Thursday, April 3, 2014

Evening Update: War Preparations As Peace Deal Crumbles

The German government is considering providing military support to Eastern European nato members,Der Spiegel reported on March 29. The German Defense Ministry is planning to provide six reconnaissance aircraft for air surveillance over the Baltic states, and may also provide a lead ship for an already existing nato naval force.

Six reconnaissance planes is hardly an overwhelming response, and it will probably leave Eastern Europe wanting more. However, it is a major step for this typically reluctant military power, and one that has surprised many analysts. Moreover, German opinion polls are clear: the general public do not want any increase in German military activity in response to Russia.

The German Defense Ministry responded to Der Spiegel’s report by saying that any military mission would first have to be approved by Germany’s politicians. A Defense Ministry spokesman said that once that approval was given “the army could take part in flights to patrol airspace with awacs [Airborne early Warning And Control System] machines over Romania and Poland as well as training flights in the framework of a nato air policing mission over Baltic states.”
With the German public firmly against any kind of military confrontation with Russia, Germany has to take small steps. But soon, in a limited way, German troops will be on the front lines of Europe’s defense against Russia. As Eastern Europe increasingly looks to Germany for protection, watch for Germany to step up to the roll.

Russia expects detailed explanations from NATO regarding expanding its military presence in Eastern Europe, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The statement comes after NATO bloc announced boosting its military presence in the area.
"We have addressed questions to the North Atlantic military alliance. We are not only expecting answers, but answers that will be based fully on respect for the rules we agreed on," Lavrov told reports at a joint briefing with Kazakhstan’s FM Yerlan Idrisov.
Lavrov's statement came after the NATO chief, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said the bloc will deploy more troops to Eastern Europe. According to him, NATO is considering “revised operational plans, military maneuvers and adequate troop reinforcements.” This military buildup was approved by many eastern European countries. On April 1, Polish PM Donald Tusk praised the NATO presence in the country.
After the announcement of deploying troops in Ukraine, NATO also said that it is suspending all military and civilian cooperation with Russia over the Ukrainian crisis, a move that was immediately blasted by Moscow who said that neither Russia, not NATO would benefit from such a step. Russia called this move reminiscent of Cold War language.
Lavrov also called upon the world’s powers to abide by the rules of the Montreux Convention, which allows a warship of any non-Black Sea country to stay in the region for only 21 day.
“US warships have recently extended their presence in the Black Sea several times,” he said, “This extension didn’t always obey the rules of the Montreux Convention."

The statement comes after the USS Truxtun destroyer started a military exercises in March with the Bulgarian and Romanian navies a few hundred miles from Russian forces of the Black Sea Fleet.
Meanwhile, Lavrov also responded to Western criticism over the presence of Russian troops along the border with Ukraine, saying that the EU and Kiev should not stir up a conflict surrounding Russian drills launched in the south of the country.
According to the Russian FM, Russia had the right to move forces on its territory, and furthermore the troops would return to their permanent bases after completing military exercises.
“There are no restrictions on Russia’s troop displacement on Russian territory,” he said.

Out of sight, out of mind. That appears to be the status quo on events unfolding in Ukraine, and along the western Russian border for now where, however, things are just as agitated as they have been during the past month. Only this time, not so much next to Ukraine, where the Russian army already has a massive enough military presence to steamroll into the country at a moment's notice, but up north, in this case in the Pskov region where the Russian ministry of defense reported that a major military drill is taking place, right next to the Estonia and Latvia borders. Just in case the former USSR member states needed to be kept on their toes.

Hopefully land targets on the Russian side of the border.
And just in case escalating tensions along Russia's western border - and one can be certain Estonia and Latvia will scream bloody murder any second - here is a retired Chinese general who just told SCMP that a "war with Japan over territorial disputes is becoming increasingly likely" and that China is more than capable of defending itself.

A retired People's Liberation Army senior officer says a war with Japan over territorial disputes is becoming increasingly likely and that China is more than capable of defending itself.

Luo declined to say how many fighter jets the PLA would mobilise in an armed conflict. He said China had an overwhelming advantage in the number and types of aircraft available.

"China has several military airports along the southeast coast that could provide effective logistical support to PLA fighter jets because those air force bases are much closer to the Diaoyus," he said.

While it is quite clear, what is most disturbing about this story is just how much thought has gone into this analysis:

And the bigest question mark: does China believe the US would step in to defend Japan? "Luo argued the US would not intervene in any conflict."
If China indeed believes this, then the probability of an armed conflict with Japan over whatever pretext, is far higher than the experts - ostensibly the same experts who said the probability of Russia annexing Crimea is non-existant - believe.

US-brokered Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are on the brink of collapse after nine months of rather fruitless negotiations, and the Obama Administration appears ready to throw its hands in the air in defeat.
“You can facilitate, you can push, you can nudge, but the parties themselves have to make fundamental decisions and compromises,” US Secretary of State John Kerry, the main facilitator of the talks, told reporters in Algeria on Thursday.
At Kerry’s instruction, US envoy Martin Indyk held an eleventh-hour meeting with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Tel Aviv late Wednesday night. But reports were that the gathering was very stormy, and only served to highlight the vast gaps and outright hostility that continue to divide the two sides.

According to the Palestinian news agency Ma’an, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat (pictured with Kerry) opened the meeting by informing his Israeli counterparts that he was representing the “state of Palestine,” and not a mere political entity granted authority by Israel. That greatly angered chief Israeli negotiator and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.
Erekat’s boasting came a day after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas signed 15 treaties in a new effort to gain official recognition for Palestinian sovereignty from the international community.
Prior to Wednesday night’s meeting with Erekat, Livni insisting that the Palestinian Authority had violated its primary commitment in the peace process by seeking recognition outside of a bilateral agreement.
“The PA has breached its obligations by applying to the UN,” said Livni. “If they want a state they need to understand that it will only be established on the negotiating table.”

The Obama Adminsitration, meanwhile, tried to draw a bit of moral equivalency between the two sides, suggesting that the construction of 700 new apartment units in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo was equally egregious as Abbas’ maneuvering at the UN.
“Unhelpful, unilateral actions both parties have taken in recent days” are jeopardizing progress toward peace, stated White House deputy spokesman Josh Earnest.

US lawmakers weren’t buying the White House’s attempt to downplay the Palestinian Authority’s violation. At a meeting of the US House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, American Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power was told that the Obama Administration must make absolutely clear that Abbas’ scheming is unacceptable, and that it could cost the Palestinians’ any further US financial aid.
Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel suggested a more harsh response. In a post to his Facebook page, Ariel wrote:
“The Palestinians applying to the UN breaks all the rules, and we have to respond in kind - by canceling the Oslo Accords, which have only brought terror and murder. The Palestinians have proven once again that there is no reason to give them false gifts, and release terrorists and murderers for a process whose conclusion is well known in advance.”

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