This week, NATO leaders announced that a multinational force of NATO troops will be formed in Romania to act as “defense and discouragement” against Russian “aggression”.
“We are not a threat for Russia. But we need dialogue from a strong position of defense and discouragement,” , Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said. “Our purpose is peace, not war.”
Mark Sleboda, a Russia-based international relations and security analyst expressed his concern in a Sputnik radio interview. “It not only involves NATO-Romanian relations, but we’re talking about the NATO footprint in the Black Sea — what they’re referring to as their TFP [Tailored Forward Presence]. An instrumental part of that is the introduction of this new multinational force.” The deployment will include at least 4 000 troops, he said.
“It has been said that a large portion of them will be Romanian, with Poland, Italy and Bulgaria and others. This will complement 900 US military troops that are already stationed in Romania. It also concerns the US establishment of its missile defense shield, the Aegis Ashore system in Romania and likewise in Poland.”
NATO’s naval presence in the Black Sea has increased since 2014. “There have been almost continuous US missile cruisers in the Black Sea and they have announced it in cooperation with those multinational force brigade. There will be increased naval presence beyond the Black Sea. We’ve seen a number of significant NATO military exercises and naval military exercises in the Black Sea and that is only going to increase as a result of this,” the analyst noted.
“It’s got Moscow more than a little concerned, because first we saw these four permanent/rotating brigades, which was violating the NATO Russia Founding Act.” Inked in 1997 by both parties, it was aimed at building “a lasting and inclusive peace in the Euro-Atlantic area”.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the US presence in the Baltic States contradicts the key Russia-NATO agreement. The second US armored brigade arrived in Poland and has deployed together with armored vehicles; meanwhile, the third US brigade’s equipment remains in Poland, the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said.
“Thus, contrary to all the statements of NATO and the United States about the ‘insignificant’ amount of troops being sent to Russia’s borders, now it is not a brigade that has been deployed, but a mechanized division of the US Armed Forces, where in two hours, prepared personnel can be transferred from the nearest American base in Europe [Ramstein, Germany],” Konashenkov said.
By claiming to be rotating troops, NATO gets around this peace treaty, Sleboda explained, with reference to the battalion deployed to Poland in April. “That’s going to be of big importance. There was initially announced to be a small troop presence, a tripwire if you will. Now we see another, more tactically significant 4 000 troops [than the ones stationed in Poland].”
He said: “A number of frozen conflicts are occurring in countries on Russia’s borders that have significant ethnic Russian populations and NATO is attempting to move into these countries and absorb them into NATO and the EU as a bastion against Russia.
“We get the arguments that Russia is conducting troops against NATO’s own borders. That’s because you move your borders right up to the Russian border. Russia is only conducting military exercises within its own borders.” But Russia conducted recent drills outside its borders when 10 000 Russian troops participated in large-scale military exercises in Belarus last month.
However, Konashenkov pointed out, after the Zapad-2017 drills in Belarus, the Russian military returned to their points of permanent deployment.
Bloomberg reported that Russia has consolidated control over bases on the Syrian coast, linking the Aegean and Mediterranean with their Black Sea Fleet and exerting “significant influence throughout the region”, which would explain the US drive to maintain supremacy.
“Amid the Zapad-2017 military exercise, the ‘rotation’ of the US 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team under the Operation Atlantic Resolve plan was held in Poland and the Baltic states. All the equipment of this brigade — 87 M1A1 Abrams tanks, M109 Paladin howitzers, 144 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and around a hundred other vehicles — must have remained there. The personnel of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team must have been replaced by the servicemen of the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team in order for the NATO-Russia Founding Act not to be violated,” Konashenkov said.
Russia and Belarus had invited NATO specialists and foreign journalists to observe the exercises.
Meanwhile, US missile attack warning radars now cover all possible trajectories of Russian ballistic missiles, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Alexander Yemelyanov said during the Russian-Chinese briefing on missile shield issues on the sidelines of the first committee of the UN General Assembly.
“Radar stations of the US missile attack warning system cover all possible trajectories of Russian ballistic missiles launched toward the US territory. Those stations are capable of tracking the launch of intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-based ballistic missiles and designate targets for anti-ballistic missile systems,” Yemelyanov said.
The US has deployed sea-based radars near the Russian borders, as well as stations in Romania and Poland.
“The use of a mobile sea-based radar near Alaska, stations in Romania and Poland the information systems of missile shield vessels significantly increases the efficiency and precision of target designation about Russian ICBMs [Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles] and SLBMs [Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles], and hence the ability to intercept them,” he said.
TASS reported that the US missile shield is already capable of not only detecting launches but also of intercepting Russian ballistic missiles, according to the Russian Defense Ministry representative.
“Information and surveillance systems of the US missile shield are already capable of not only detecting the launch of Russian ballistic missiles and tracking their trajectory, but also of designating targets to ABM missile systems for intercepting those ballistic missiles,” Yemelyanov noted.
Also, the United States may covertly install cruise missiles on missile defense systems deployed in Europe, he said.
Ground-based cruise missiles “is a direct breach of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty,” Yemelyanov said. “We have repeatedly expressed Russia’s concerns to our American partners about the US violation of its international obligations, but there has been no feedback so far,” he said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a speech at the UN General Assembly in New York last month that NATO was currently seeking to revive the Cold War climate. He expressed regret that “some countries still prefer force to dialogue”.
“The West constructed its policy on the basis of a principle, ‘If you are not with us, you are against us’ and proceeded with hideous expansion of NATO to the east,” Lavrov said.