July 20, 2024


NATO Responds to Russia’s Military Activity in the Baltic Region

Dictator Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials have made repeated threats against the three Baltics nations—Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia—that were once part of the Soviet Union. Russia’s leaders have also threatened Poland and other Eastern European countries that were former allies of the Soviet Union. It is for this reason and in response to Moscow’s increased military activity near the borders of these nations that NATO and the United States are preparing to put four battalions—a force of about 4,000 troops—in Poland and the Baltic countries to reinforce their borders with Russia.

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Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work

Julian E. Barnes wrote an article titled “NATO Allies Preparing to Put Four Battalions at Eastern Border with Russia” which was published in the Wall Street Journal on April 29, 2016. The reporter said that the United States will provide two battalions, while Germany and Britain would likely provide a battalion each.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work, while visiting Brussels, Belgium said the buildup was a response to more Russian activity around the Baltics—Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia—where tensions have been rising. Work stated the following: “The Russians have been doing a lot of snap exercises right up against the borders, with a lot of troops. From our perspective, we could argue this is extraordinarily provocative behavior.”

Russian officials have repeatedly lied and said their own buildup and exercises are a response to NATO’s troop buildup and aggressive activities. However, it was Russia which invaded Ukraine militarily and annexed its Crimean peninsula and currently is occupying with its proxies the eastern part of that nation.

Barnes explained that Deputy Secretary of Defense Work said that the precise American contribution was still being discussed. But other officials said the United States was discussing sending two battalions.


For the second time, in violation of an existing treaty, a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft made a very-low altitude pass by the USS Donald Cook on April 12, 2016.

Tensions between the United States and Russia have grown after Russian aircrafts have repeatedly buzzed over the destroyer USS Donald Cook on two separate instances. On April 10, 2014, the USS Donald Cook entered the Black Sea during the time Russia invaded and annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. Two days later, an unarmed Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack fighter jet made 12 close-range passes of the USS Donald Cook during a patrol of the western Black Sea. In 2014, Russia′s news media outlets ran a series of reports that claimed that during that incident the Su-24, equipped with the Khibiny electronic warfare system, disabled the destroyer´s Aegis combat systems. The jamming claims were ignored by Western mainstream media.

On April 11 and 12, 2016, a pair of Russian Su-24s attack aircraft performed several low passes on the Donald Cook while the destroyer was conducting exercises with a Polish helicopter in international waters in the Baltic Sea about 70 nautical miles (81 miles) off the Russian city of Kaliningrad. During these flights, the Russian aircraft passed over the destroyer at very low altitudes. A Russian Ka-27 Helix anti-submarine helicopter also circled the destroyer seven times.

The United States government filed a complaint with the Russian government. In response, Secretary of State John Kerry said regarding the incident that “under the rules of engagement, that could have been a shoot-down.” Moscow responded that the United States likewise, “ought to know that Donald Cook approached our borders and may already be unable to depart those operating in the Baltic Sea off the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.”

Russia did not like that a U.S. destroyer was operating too close to its military bases in Kaliningrad. However, as said earlier, the destroyer was 81 miles from the Russian city in international waters. Russian nuclear aircrafts have approached the Unites States Pacific coast much closer over the last few years. Putin has provoked the Obama administration numerous times and the president’s reaction has been one of complete silence, only Pentagon officials complaining. This has been perceived by Putin as weakness which has emboldened the Russian dictator to continue to provoke the United States and its allies.

Barnes pointed out that Deputy Secretary Work said it is an accepted practice for airplanes to fly over ships to announce their presence, as long as they do it from a safe altitude. But the Russian fighter jets flying over the USS Donald Cook were simulating attack runs, a provocative maneuver, and came far too close, he said. Work stated the following: “I grew up in the Cold War in the military, and when I heard the Russians buzzed the Donald Cook I said, ‘What is new?’ But it was really new. This type of activity, this type of repeated simulated attack runs, at an extremely low level is unsafe and dangerous.” One risk, Work said, is that a Russian pilot flies too close to a U.S. ship and then crashes. “You just don’t want those miscalculations and misunderstandings to occur,” he explained. As NATO increases its troop presence in the Baltic region, Work said, more will need to be done to avoid the potential for an accident or crisis.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel said that the participation of a sizable German military force is particularly important to create an effective deterrent against Russia and give Germany a more important role in NATO. Chancellor Angela Merkel and her top officials have been making the case for more German engagement on international security matters, arguing that the country’s safety and export-driven economy depend on global stability.

German officials were considering plans ahead of a NATO summit in Warsaw in July 2016 to lead a battalion to be based in Lithuania, but a final decision had not been reached. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on April 29, 2016, “We are currently reviewing how we can continue or strengthen our engagement.”

Barnes wrote that a poll published recently found that just 31% of Germans would support sending German troops to defend the Baltic States or Poland against an attack from Russia. About half of Germans oppose setting up NATO bases in eastern member nations of the alliance to deter Russia, the poll found, while 40% said they would support such a move. A Russian attack against a NATO member nation under the treaty requires an immediate declaration of war by the United States and all its NATO allies.

Since Poland and the Baltic nations have been continuously threatened by Putin, these countries have been pressing for as large a presence as possible of NATO forces. The United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom have said the military force must be in keeping with the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act, which prohibits substantial numbers of combat troops from being permanently stationed on Russia’s borders. NATO officials said the 1997 document does not put a precise number of troops.

These three countries believe that a force of four battalions is in keeping with those restrictions. American and German officials stated that since the forces will rotate in and out of the Baltic region, they will not constitute a permanent force. Russian officials have said NATO is playing games with words and is in violation of the agreement.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov appeared with Hillary Clinton at a meeting. The “reset” Russian policy implemented by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama was a complete failure.

Gabriella Hoffman wrote an article titled “The Baltics Boldly Defied the Kremlin to Achieve their Independence” which was published in the website The Resurgent on April 29, 2016. She said that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that the Baltic nations-Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania- are “ungrateful” to Russia for allowing them to peacefully break away in the early 1990’s. Lavrov specifically called out Lithuania that was his ancestral homeland as the most “most aggressive, Russo-phobic country.” He accused Lithuania of pushing NATO in an anti-Russian direction. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said that “They joined NATO but there was no calm, especially not with our Lithuanian neighbor.”

Hoffman wrote that Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius responded to Lavrov’s comments and suggested they were “pure propaganda.” “The term Russo-phobe is totally inappropriate. I would agree with Kremlin-phobe, as we can see a difference between Russia and its rulers’ policies,” he said.

The Kremlin invaded the three small Baltic nations during World War II and killed many of their citizens. The Russian grip on Lithuania and 14 other countries was brutal.

Hoffman explained that for decades Soviet-controlled Russia demeaned Lithuanians as “fascists” for not going along with Soviet policies, as they did with other people they oppressed. Hoffman stated the following: “The USSR was doomed to collapse given its evil ideology, various human rights abuses, and unsustainable anti-growth policies. The Baltics valiantly broke away from the USSR in 1990-1991, with Lithuania first taking the plunge on March 11, 1990. Several million people across all three Baltic nations held a peaceful yet effective protest called the Baltic Way prior to the Berlin Wall falling to signal their desire for freedom. Countless people died fighting to achieve independence in the process–independence the Kremlin was reluctant to cede them.”

Hoffman asked this question, who will stand up to Russia in the coming year? She said the following: “Certainly not Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump. Clinton orchestrated the Russian “reset” in 2012 and Trump has deeply questionable ties to the Putin oligarchy.”

Other serious incidents with Russian aircrafts

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Tupolev Tu-95MS Bear strategic bombers fly in formation over Red Square during the Victory Day parade in Moscow, May 9, 2015.

In October 2015 Russian bombers came within one nautical mile of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan off the Korean peninsula. This illegal and dangerous incident, prohibited by a treaty between Russia and the United States, prompted the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to send its fighter jets to confront the Tupolev Tu-95MS Bear strategic bombers.

The giant Tupolev bomber aircraft, also known as the Bear, flew as low as 500 feet as it approached the Reagan, which had been conducting maneuvers with the South Korean Navy. As the two Tupolevs approached, the aircraft carrier Reagan launched four F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets to intercept and identify a standard procedure when encountering unidentifiable aircraft. While the USS Ronald Reagan sent up four combat aircraft to deal with the two bombers, the entire incident took place in international waters, making the approach provocative and dangerous.

Russian aircraft have made a habit since 2014 of testing international boundaries by violating the airspace of other countries and approaching United States and NATO ships. America has described these incidents as “provocative” action.

Russian planes too close for comfort Russian aircrafts have made a habit since 2014 of testing international boundaries by violating the airspace of other nations and approaching United States and NATO airplanes and ships in provocative ways.

Laura Smith-Spark wrote an article titled “Why are Russia sending bombers close to U.S. airspace?” which was published by CNN on July 27, 2015. The reporter explained that two Russian bombers intercepted by U.S. fighter jets off the California coast on July 4, 2015 “could be seen as having raised a metaphorical middle finger to the United States.” The Russian pilots said, according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the following: “Good morning, American pilots. We are here to greet you on your Fourth of July Independence Day.”

Smith-Spark pointed out that a NORAD spokesman declined to describe the July Fourth incident as a threat but said it was “potentially destabilizing” because it was unannounced and the bombers in question are nuclear-capable. In neither case did the Russian planes enter U.S. airspace, which extends 12 nautical miles from American coastlines. The U.S. fighter jets tracked them until they turned around. The encounter roughly 40 miles off California’s coast was more unusual as Russian planes do not often fly that far south. U.S. fighter jets also intercepted two other Russian Tu-95 bombers the same day off the southern coast of Alaska. When the American fighter jets flew up to intercept the Russian bombers, they turned away.

Smith-Spark said that according to Nick de Larrinaga, Europe editor for IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, it is all part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to reassert his country’s presence on the international stage. “His view is that Russia’s political standing and the respect accorded to it have fallen away very much since the end of the Cold War,” Larrinaga said. The current muscle flexing is all part of Putin’s push to make sure Russia gets the respect it deserves, Larrinaga said, and demonstrate that it is “still a global military power and a force to be reckoned with.” However, for Congressman Adam Kinzinger, Republican from Illinois and an Air Force veteran, the Tu-95 bombers’ visit should be seen as “an act of aggression” intended to convey the idea of Russian might.

Congressman Kinzinger told CNN the following: “If you ever have any doubt whether the Cold War is back on, I mean these are the kind of maneuvers that show that it is. I think there has been a re-establishment, probably not to the intensity it was in the ’80s, but a re-establishment of, in essence, kind of Cold War principles, where, you know, at that time, it was all a show of force from both sides.”

Smith-Spark explained that Congressman Kinzinger believes that Putin is seeking to test the West’s will with such sorties, as he figures out how far he can push before provoking a response. “That’s why it’s important for us to stand up now and make it very clear that we’re not going to be bullied,” he said. Nick de Larrinaga pointed out the danger of the Russian pilots coming so close to U.S. aircrafts and said, “Any time you have military aircraft of two different nations coming into close proximity to each other when they are not communicating, it does raise the prospects of accidents happening.” Both the Russians and other nations sending intercepting aircraft have previously complained of the other side coming dangerously close, he said. And while the pilots are highly skilled, making a collision unlikely, it can happen.

In 2001, a U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft and a Chinese fighter jet collided during just such an interception near Hainan Island in the South China Sea. While the damaged U.S. airplane managed to make an emergency landing, the Chinese aircraft crashed and its pilot was killed. The Chinese blamed the United States, and the stranded U.S. crew was not permitted to leave for more than a week.

Smith-Spark wrote that Congressman Kinzinger warned of the broader risk that an unpredictable Russia “could take one wrong move” — perhaps by calculating it can move into Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania without provoking a NATO response — “and that can lead to, you know, at best, a regional war, but potentially a world war scenario, as NATO is forced to defend its own territory.”

On December 19, 2014, Bill Gertz reported in the website the Washington Free Beacon that in another provocative incident, Russian strategic bombers conducted a third circumnavigation of the United States Pacific island of Guam. Two Tu-95 Bear H bombers made the flight around Guam, on December 13, 2014. No U.S. jets were dispatched to shadow the bombers. About the same time in Europe, NATO jets intercepted Russian Tu-95 and Tu-22 bombers that were also conducting provocative flights. Earlier Russian bomber flights around the 36-mile-long island took place in November and on February 12, 2013. During the 2013 incursion, F-15 jets were scrambled to intercept the Russian bombers.

Gertz explained that Guam is about 3,800 miles west of Hawaii and includes 160,000 people including 6,000 military personnel. The Pacific Command beginning in 2000 started “to build up air and naval forces on Guam to boost U.S. deterrence and power projection in Asia.” The U.S. Army deployed its newest missile defenses to Guam in 2013. The terminal high-altitude area defense battery, or THAAD, is based on Andersen Air Force Base. The Navy also has deployed three attack submarines on Guam. The island is also a major electronic intelligence-gathering base.

Gertz pointed out that Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said during a visit to Guam in August 2014 that “Guam has always been a central part of our plans” for shifting military forces to the region. The Air Force frequently deploys both B-2 and B-52 strategic bombers and fighter aircraft, along with long-range Global Hawk drones. Around 5,000 Marines now based on Okinawa are slated to be moved to Guam. THAAD is a land-based element that can shoot down a ballistic missile inside and just outside the atmosphere. It uses hit-to-kill technology: Kinetic rather than explosive energy destroys the incoming warhead.

It should not come as surprise Putin’s repeated threats against the three small Baltic nations and other countries such as Poland. Obama’s weak foreign policy and his shutting down of the anti-ballistic missiles (ABM) defense systems that President George W. Bush installed in Poland and the Czech Republic in 2009 sent a signal to Putin that this president gave him a free hand in Eastern Europe.

The “reset” policy implemented by Obama and Hillary Clinton was a colossal failure. Russia is not and has never been a friend of the United States. It is foolish by Hillary Clinton or any another politician of either party to think that the United States and Russia can get along together. The Soviet Union and now Russia would like to destroy our beloved country. This is why Putin is preparing Russia for a future war with the United States by rapidly rearming its Armed Forces and improving its nuclear arsenal.

Lavrov’s comments are in line with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin–a former Colonel of the KGB– who has lamented the demise of the Soviet Union and expressed his desire to recreate it. Additionally, Putin has been trying to reconstitute former occupied nations through a Eurasian Union to counter the European Union. Russia has tried to reassert itself in Eastern Europe and Asia with its invasion of Georgia, the annexation of Crimea, and the war against Ukraine.

Russia is bound to flex its muscles in Eastern Europe again with its continual threats–as the recent threats directed at the Baltic nations. What would happen if Russia invades the three small Baltic nations that are members of NATO? Will the United States and its NATO allies defend militarily these nations which they must do according to the treaty?

Does this mean the need to go to war with Russia and China? Hopefully not. However, the rapid rearmament of both Russia and China could end in World War III, if these two nations and their allies think that they can destroy the United States without any consequences.

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