NATO puts 300,000 ground troops on ‘high alert’ as tensions with Russia mount

M1A2 Abrams LataviaUp to 300,000 NATO troops have been put on alert amid rising tensions between Russia and the Baltic states.

Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary-general of NATO, said the alliance hoped to speed up the response time of thousands of its troops to allow it to react to a combat situation more effectively.

In October, it was reported NATO was preparing to station 4,000 troops on the Russian border with the Baltic states in its biggest military build-up since the Cold War. The troops will be summoned from nations across the alliance, including the UK.

“We have seen Russia being much more active in many different ways,” Mr Stoltenberg told The Times.

“We have seen a more assertive Russia implementing a substantial military build-up over many years – tripling defence spending since 2000 in real terms; developing new military capabilities; exercising their forces and using military force against neighbours.

“We have also seen Russia using propaganda in Europe among NATO allies and that is exactly the reason why NATO is responding. We are responding with the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War.”

Read More at the Independent UK.

Russians Conduct Nuclear-Bomb Survival Drills as Cold War Heats Up

rusnukeexcRussian authorities have stepped up nuclear-war survival measures amid a showdown with Washington, dusting off Soviet-era civil-defense plans and upgrading bomb shelters in the biggest cities.

At the Kremlin’s Ministry of Emergency Situations, the Cold War is back.

The country recently held its biggest civil defense drills since the collapse of the U.S.S.R., with what officials said were 40 million people rehearsing a response to chemical and nuclear threats.

Videos of emergency workers deployed in hazmat suits or checking the ventilation in bomb shelters were prominently aired on television when the four days of drills were held across the country. Students tried on gas masks and placed dummies on stretchers in school auditoriums.

The capital’s civil-defense plans are also being upgraded, said Andrey Mishchenko, deputy head of the ministry.

“An inventory was taken in Moscow of the city’s underground spaces, in order to allow us to plan for sheltering 100% of the city’s population,” he said, as reported by state news agency RIA Novosti.

In parallel, commentators on state-dominated airwaves issued some of the shrillest anti-American rhetoric in years. “Russia is sick of America’s arrogant lies,” influential commentator Dmitry Kiselyov said this month after a Syrian peace plan collapsed.

Read More at the Wall Street Journal.

Russia Is Building Fallout Shelters to Prepare for a Potential Nuclear Strike

THS-FallOutRustedManagers of the Zenit Arena, a giant half-built stadium in St. Petersburg, received an official letter from the Ministry of Emergency Situations last week demanding that they immediately create shelter facilities for wartime. The stadium, under construction for the upcoming World Cup 2018, is located outside the city boundaries, the letter said, but in case of nuclear attack it is in the potential “zone of war destruction and radiation fallout.”

The last time Russians heard authorities talk like this about a potential mobilization for a nuclear strike was 20 years ago, and it all seemed highly improbable. Now, it appears, the Kremlin is not joking. Up to 40 million people participated in recent civil-defense exercises all across the country, learning about how to hide and where exactly to run to in case of a nuclear war.

But whether the motive behind this is self-defense, an implied threat to the West, a means to mobilize and control public opinion, or all of the above, is not entirely clear.

“These are the most serious tensions between Moscow and Washington in decades, said Sergei Markov, a member of the Civic Chamber, a Moscow-based state institution. “The war might begin even before the November elections in the U.S.”

Read More at the Daily Beast. (Originally Published 16 OCT 2016)

Major Russian naval deployment to intensify Aleppo assault: NATO diplomat

norway-russian-fleet-photo-oct-2016Russian warships off the coast of Norway are carrying fighter bombers that are likely to reinforce a final assault on the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo in two weeks, a senior NATO diplomat said on Wednesday, citing Western intelligence.

The fleet passed by the Norwegian city of Bergen on Wednesday, the diplomat said, while Russian media has said it will move through the English Channel, past Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean Sea to the Syrian coast.

“They are deploying all of the Northern fleet and much of the Baltic fleet in the largest surface deployment since the end of the Cold War,” the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

“This is not a friendly port call. In two weeks, we will see a crescendo of air attacks on Aleppo as part of Russia’s strategy to declare victory there,” the diplomat said.

Photos of the vessels have been released by the Norwegian military, taken on Monday. A Norwegian newspaper quoted the head of the Norwegian military intelligence service saying the ships involved “will probably play a role in the deciding battle for Aleppo.

Read more at Reuters.

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Russia taunts US with biggest military offensive since the Cold War

hms_richmond_escorts_russian_carrier_task_groupRussia has begun its biggest surface deployment since the end of the Cold War as it aims to effectively end the war in Syria on the eve of the US election, NATO officials warned last night.

The Kremlin is sending the full might of its Northern Fleet and part of the Baltic Fleet to reinforce a final assault on the city of Aleppo in a fortnight, according to Western intelligence.

The final bombardment is designed to shore up the Assad regime by wiping out rebels – paving the way for a Russian exit from the civil war.

The assault on the city will also serve to highlight US inaction in the run-up to election day and may aid Donald Trump.

Yesterday, ahead of this morning’s debate with Hillary Clinton, his presidential campaign released a letter from defence experts backing plans to increase the size of the US military.

Royal Navy warships are due to escort a group of eight Russian warships, including the country’s only aircraft carrier, as they sail past the UK on their way to the Mediterranean.

Read more at the Telegraph UK.

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