Thursday, September 4, 2014

NATO vs. Russia

The implementation of NATO’s readiness action plan to 'overt' Russian threat, which will be presented at the alliance’s summit in Wales on September 4, will involve “several hundred million euros” a year, says the bloc’s commander.
"Keeping people on alert carries a certain cost," General Jean-Paul Palomeros, the head of the Allied Command Transformation, which leads military transformation of bloc’s forces and its capabilities, told AFP.
According to Palomeros, the plan which was adopted to counter Russia’s involvement in Ukraine’s crisis could be implemented "by the end of the year."
"It has to be supported financially, but also over time because it is not enough to be reactive for a month, or two, or six," he said, "Once NATO decides it wants these capabilities, it has to have them for the very long term."
Palomeros added that as there are "multifaceted threats" in the world, it is important to have "credible, well trained, well equipped, modern forces."
"The world is moving very quickly. We saw that with the Ukraine crisis and we see it in the south, particularly in Iraq," he said.
However, French general said that the price of the NATO’s readiness action plan was an "investment"worth paying for "a credible defense."
"We will become more efficient," said Palomeros. "These are not colossal figures compared to total budgets in alliance members."
The Readiness Action Plan was outlined by NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen back in May, when he said that the 28-member bloc will continue to stand up “for freedom and security in light of the Ukraine crisis.”
“We already have more planes in the air, more ships at sea and more exercises on the ground … We are also considering the longer-term implications of Russia’s actions for what we do in NATO,” he said.

The forces responsible for Russia's strategic nuclear arsenal will conduct major exercises this month involving more than 4,000 soldiers, the Defense Ministry said on Wednesday, in the latest sign of rising tension with NATO over the Ukraine crisis.
In an announcement a day before the start of a NATO summit in Wales, RIA news agency quoted the ministry as saying the exercises would take place in Altai in south-central Russia and would also include around 400 technical units and extensive use of air power.
The agency quoted Dmitry Andreyev, a major in the strategic rocket forces, as saying troops would practice countering irregular units and high-precision weapons, and "conducting combat missions in conditions of active radio-electronic jamming and intensive enemy actions in areas of troop deployment."
He said enemy forces would be represented in the exercises by spetsnaz (special forces) units.
Supersonic MiG-31 fighter-interceptors and Su-24MR reconnaissance aircraft would take part, Andreyev said, saying the scale of air power involved was unprecedented for exercises of this kind.
Both Russia and NATO have stepped up military maneuvers since the outbreak of conflict in Ukraine between government forces and pro-Russian separatists in the east of the former Soviet republic.
A Kremlin security adviser said Tuesday that Russia would update its military doctrine this year in the light of the Ukraine crisis and the sharp deterioration in relations with NATO.

Since the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis, Russia has beefed up its forces and stepped up exercises near the Ukrainian border, while NATO has conducted maneuvers in eastern Europe.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen last week described as "hollow" Moscow's denials that it has sent troops and weaponry into Ukraine to rescue separatists from the brink of defeat and help them open a new front.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday that Ukraine's announcement last week that it would seek NATO membership was aimed at undermining efforts to end the conflict in the east of the former Soviet republic.
In a further development certain to upset Moscow, the Baltic state of Estonia, which borders Russia, said it wanted NATO to set up permanent bases on its territory.
RIA quoted Popov as saying: "We consider that the defining factor in relations with NATO remains the unacceptability for Russia of plans to move the military infrastructure of the alliance towards our borders, including via enlargement of the bloc."
He cited U.S. missile defense plans in Europe as a further danger to Russia's security. Washington says the aim is to defend against threats from countries like Iran, but Moscow says a U.S. missile shield could be used to neutralize its own missiles, upsetting the nuclear balance.

Russia will update its military doctrine this year to take account of new threats including the Ukraine crisis, a Kremlin security aide said on Tuesday in forceful comments that highlighted a deepening standoff with NATO.
Mikhail Popov, deputy head of the Kremlin's advisory Security Council, told RIA news agency that changes were being drafted in the light of risks connected with the Arab Spring, the Syrian civil war and the conflict between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.
In comments published two days before NATO holds a summit that will be dominated by the Ukraine crisis, Popov said Russia was the target of an unprecedented propaganda war.
"Russia is being deliberately painted as the enemy, and its political course is seen as new threat to NATO," he said.

The visit comes ahead of a high-stakes NATO summit that begins on Thursday in Wales. Obama and Western allies at the summit will approve plans to position at least 4000 troops and military equipment in Eastern Europe.
Ukraine is not a NATO member. But members of the alliance in Eastern and Central Europe fear being targeted by Russia.

Earlier today, Russia declared NATO a major “threat” after the Western military alliance announced plans to reinforce defences in eastern Europe.
Moscow’s surprise declaration of a shift in its military doctrine came just ahead of a NATO summit in Wales on Thursday at which beleaguered Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko will lobby US President Barack Obama for military support.
The Russian national security council’s deputy secretary Mikhail Popov said NATO’s plan for new fast-response units in eastern Europe was “evidence of the desire of US and NATO leaders to continue their policy of aggravating tensions with Russia”.
Popov said he had “no doubt that the question of the approach of NATO members’ military infrastructure to our border” will be taken into consideration as “one of the foreign military threats to Russia” when the country’s defence doctrine is updated later this year.
Popov added that Russia’s 2010 military doctrine - a document that already permits the use of nuclear weapons in case of grave national danger - would focus more on overcoming NATO and its new European anti-missile defence system. 

The Syrian army was poised Wednesday, Sept. 3 for an all-out offensive in the coming hours to take out the rebels holding parts of the Golan town of Quneitra and the crossing into Israel...The concentration of Syrian troops at a staging point is clearly visible from Israeli military positions and villages on the Golan.

...the decision to embark on a large-scale assault on rebel gains in the Golan means that military priorities have been reshuffled at the highest level of Syrian policy-making. After treating the Golan and Quneitra front as a strategic backwater hitherto, they suddenly occupy center stage in Damascus as a key arena for vanquishing rebel forces.

The assault force consists of a large number of troops from the Syrian army’s 7th Division with many tanks, which the Syrians have been wary hitherto of moving into the battle zone, after being cautioned by Israel via the UN that they would be infringing ceasefire agreements with Israel and risk incurring IDF counteraction.

However, high authority in Damascus appears to be counting on the revulsion and shock,  generated around the world by the beheading by ISIS of the American-Jewish journalist Steven Sotloff, deterring Israel from intervening against Syrian forces which are fighting another Al Qaeda offshoot, the Nusra Front.

Israel’s Golan forces and population are in a state of preparedness. Tensions rose palpably Wednesday, when Syrian fighter-bombers flew over Quneitra and dropped Iranian-made barrel-bombs on rebel positions. They acted in defiance of Israel’s threat to send its air force against Syrian jets intruding in the Golan no-flight zone.

This threat followed the first Syria air strike over Quneitra on Aug. 28, against which Israel refrained from interfering. But Damascus was obviously not deterred from launching another air strike over the Golan to support its coming offensive.
Wednesday night, the Security Council called on all UN members who had any influence with Nusra al-Jabha to intercede for the release of the 44 UN Fijian observers the Islamist group is holding hostage since last week. The same resolution also ordered Nusra to immediately return the weapons and vehicles, some of them armored, they had seized from the UN Disengagement and Observer Force.
With the Syrian sword about to fall on their heads, it is doubtful that the Syrian Islamists will heed either of those calls.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is "racing ahead" of efforts to control it, and controlling the epidemic will cost at least $US600 million ($644 million), world health officials say.
The number of people infected with Ebola has grown to 3500, with more than 1900 deaths, according to the World Health Organisation.
"We do need a major response," said WHO director-general Margaret Chan.

WHO last week estimated that the outbreak - which now includes Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal - could grow to 20,000 cases and could take six to nine months to contain. WHO also outlined a "road map" to controlling it that would cost $US490 million.

WHO also announced new cases in Nigeria that could signal an ominous turn in that country. Nigeria has confirmed three cases of Ebola in Port Harcourt, the country's oil hub, with additional cases under investigation, WHO said. The outbreak in Port Harcourt has the potential to grow larger and spread faster than the outbreak in Lagos, the Nigerian capital.
The cases in Port Harcourt are related to a man in Lagos who was a close contact of Nigeria's first Ebola death, American diplomat Patrick Sawyer. The contact fled the city where he was under quarantine, and sought treatment in Port Harcourt, according to WHO.

Former top government officials who have been warning Washington about the vulnerability of the nation’s largely unprotected electric grid are raising new fears that troops from the jihadist Islamic State are poised to attack the system, leading to a power crisis that could kill millions.
“Inadequate grid security, a porous U.S.-Mexico border, and fragile transmission systems make the electric grid a target for ISIS,” said Peter Pry, one of the nation’s leading experts on the grid.
Others joining Pry at a press conference later Wednesday to draw attention to the potential threat said that if just a handful of the nation’s high voltage transformers were knocked out, blackouts would occur across the country.
“By one estimate, should the power go out and stay out for over a year, nine out of 10 Americans would likely perish,” said Frank Gaffney, founder and president of the Center for Security Policy in Washington.
At the afternoon press conference, Gaffney dubbed the potential crisis the "grid jihad."
A lack of electricity would shut off water systems, impact city transportation services and shutdown hospitals and other big facilities. Fresh and frozen foods also would be impacted as would banks, financial institutions and utilities.
Pry provided details of recent attacks on electricity systems and said that ISIS could easily team with Mexican drug cartels to ravage America.
He told Secrets, for example, that the Knights Templar drug gang blacked out the electric grid of the Mexican state of Michoacan in 2013 to provide cover for killing those fighting the drug trade.
“The Knights Templars and other criminal gangs in Mexico will do anything for money, and ISIS, the richest terrorist organization in history, has hundreds of millions of dollars at its disposal,” said Pry.
“ISIS could hire one of the Mexican cartels, or one of their criminal gangs already in the U.S., or activate jihadist terror cells already in the U.S., and inflict a multi-state blackout immediately, within days or weeks. Perhaps even a nationwide blackout,” Pry explained to Secrets.

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