkey are willing to admit it or not, Russia is building up its military presence in the Black Sea. A change in the balance of power in the region and the ongoing militarisation could push Russia and NATO to the brink of war.

In the worst-case scenario, a cyber attack, accompanied by a propaganda and disinformation campaign, followed by economic sanctions on the three littoral states, would first the cripple the national currencies and banking institutions. A military operation would then be swift.

It may not happen right now and can all still be avoided. But Russias leadership is not predictable and that needs to be taken seriously.

Eugene Kogan is a defence and security expert based in Tbilisi, Georgia.

This article was originally published in the European Security and Defence magazine.

The opinions expressed in the Comment section are those of the authors only and do not necessarily reflect the views of BIRN.

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THE REGULARS: Denigrating efforts of NATO members doesn’t enhance US leadership – Sioux City Journal

Posted: August 20, 2017 at 6:00 pm

There is only one thing worse than fighting with allies, and that is fighting without them.

World attention has recently focused on North Korea. Not long ago, however, the focus was on Europe. Questions were raised as to whether the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was obsolete and whether some countries owe money to others. Having served at the nexus of the military and civilian levels of NATO, I have my own observations on the topic.

First off, all member countries pay to support the operations of the organization. No country has failed to make the full agreed-to payments.

What the majority of countries have failed to do is meet a goal of spending two percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) on defense matters. Of the 29 member countries, only the U.S., United Kingdom, Greece, Estonia and Poland meet the two percent GDP guideline. This goal was originally set in 2006, and was confirmed in 2014 stating that countries would aim to move toward the 2 percent guidelines within a decade. As a sign that members are taking that pledge seriously, overall defense spending by non-U.S. NATO members increased 3.6 percent in 2016.

While much of the attention regarding NATO member spending relates to the 2 percent guideline, it is not the sole measure of commitment. Greece, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Slovenia provide relevant contrasts.

Greece meets the NATO two percent goal, and has a defense structure of 106,000 personnel. The Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Slovenia spend approximately half the defense spending of Greece. The Czechs, Dutch and Slovenians have 23,000, 41,000 and 7,000 service members, respectively.

However, in support of NATOs mission in Afghanistan, the Czechs have deployed 214 personnel, the Dutch 100, the Slovenians seven and the Greeks four. Latvia has 22 deployed from a force one-20th the size of Greece. In fairness, Greece has 112 soldiers supporting the NATO mission in Kosovo, but the Slovenians have 252.

So, while GDP is important, it tells us little about how countries are having an impact on operations that NATO undertakes. It should also be of note that the Czechs have had 10 fatalities in Afghanistan, the Dutch 25 and the Latvians three.

The NATO mission in Afghanistan is also relevant for other reasons. First, approximately 5,000 service members from every NATO country except Canada presently serve in Afghanistan, continuing a presence that NATO members have had since 2003. Second, while NATO was formed to deter and, if necessary, fight war in Europe, its longest continuous combat mission was in Asia, and in response to a non-state actor. In response to piracy of the Horn of Africa, it was a NATO command that stopped the attacks and increased the safety to commerce.

None of this is to say that everything with NATO is smooth. Member states need to invest more in their security. NATO members need to ensure their forces are well-trained, well-equipped, deployable and relevant to the security missions facing the alliance.

NATO has ensured stability and security in Europe since the end of World War II. This period is arguably the longest stretch of time without a significant conflict among the major countries of Europe since the Pax Romana.

An old Army manual described leadership as the process of influencing people by providing purpose, direction and motivation while operating to accomplish the mission. Denigrating the efforts being made by NATO members and raising doubts about American commitment doesnt enhance our leadership. As written in I Corinthians, For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for battle?

Writer’s note: The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Army or Department of Defense.

Next week: Charese Yanney

A Sioux City resident, Steve Warnstadt is government affairs coordinator for Western Iowa Tech Community College and a former Democratic state senator. He and his wife, Mary, are the parents of one son and one daughter.

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NATO’s Balkan Dream: ‘Gaining Access to Key Strategic Facilities’ – Sputnik International

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Europe

10:58 20.08.2017(updated 11:57 20.08.2017) Get short URL

The Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina has ruled that the Veliki Zep military facility in the countrys Serb-dominated Republika Srpska is owned by the state. In an interview with Sputnik, Serbian political analyst Andjelko Kozomara said the decision could help Bosnia move toward NATO membership

NATO wants togain access tokey strategic facilities. The Yugoslav Army always deployed its bases atstrategic locations and byregistering them as prospective military property, the Bosnian authorities are making them available toNATO, which plans tostation its forces there, he said.

He added that the Constitutional Courts ruling violates the terms ofthe 1995 Dayton Accordspeace accord underwhich 49 percent ofthe countrys territory belongs toRepublika Srpska.

Re-registration ofthe so-called prospective military property is the final step inBosnia and Herzegovinas bid tojoin NATO, the so-called Membership Action Plan.

Just likeSerbia, the majority ofBosnian Serbs do not want tojoin NATO. If Serbia does not want tojoin NATO, then Republika Srpska will not let Bosnia and Herzegovina join this military alliance. We fear, however, that things may develop just asthey did in1992 when Croats and Bosnians voted ina referendum tobreak away fromYugoslavia. The Bosnian Serbs did not vote, butthe international community still recognized the results ofthat plebiscite, Andjelko Kozomara continued.

Meanwhile, the vice speaker ofRepublika Srpskas parliament, Nenad Stevandic said that the re-registration ofmilitary property will byno means facilitate Bosnia and Herzegovinas integration intoNATO because the Bosnian Serb Republic will not abide bythe Courts ruling, which violates the terms ofthe Dayton Accords and creates a new crisis inBosnia and Herzegovina.

He added that ina situation likethis Bosnia and Herzegovina will not be able tojoin any alliances.

They are pressuring us toset offa new crisis and blame it all onthe Serbs. They have been using this practice since1992 bymaking decisions we cant subscribe tobecause they deprive us ofour legitimate rights, and then blaming us for destabilizing the situation, Nenad Stevandic told Sputnik.

Commenting onthe situation inan interview withRepublika Srpskas news agency, the Russian ambassador toSarajevo Pyotr Ivantsov said that matters directly pertaining toone ofthe countrys entities cannot be decided withoutits consent.

Sarajevo and Brussels have been discussing Bosnias NATO membership sincethe mid-2000s.

Bosnia and Herzegovina joined NATOs Partnership forPeace program in2006. It was expected tojoin NATO by2011, butthe plan hit a snag overthe need tohand overmore than60 military facilities tothe federal government.

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Russian Invasion? Moscow’s Rivals Say War Games Are Cover And Troops Won’t Leave – Newsweek

Posted: August 18, 2017 at 4:57 am

Russia has been sending troops into Belarus since Monday in preparation for massive upcoming war games that opponents in the neighboring Eastern European state worry could be acover for a long-term foreign military presence.

Despite Moscow repeatedly assuring rivals that next month’s military maneuvers were simply that, critics in Belarus have joined a number of other regional countries in expressing concern about President Vladimir Putin’s long-term goals. The Zapad, or “West,” exercises are set to officially include 12,700 Russian soldiers across Russia’s western flank as well as in Belarus, a traditional ally of the Kremlin. Putin has provided U.S.-led Western defense pact NATO with troop information and has invited foreign observers, including those from anxious Baltic states, but some in Belarus still fear the Russian leader’s strategy.

Related:Russia, Iran, other Assad allies and enemies cash in on success in Syria, but U.S. left out

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“He will lead this situation to what had happened in Ukraine, Aleksandr Konches, an elderly protestor told The New York Times Sunday. “Look at who came outpensioners, workers, simple people.”

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (C), Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (R) and President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko watch the joint war games Zapad-2013 (West-2013) at Khmelevka base in the Kaliningrad Region, September 26, 2013. After Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula, neighboring countries have expressed concern about the size of this year’s Zapad exercise. Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti/Kremlin/Reuters

Since Russia annexed the former Ukrainian territory of Crimea in 2014 amid widespread unrest in the neighboring country, Moscow’s NATO-aligned neighbors have sought to boost protection against what they perceive to be aggressive Russian military and political moves in the region. In 2015, the U.S. mapped out four multinational battle groups in theBalticstates and Poland, intended to bolster NATO’s military infrastructure on Russia’s border. Russia has argued NATO’s plans are an attempt to isolate it and has sought to improve its own defensive positions. Both NATO and Russia have since engaged in an arms race, including a near constant series of dueling military exercises.

Zapad has occurred every four years for decades and, despite heightened tensions between Russia and the West, nothing appears to set this exercise apart. Russian media have previously placed the number of troops involved as being up to 100,000, butMargarete Klein of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs told Germany’s Deutsche Welle Thursday that this figure may refer to Russia’s larger preparation for the upcoming exercises.

Other rumors have also contributed to popular concerns about Russia’s intentions.Numerous Western media outlets reported that the 2009Zapad exercise ended with a simulated nuking of Poland, but no declassified evidence of such a scenario could be found, according to CNN.Some also speculate that the 2009 exercise was a cover for heightened military action in neighboring Georgia and the next installation in 2013 was designed to prepare for military action in Ukraine the following year, according to Real Clear Defense, which went on to say that this year’s drills did not appear to be a cover for any real-world aggressions. Prominent opponents of Moscow, such asMikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian president, have also shared their analysis.

Russian servicemen celebrate their victory in the Safe Route competition at the International Army Games 2017 at the Andreyevsky military polygon outside Tyumen, August 6, 2017. Russia’s military recently displayed its military might along with a number of nations as part of the International Army Games 2017, which it co-hosted with China. Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

“I think the most imminent threat [from Russia] is coming up against Belarus, because I think part of the military personnel and equipment will remain in Belarus after the exercises,” Saakashvili told the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Libertyearlier this month.

“It is unlikely they will do anything during the exercises. But any trap might be expected after the exercises. I think they are considering the possibility of the complete occupation of Belarus, and possibly an annexation of that country. That would be yet another big crisis in the region.”

Russia has denied any plans to compromise the sovereignty of Belarus, where Aleksandr Lukashenko has been a supporter of the Kremlin since becoming the country’s first post-Soviet president in 1994. Prior to the Zapad exercises, Russia and Belarus will conduct command and control exercises from Monday through Friday, the Belarusian Telegraph Agency cited the country’s defense ministry as saying.

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Russian Invasion? Moscow’s Rivals Say War Games Are Cover And Troops Won’t Leave – Newsweek

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