Incoming NATO Military Committee Chairman: Russia Could Occupy The Baltics in 2 days If It Wanted To

From Business Insider:

909px-Flag_map_of_NATO_Countries_(Europe)The future chairman of the NATO Military Committee has issued some dire warnings about Russia’s ability to occupy the Baltic States.

Czech General Petr Pavel, who is scheduled to become chairman in June, warned on May 27th that Moscow would be able to conquer the three Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania within two days even despite the former Soviet republics’ NATO membership, according to the Czech news site CTK.

This is largely due to the complexity of the NATO decision-making process, along with the small geographic area of the Baltics. Russia could take advantage of NATO’s relatively slow-moving command structure to blitz across the three countries in a matter of hours.

“On the one hand, one of [NATO´s] disadvantages is its complex process of decision making. It is because NATO has 28 members who have to reach consensus on all conclusions,” Pavel told CTK.

“From the technical point of view, if I consider how many forces Russia is able to deploy in the Baltics, the size of the Baltic countries and the density of forces on their territories, the Baltics could really be occupied in a couple of days.”

Read more here at the Business Insider

Putin denies Russian troops are in Ukraine, decrees certain deaths secret

From the Washington Post:

MOSCOW — If there was one weak spot in Russian support for the Kremlin’s aims in Ukraine this year, it was the population’s strong aversion to sending in Russian troops — something Russia denies doing, despite mounting international evidence to the contrary.

Now, Russia can ignore that evidence — as well as any questions citizens might raise — since President Vladimir Putin signed a decree classifying certain peacetime deaths of soldiers as state secrets.

Putin signed an order Thursday making the deaths of Russian troops lost during “special operations” a secret, amending a previous decree that limited such secrecy to deaths of soldiers in wartime. Some watchers can see only one plausible reason for the change: Russia is gearing up for another military push into Ukraine.

“We’re in a pre-war situation. Right now there’s going to be another campaign in Ukraine,” said Pavel Felgenhauer, a military analyst based in Moscow, who added that Russia was being secret about losses because “we’re fighting a secret war.”

But war brings about the sort of casualties that can serve as proof of Russia’s involvement in Ukraine, Felgenhauer pointed out.

“If foreigners know about the losses of soldiers in Donbass, that’s not very good,” he said, using a term that refers to eastern Ukraine.“But more important is that the Russian public doesn’t know. So it’s going to be a secret, as it was in Soviet times.”

Russia has long denied its troops are operating in Ukraine, dismissing as fabrications reports of training camps, troop buildups and even the testimony of captured Russian soldiers claiming to be on active duty.

Read More here at the Washington Post.

Russia Masses Heavy Firepower on Border with Ukraine – Witness

From Reuters:

Tanks are seen on a freight train shortly after its arrival at a railway station in the Russian southern town of Matveev Kurgan, near the Russian-Ukrainian border in Rostov region, Russia, May 26, 2015. Picture taken with a mobile phone. REUTERS/Maria Tsvetkova

Tanks are seen on a freight train shortly after its arrival at a railway station in the Russian southern town of Matveev Kurgan, near the Russian-Ukrainian border in Rostov region, Russia, May 26, 2015. Picture taken with a mobile phone. REUTERS/Maria Tsvetkova

Russia’s army is massing troops and hundreds of pieces of weaponry including mobile rocket launchers, tanks and artillery at a makeshift base near the border with Ukraine, a Reuters reporter saw this week.

Many of the vehicles have number plates and identifying marks removed while many of the servicemen had taken insignia off their fatigues. As such, they match the appearance of some of the forces spotted in eastern Ukraine, which Kiev and its Western allies allege are covert Russian detachments.

The scene at the base on the Kuzminsky firing range, around 50 km (30 miles) from the border, offers some of the clearest evidence to date of what appeared to be a concerted Russian military build-up in the area.

Earlier this month, NATO military commander General Philip Breedlove said he believed the separatists were taking advantage of a ceasefire that came into force in February to re-arm and prepare for a new offensive. However, he gave no specifics.

Russia denies that its military is involved in the conflict in Ukraine’s east, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting forces loyal to the pro-Western government in Kiev.

Russia’s defense ministry said it had no immediate comment about the build-up. Several soldiers said they had been sent to the base for simple military exercises, suggesting their presence was unconnected to the situation in Ukraine.

Asked by Reuters if large numbers of unmarked weaponry and troops without insignia at the border indicated that Russia planned to invade Ukraine, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said during a conference call with reporters:

“I find the wording of this question, ‘if an invasion is being prepared’, inappropriate as such.”

The weapons being delivered there included Uragan multiple rocket launchers, tanks and self-propelled howitzers — all weapon types that have been used in the conflict in eastern Ukraine between Kiev’s forces and separatists.

Read the complete article here at Reuters.

Neutral Finland, Russia’s Neighbor, Reserves Right To Join NATO As New Government Takes Power

From the International Business Times:

Finland’s new Prime Minister will appoint a government cabinet this week, which may take the neutral Nordic country, Russia’s neighbor, in a new direction: towards NATO. In a recent policy statement, the new center-right coalition government said that the country may join NATO “at any time” over the next four years, shifting dramatically from its traditional neutral stance.

The move, which comes just a week after 900,000 Finnish reservists were sent letters to ensure they could be quickly contacted in the event of war, will likely surprise onlookers in Moscow who believed that the inclusion of the nationalist party and anti-NATO Finns Party in the new three-member coalition would see interest in joining the alliance waver.

“The previous government made sure that it did not apply for NATO membership during its time in office,” said Teija Tiilikainen, the director of the Finnish Institute for International Affairs, speaking to Defense News. “The new government’s policy is different, it keeps the issue alive and the option open. It will be interesting to see how all this develops.”

Four years ago, when Finland’s previous government came to power, NATO membership was deliberately ruled out. Even two years ago, the subject was seldom discussed as a serious or necessary option for Finland. However. Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014, the Kremlin’s continued involvement in the Ukraine war, and increased military activity in international waters and air space around Europe has seen public opinion shift.

A poll taken in September 2014 by Finnish-based pollster YLE showed that 43 percent of the Finnish public perceived Russia as a danger, up by 20 percentage points from March, when Russia annexed Crimea.

Read More here at the International Business Times.

NATO Chief says Russian Nuclear Threats are ‘Deeply Troubling and Dangerous’

From The Guardian:

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia’s provocative rhetoric and its dramatic expansion of flights by nuclear bombers are deeply troubling and dangerous, the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday.

Russia’s plans to deploy nuclear-capable missiles in Kaliningrad – near Poland’s border – and its threat to move nuclear forces in Crimea would “fundamentally change the balance of security in Europe,” Stoltenberg warned, in a speech during a visit to Washington.

In blunt language, the Nato chief delivered a scathing critique of Russia’s behaviour over the past year – including Moscow’s armed intervention in Ukraine – and vowed the transatlantic alliance would redouble its commitment to “collective defence”.

“Russia’s recent use of nuclear rhetoric, exercises and operations are deeply troubling,” he told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.

The Russian president Vladimir Putin’s “admission that he considered putting Russia’s nuclear forces on alert while Russia was annexing Crimea is but one example,” the former Norwegian prime minister said.

The Nato alliance was also concerned about Russia’s compliance with nuclear arms agreements and stepped-up global flights by strategic bombers.

The Nato alliance was also concerned about Russia’s compliance with nuclear arms agreements and stepped-up global flights by strategic bombers.

“Russia has also significantly increased the scale, number and range of pro-active flights by nuclear-capable bombers across much of the globe,” Stoltenberg said.

The Russian bomber flights, he said, spanned “from Japan to Gibraltar, from Crete to California, and from the Baltic sea to the Black Sea.”

 

Read More of the Article from The Guardian.

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