Russian 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.
Approximately one year ago, the Russian navy caused quite a stir by hanging around internet cables in the Atlantic for some period of time.
The accusation was the Russians were mapping the cables in order to be able to sever them in times of conflict.
The Russian fleet in the Mediterranean seems to be doing the same thing this week over cables off the Syrian coast.
News.com.au writes, “Author and military analyst H.I. Sutton is one of several observers who have noted the unusual activity of a suspected Russian survey ship, the Yantar, in waters between Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey in recent weeks.
It’s reported positions have been coinciding with the tracks of three major undersea fibre-optic cables. Mr Sutton’s blog suggests the extremely slow speed and frequent stopping of the ship suggest it could be deploying a submersible to the sea floor.”
If internet cables were severed that were supporting Western information flow, this could cause great economic disruption and take a very long time to repair, especially in time of war.
Read more at the Washington Times.
Russia 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.
Russian state television is back on a war footing.
This time, the ramped-up rhetoric follows the collapse of cease-fire efforts in Syria. As the U.S. and Russia accused each other of sinking diplomacy, Moscow increased its military presence in the Mediterranean and Baltic regions, and suspended a nuclear non-proliferation treaty. A prime-time news program warned that the U.S. wants to provoke a conflict.
The sudden escalation puts the relationship back into the deep freeze it was in at the peak of the crisis over Ukraine in 2014, which also sparked a wave of hostility in state media. That anti-U.S. campaign ended as the Kremlin sought to ease Western punitive measures imposed over the Ukrainian crisis — hopes that now seem to be in tatters.
“Offensive behavior toward Russia has a nuclear dimension,” Russian state TV presenter Dmitry Kiselyov said in his “Vesti Nedelyi” program on Sunday. “Moscow would react with nerves of iron to a Plan B,” he said, referring to any possible U.S. military strike in Syria.
The Kremlin’s control over Russian media has in part helped keep President Vladimir Putin’s approval rating above 80 percent during the country’s longest recession in two decades and portrayed military deployments in Crimea and Syria as victories against western encroachment.
Read More at Bloomberg.
Italy will send about 140 troops to join a NATO mission in Latvia set up to boost defenses against a possible Russian attack, Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said on Friday.
The Western defense alliance agreed in July to deploy military forces in the Baltic states and eastern Poland for the first time and increase air and sea patrols, to reassure its allies after Russia seized Crimea from neighboring Ukraine. [L8N19U0PP]
During a visit to Rome by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Gentiloni said Italy would send the troops to join a Canadian-led force in Latvia. They will probably be deployed in the spring of 2017, a foreign ministry official said.
The decision “is not part of a policy of aggression towards Russia, but one of reassurance and defense of our borders as an Atlantic alliance,” Gentiloni added.
Italy will lead an ultra-rapid action task force in the former Soviet republic, a “spearhead” which will be equipped to intervene within five days in an emergency, Stoltenberg told Italian newspaper La Stampa.
Read More at Reuters.