This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

NATO's European Military Presence

"We're forward-leading in Ukraine, and Europe can count on Canada to always be there."
"What I heard were warm words for Canada for its high operational tempo and that it is one of 18 NATO countries this year to be increasing its defence spending."
"It is not our intention to recreate a permanent infrastructure. It is extremely expensive for us to do so."
Canadian Defence Minister Jason Kenney, NATO alliance headquarters, Belgium

"If heavy U.S. military equipment, including tanks, artillery batteries and other equipment really does turn up in countries in Eastern Europe and the Baltics that will be the most aggressive step by the Pentagon and NATO since the Cold War."
"Russia will have no option but to build up its forces and resources on the Western strategic front."
Russian General Yuri Yakubov

"This is something which is a prudent and necessary response to what we have seen from Russia for a long period of time."
"NATO is a defensive alliance and what we do is defensive. What we are doing is responding to a new and challenging defence environment."
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

Image: NATO foreign ministers condemned Russia's illegal military intervention in Ukraine during the meeting in Brussels, Belgium. Photo: courtesy of NATO.

Canada has been rotating 200 infantry troops in Eastern Europe since last summer, through participation in NATO exercises. The latest commitment is the sending of 1,650 soldiers to Europe in the fall to continue taking part in the largest military exercises since the Cold War ended. Prime Minister Harper has repeatedly called out Vladimir Putin for Moscow's Ukraine provocations.

Ottawa has offered Royal Canadian Air Force spy planes, tanker aircraft and strategic airlift capabilities toward the new NATO rapid reaction force set to triple in size from its current 13,000 troops. That rapid reaction force is designed to bypass a much earlier agreement with Russia not to permanently stage NATO troops in the affected countries now concerned over Moscow's muscle-flexing. Should the security situation worsen the force is meant to provide a swift response from rotating troops.

Canadian staff officers will be working at the six command centres of the new force located in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania. The projected Operation Trident Juncture to be held late September and early November in Spain, Portugal and Italy will have over 25,000 troops involved, including air, sea and land components, along with special forces.

At the Belgium meeting Russia was not directly criticized, although clearly the activities involving Moscow in Ukraine remained the foremost theme. Russian journalists were invited to the Brussels meeting to ensure that all discussions were clearly understood and their purport brought directly back to Russia, and for that purpose simultaneous translation from English to Russian was thoughtfully provided for their ease in fully comprehending the discussions.

Russia's agitation over the American move to base heavy weapons in Eastern Europe along with Canada's contributions of troops, ships and warplanes to NATO missions in Eastern Europe this past year emphasizes how events have focused and mobilized NATO's attention, returning it to its original Cold War mission where in the 50s and 80s a close watch was maintained on Moscow's military initiatives.

Despite Moscow's angry rhetoric reflecting its concerns, NATO's Stoltenberg iterated and reiterated that there was no question of the alliance engaging in "a new arms race with Russia". While that may not be the intention, however, it certainly becomes the outcome, clearly enough. And Vladimir Putin has stated as much, as has his generals and Russia's foreign minister.

NATO Chief: 'We Will Not Be Dragged Into Arms Race'

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