From Fort Russ
February 16, 2017
U.S. and NATO ships for joint naval drills in the Black Sea. NATO war “games” with thousands of U.S./NATO soldiers and equipment in bordering countries. Provocations by Kiev. Dangerous situation.
From Sputnik News
February 1, 2017
The Russian Black Sea Fleet categorically denied claims by Kiev that a Ukrainian military transport plane came under fire from Russian drilling platforms in the Black Sea on Wednesday.
SEVASTOPOL (Sputnik) — The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said earlier on Wednesday that a Ukrainian An-26 transport plane came under small arms fire from two Russian drilling platforms while flying near the Odessa gas field in the Black Sea.”All Ukrainian claims of the alleged shooting at the An-26 plane are absolute lies,” an official from the lack Sea Fleet’s headquarters said in a statement.
According to the statement, the Ukrainian An-26 military plane carried out on Wednesday afternoon two provocative approaches at extremely low altitude to Russia’s Tavrida and Crimea-2 drilling platforms.
“During the plane’s second approach, a security guard at one of the platforms fired four signal flares to prevent a possible collision of the plane with the platform’s mast,” the official stressed.
The news comes amid the joint naval drills of the seven North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member states with the Ukrainian Naval Forces in the Black Sea, which started on Wednesday.
Moreover, the situation near the industrial town of Avdiivka and neighboring Yasynuvata has been tense for several days, with civilians being deprived of running water, central heating and electricity. The Ukrainian forces and Donbass militia are accusing each other of being responsible for escalation of fighting.
December 7, 2016
The US has sent a string of warships into the Black Sea since the Ukraine crisis broke out in 2014, and NATO refused to recognize Crimea’s reunification with Moscow or Russia’s military presence on the peninsula.
“It depends on whether or not the challenges in the region become more or less urgent,” Vice Admiral James G. Foggo III told Sputnik on Wednesday, on the margins of the Defense Forum 2016, organized by the US Naval Institute in Washington, DC. “Obviously, when things become more intense you see the presence of additional ships.”
Extending the length of US operations would require additional ships, since the 1936 Montreux Convention limits vessels of outside states to 21 consecutive days in the Black Sea.
NATO has floated the possibility of setting up a “Black Sea flotilla” to get around the restriction, but Romania was not keen on the idea, while Bulgaria has rejected it outright.
“We probably had a US Navy warship in there under a US flag, bilateral or multilateral operations about third of the year, NATO is in there operating about a third of the year, and the Russian Federation Navy is putting more assets in there and things are getting more crowded,” said the admiral.
Foggo became the Director of Navy Staff last month, having previously served as commander of the US Sixth Fleet and deputy commander of US Naval Forces Europe. He commanded the NATO maritime task force during the 2011 intervention in Libya.
During his presentation at the Defense Forum, Foggo said the Navy’s top current challenges were “Russians, Radicals and Refugees.”
“We have to remain vigilant,” Foggo told the conference, noting that the Russian navy had “some very effective weapon systems.”
“They’re out there and they’re pretty good,” he said.
By way of example, Foggo mentioned the incident in April 2016, when two Russian fighters buzzed the USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea. Senior US officers in NATO hurried to declassify the video of the event so they could seize the moral high ground in the “YouTube wars” and accuse the Russians of unprofessional and reckless behavior, he explained.
During the 6th Fleet’s BALTOPS 2016 maneuvers, two Russian corvettes shadowed the 49 NATO ships, appearing on the sides of the group photo taken by the alliance’s public relations officers. Foggo recounted declining the offer to edit the Russians out, joking that the photo could serve as proof he commanded a force of “more than 50 ships.”
When US President Barack Obama perpetrated his coup d’état in Ukraine in February 2014, and even had his agent Victoria Nuland select the person who was to rule Ukraine after the coup, it was with the expectation that the new government would renegotiate, and soon end, the Russian lease of the naval base at Sebastopol in Crimea, which wasn’t due to expire until 2042. (Up until 1954, that base had been in Russian territory because Crimea was part of Russia; but, after the Soviet dictator Khrushchev in 1954 arbitrarily transferred Crimea to Ukraine, and then the Soviet Union itself broke up in 1991, Russia was keeping its navy there by paying a lease on it from Ukraine.)
However, instead of the US winning control of Crimea as had been planned, the racist-fascist anti-Russian «Right Sector» forces, which Obama’s people had hired to carry out the coup in Kiev under the cover of ‘democratic’ demonstrations against the democratically elected President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych (who had received over 75% of Crimeans’ votes in the Presidential election, prior to being overthrown), terrorized Crimeans during the coup, and this terrorizing of them, simply added insult to their injury. On February 20th, Right Sector forces massacred Crimeans who were escaping from Ukraine’s capital, fleeing the rabid sentiments in Kiev against supporters of Yanukovych. Right Sector caught up with them at the town of Korsun, burned some of their buses, and murdered some of the escaping Crimeans, though most survived — some of them severely injured.
Also, early in March of 2014, shortly prior to Crimea’s referendum on whether to remain within Ukraine, a Crimean who had served in Kiev as a prosecutor in the democratically elected Ukrainian national government that had just been overthrown, and who had likewise escaped from Kiev, was now safely back home in Crimea, and did a Crimean TV interview.
This former prosecutor, Natalya Poklonskaya, took questions from the live TV audience. The interview was posted to YouTube on 12 April 2014, and, as I described it, linking to the YouTube, she proceeded there to «inform her fellow Crimeans what she had seen happen during the overthrow, and why she couldn’t, in good conscience, remain as a Ukrainian official in Kiev, and swear loyalty to the new Ukrainian Government.
She had heard the chants of the Maidan protesters and smelled their piles of burning tires, and seen their marches in Kiev with Nazi symbols and salutes, and she didn’t want to become any part of that. So, she quit and was now unemployed back home in Crimea at the time of this interview».
The Obama Administration, in planning for the coup, had polling done throughout Ukraine, and supplemented the sample in Crimea because, naturally, taking control of the Sebastopol naval base was of particular concern to Obama.
USAID and the International Republican Institute of the Republican Party (not the National Democratic Institute, because funding from them might have suggested the White House’s backing) polled 500 Crimeans, during 16-30 May 2013. As I have reported elsewhere, the first stage of preparation for the upcoming coup was already active inside the US Embassy in Kiev on 1 March 2013; and so, this was a very coordinated Obama Administration operation. (Most Washington-based accounts of the overthrow allege that it was ‘democratic’ and started after Yanukovych rejected the EU’s offer on 21 November 2013.)
On 27 December 2014, I compared the results of that Crimean poll versus the results of a poll covering all areas of the former Ukraine, which was taken, also, for the US government, but, to Obama’s inevitable disappointment, neither poll found a US-friendly, Ukraine-friendly, Russia-hostile, Crimea.
Gallup polled 500 Crimeans during May 16-30 in 2013, and found that only 15% considered themselves «Ukrainian». 24% considered themselves «Crimean». But 40% considered themselves «Russian». Even before Obama’s February 2014 coup which overthrew the Ukrainian President whom [nearly] 80% of Crimeans had voted for, the Crimean people overwhelmingly wanted to secede from Ukraine — and, especially now they did, right after the President for whom they had overwhelmingly voted, Viktor Yanukovych, had been overthrown in this extremely bloody coup. Furthermore, in April 2014, Gallup again polled Crimea, and they found that 71.3% of Crimeans viewed as «Mostly positive» the role of Russia there, and 4.0% viewed it as «Mostly negative»; by contrast, only 2.8% viewed the role of the United States there as «Mostly positive,» and a whopping 76.2% viewed it as «Mostly negative».
During the intervening year, Crimeans’ favorability toward America had plunged down to 2.8%, from its year-earlier 6%. Clearly, what Obama had done in Ukraine (his violent coup in Kiev) had antagonized the Crimeans. And, as if that weren’t enough, the 2014 poll provided yet more evidence: «The 500 people that were sampled in Crimea were asked [and this is crucial] ‘Please tell me if you agree or disagree: The results of the referendum on Crimea’s status [whether to rejoin Russia] reflect the views of most people here.’ 82.8% said ‘Agree.’ 6.7% said ‘Disagree.’»
In the hearts of the local residents, Crimea was still Russian territory, after an involuntary hiatus of 60 years; and so the Russian Government accepted them back again, into Russia – this was not as Corey Flintoff droned, «Russia’s seizure of Crimea». It was Russia’s protection of them from the invasion of Ukraine by the United States in a bloody coup.
On 20 March 2015, even Kenneth Rapoza at the anti-Russian magazine Forbes, headlined, «One Year After Russia Annexed Crimea, Locals Prefer Moscow To Kiev», and he concluded that, «Despite huge efforts on the part of Kiev, Brussels, Washington and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the bulk of humanity living on the Black Sea peninsula believe the referendum to secede from Ukraine was legit. At some point, the West will have to recognize Crimea’s right to self-rule».
However, Barack Obama refuses to accept this. After all, if he were to accept it, then he would have to terminate the anti-Russia economic sanctions he initiated on the basis of Russia’s ‘seizure’ of Crimea, and he would have to acknowledge that the massive US-led military buildup of NATO forces on Russia’s borders in order to protect against ‘Russia’s aggression’ needs to stop and, indeed, be withdrawn. But Obama doesn’t accept any of this; to do that would negate the whole purpose of his coup, and even his anti-Russian policy, including, perhaps, his refusal to cooperate with Russian forces that are trying to stamp out jihadist groups in Syria.
On 6 February 2016, I headlined «US Now Overtly at War Against Russia» and reported that both US ‘Defense’ Secretary Ashton Carter and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had announced the US was initiating a quadrupling of US troops and weaponry on Russia’s northwestern borders.
On 4 May 2016, Dmitriy Sedov headlined at Strategic Culture, «NATO to Form Allied Fleet in the Black Sea: Plans Fraught with Great Risks» and he opened: «Finally, it has become clear what the world has been set to expect from the NATO summit to be held in Warsaw on July 8-9. Summing things up, it is clear that the Alliance is moving to the east. It plans to create a Black Sea «allied fleet». It should be done quickly – the standing force should be formed by July».
Sedov closed by saying that Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko «is impatiently waiting for the July NATO summit. The event can ultimately do away with whatever is left of ‘détente’, ‘reset’ etc. and bring the world back to the days of uncompromised mutual assured destruction».
There is a backstory to that, and, naturally, it goes back to Barack Obama:
As I have previously explained, US Secretary of State John Kerry had told Poroshenko, on 12 May 2015, to stop saying that Ukraine would restart its war against the separatist Donbass region and would invade Crimea and retake that too; but, Kerry’s subordinate, Hillary Clinton’s friend Victoria Nuland, told Poroshenko to ignore her boss on that, and then US President Obama sided with Nuland and sidelined Kerry on Ukraine policy by making clear that he thought Poroshenko was right to insist upon retaking Crimea and re-invading Donbass.
In other words, the Minsk peace process for Ukraine, that had been initiated by Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande, was grudgingly accepted by Obama but he really had no intention of its being anything more than a pause in the war, after which NATO itself would become engaged in facing-down Russia over its ‘aggressive invasion’ and ‘seizure’ of Crimea.
Game’s on for World War III, is Obama’s message to Russian President Vladimir Putin. At some point, either the American side or the Russian-NATO-EU side will have to back down on the Crimea matter, or else the bombs will be release against the other. Kerry has been trying negotiation, but his real enemy is his own boss.
There is every indication that, if Hillary Clinton, a super-hawk against Russia, becomes the next US President, then the policies that Obama has been implementing will be carried out. 2016 could thus turn out to be a very fateful election in the US, and not only for the US but for the entire world.
From Strategic Culture Foundation
Russian military forces have staged a navy exercise off the coast of the city of Sevastopol in the Black Sea Crimean peninsula to “thwart any possible aggression by the West.”
“Today and tomorrow ships… will practice the organization of repelling strikes by the enemy from the air in the Black Sea fleet’s naval range near the Crimean coast,” fleet spokesman Nikolai Voskresensky was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying on Monday.
Russian navy’s guided missile hovercraft, Samum, as well as several smaller ships, in addition to Su-24 bombers, will take part in drills for preparing Russian navy forces to “repel strikes” on Crimea, he said.
The spokesman added that the naval exercise will be wrapped up by launching a cruise missile strike.
Russia military forces were deployed in military bases across Crimea after the region separated from Ukraine in March last year and re-joined Moscow in a referendum.
The Ukrainian crisis last year and Crimea’s reunion with Russia has plunged Kremlin’s relations with the West to their lowest point since the Cold War.
This as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces have escalated their military maneuvers along the Russian border, in the Baltic States and Eastern Europe.
Russia and the West are also at loggerheads over the conflict in Syria.
It seems the policy now is to both prepare for war and work to ensure that it comes to fruition.
From New Eastern Outlook, May 14, 2015
By Eric Draitser
While the war in Ukraine has raged on for more than a year, the growing conflict between the US-NATO and Russia has taken on new dimensions. From economic warfare waged by the West in the form of sanctions, to the diplomatic rows over the commemoration of Victory Day in Moscow, more and more it seems that relations between East and West are fraying beyond repair. Though it may seem that this conflict is escalating into simply an extension of what was once known as the Cold War, the potential exists for a hot war of global dimensions.
Lost amid the cacophony of saber-rattling and chest-thumping in Washington and Brussels is the quietly emerging, and infinitely dangerous, military deployment in the Black Sea. Once seen as a no-go zone for the US and NATO, the Black Sea, with its expansive Russian shores, has recently become the site of a slew of provocative military moves by the US, and equally significant counter-moves by Russia. Adding fuel to this potential fire is the participation of Chinese naval assets in this quietly brewing cocktail of global conflict.
The presence of US military assets all throughout the Black Sea region is undoubtedly provocative as it is pushing perilously close to Russia’s borders. The potential for escalation – premeditated or otherwise – puts the entire region, and indeed the entire world, at risk of catastrophe.
This article will focus on the US-NATO military developments in and around the Black Sea. While by no means a comprehensive listing of all of Washington’s moves in the region, it is an attempt to provide a glimpse into a little discussed theater of deployment for the West – one that is regarded as a very serious threat by Moscow.
Washington Swimming in the Black Sea
There is no doubt that US strategy vis-à-vis Russia places tremendous strategic importance on maintaining and expanding a robust military presence in and around the Black Sea. Recent moves by the US-NATO military forces make this fact all the more apparent. Having deployed a significant amount of forces to littoral countries, as well as initiating a series of critical military exercises and drills, Washington is demonstrating unequivocally its commitment to escalating the conflict with Russia.
Nearly a year ago, in June 2014, former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel laid bare US intentions. In the wake of President Obama’s public announcement of $1 billion to expand the US military presence in Eastern Europe, Hagel stated that the billion dollar commitment was for a “stronger presence of US ships in the Black Sea,” and that “[The US] will sustain that tempo going forward.” Put in slightly more understandable terminology, the US committed a significant monetary investment to the permanent expansion of its military presence in and around the Black Sea.
The permanence of this new commitment is what is striking because, unlike much of the bluff and bluster from Washington over Ukraine and related issues, this represents a military deployment with real tactical value. It is not mere rhetoric, it is military escalation. And, in the year since the announcement was made, this process has evolved in earnest.
The US Army is currently, or will soon be, leading a series of critical military exercises in the Black Sea. One notable one is known as Noble Partner. This series of exercises is being conducted with the de facto NATO member Georgia which has effectively become a forward arm of NATO military forces. As the official page of the US Army noted:
Noble Partner will support Georgia’s contribution of a light infantry company to NATO Response Force, or NRF… The exercise will focus on unified land operations … Exercise Noble Partner provides an opportunity for the U.S. military to continue its training relationship with the Georgian Armed Forces as the sponsor of Georgia’s participation in the NRF. The NRF provides a rapid military response force to deploy quickly, wherever needed…. Exercise Noble Partner will include approximately 600 U.S. and Georgian Service members incorporating a full range of equipment… Georgian forces will operate alongside U.S. forces with their BMP-2 Infantry Combat Vehicle. The exercise will consist of both a field training exercise and a live-fire exercise.
However, as part of the US military training, a significant amount of military hardware is being shuttled across the Black Sea in an unprecedented move by the US which has never so brazenly treated this body of water as its own backyard. As the US Army page wrote:
Fourteen Bradley Infantry Fighting vehicles and several wheeled-support vehicles, roughly 748 metric tons of steel and rubber, cut across the Black Sea…bound for the port in Batumi, Georgia, May 2. This is the first time that the U.S. Army has deployed a mechanized company worth of equipment across the Black Sea. The equipment will support the 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division Soldiers, participating in Exercise Noble Partner.
Taken in combination with Hagel’s comments a year ago, it is clear that the US is committed to escalating its military presence in the Black Sea. Of course, it is self-evident that such a strategic development must be seen as an attempt to both outgun and intimidate Russia in its traditional sphere of influence.
Additionally, and concurrent to these military exercises, is the planned Trident Joust 2015, which according to US Navy Admiral Mark Ferguson, will “test the capability of the NRF [NATO Response Force] command and control element to work at full operational capacity in a deployed location…TRIDENT JOUST 15…will reinforce the NATO Readiness Action Plan from the Wales Summit and project assurance measures to all NATO allies.” Trident Joust should be understood as an attempt to prepare NATO’s military architecture for possible rapid deployment in the Black Sea region, ostensibly as a defense against so-called Russian aggression while in reality seeking to expand NATO military capability against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine and increased tensions with Moscow.
At no time during the Cold War did the US engage in such openly hostile and belligerent actions designed more to provoke than to defend. It seems the policy now is to both prepare for war and work to ensure that it comes to fruition. As if to make it even more transparent what Washignton’s intentions are with Trident Joust, Admiral Ferguson was quoted as saying “I appreciate the efforts of Romania as we work on other measures to transform the Alliance, such as the formation of the Multinational Division Southeast and the NATO Force Integration Unit.”
There are other important military moves that the US-NATO have made in the Black Sea in recent months, all designed to send a stern warning to Russia. NATO’s Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG2) recently completed its training exercises “designed to improve interoperability and enhance rapid integration of Alliance maritime assets… The force trained on anti-air, anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare procedures during separate exercises with the Turkish, Bulgarian and Romanian navies.” As part of SNMG2, NATO deployed significant military assets to the Romanian port of Constanta, not coincidentally a short distance across the Black Sea from Crimea and Russia’s fleet at Sevastopol. Participating in the SNMG2 was the USS Vicksburg with its Mark 41 Vertical Launching System, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and arsenal of guns. In addition were Canadian, Italian, and Turkish warships, all carrying significant firepower of their own.
Aside from these specific sets of naval exercises, the US has had major assets in and around the Black Sea to participate in a series of one-off maneuvers and a variety of drills in the past year, even before Secretary Hagel’s public announcement in June 2014. These include the recently decommissioned USS Taylor which spent much of 2014 in the Black Sea. Perhaps not so coincidentally, this US frigate is now slated for sale to Taiwan in a move that is likely to be met with disapproval in Beijing. Additionally, the USS Donald Cook, a missile destroyer, conducted exercises with the USS Taylor and Romanian Navy. Also, the USS Truxton and USS Vella Gulf both logged significant time in the Black Sea in 2014, undoubtedly motivating Russia to move quickly to ramp up its naval and military capabilities.
It is interesting to note that Russia’s moves in Crimea in 2014 came within a matter of days of the entrance into the Black Sea of these US naval assets. Anyone who doubts that Moscow’s decision to support Crimea’s vote for reunification with the Russian Federation was motivated by something other than military and strategic pragmatism would do well to examine this timeline of events.
All of this makes plain that the US and its NATO arsenal are gearing up for a “pivot” – to borrow the grossly overused terminology of the Obama administration and the Pentagon – that will see their forces focused on the Black Sea, just as they have shifted attention to the Baltic Sea even more so in recent months. It does not take exceptional powers of deduction to see what the US intends: continued escalation, force preparedness, and intimidation against Moscow. However, it is equally apparent that such provocative moves raise the risk of a misstep, an accident or misunderstanding that could touch off a major military conflict. Considering the players involved, such a blunder could spark World War 3.
A forthcoming article will focus on the countermoves that Russia is employing to confront US-NATO aggression near Russia’s borders. The article will focus specifically on the fast-developing military relationship between Russia and China.
Eric Draitser is an independent geopolitical analyst based in New York City, he is the founder of StopImperialism.org and OP-ed columnist for RT, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.