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Posts Tagged ‘Black Sea’

From the Black Sea to the East Med, don’t poke The Russian Bear

Posted by M. C. on February 26, 2022

The US shouldn’t have poked the Russian Bear. Now it is fully awake: after Ukraine, the Russians are likely to do a clean sweep of foreign belligerents poking around the East Med and the Black Sea.

Russia also has stationed a few Mig-31Ks in Syria’s coastal region in Latakia equipped with hypersonic Khinzals – more than enough to sink any kind of US surface group, including aircraft carriers, in the East Med. The US has no air defense mechanism whatsoever with even a minimal chance of intercepting them.

So the rules have changed. Drastically.

By Pepe Escobar

This is what happens when a bunch of ragged hyenas, jackals and tiny rodents poke The Bear: a new geopolitical order is born at breathtaking speed.

From a dramatic meeting of the Russian Security Council to a UN history lesson delivered by Russian President Vladimir Putin and the subsequent birth of the Baby Twins – the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk – all the way to the breakaway republics’ appeal to Putin to intervene militarily to expel the NATO-backed Ukrainian bombing-and-shelling forces from Donbass, it was a seamless process, executed at warp speed.

The (nuclear) straw that (nearly) broke the Bear’s back – and forced it to pounce – was Comedian/Ukrainian President Volodymy Zelensky, back from the Russophobia-drenched Munich Security Conference where he was hailed like a Messiah, saying that the 1994 Budapest memorandum should be revised and Ukraine should be nuclear-rearmed.

That would be the equivalent of a nuclear Mexico south of the Hegemon.

Putin immediately turned Responsibility to Protect (R2P) upside down: an American construct invented to launch wars was retrofitted to stop a slow-motion genocide in Donbass.

First came the recognition of the Baby Twins – Putin’s most important foreign policy decision since inserting Russian jets into Syria’s airspace in 2015. That was the preamble for the next game-changer: a “special military operation…aimed at demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine,” as Putin defined it.

Up to the last minute, the Kremlin was trying to rely on diplomacy, explaining to Kiev the necessary imperatives to prevent heavy metal thunder: recognition of Crimea as Russian; abandoning any plans to join NATO; negotiating directly with the Baby Twins – an anathema for the Americans since 2015; finally, demilitarizing and declaring Ukraine as neutral.

Kiev’s handlers, predictably, would never accept the package – as they didn’t accept the Master Package that really matters, which is the Russian demand for “indivisible security.”

The sequence, then, became inevitable. In a flash, all Ukrainian military forces between the so-called line of contact and the original borders of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts were re-framed as an occupying army in Russian-allied territories that Moscow had just sworn to protect.

Get Out – Or Else

The Kremlin and the Russian Ministry of Defense were not bluffing. Timed to the end of Putin’s speech announcing the operation, the Russians decapitated with precision missiles everything that mattered in terms of the Ukrainian military in just one hour: Air force, navy, airfields, bridges, command and control centers, the whole Turkish Bayraktar drone fleet.

And it was not only Russian raw power. It was the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) artillery that hit the Armed Forces of Ukraine headquarters in Donbass, which actually housed the entire Ukrainian military command. This means that the Ukrainian General Staff instantly lost control of all its troops.

This was Shock and Awe against Iraq, 19 years ago, in reverse: not for conquest, not as a prelude for an invasion and occupation. The political-military leadership in Kiev did not even have time to declare war. They froze. Demoralized troops started deserting. Total defeat – in one hour.

The water supply to Crimea was instantly re-established. Humanitarian corridors were set up for the deserters. Ukrainian forces remnants now include mostly surviving Azov batallion Nazis, mercenaries trained by the usual Blackwater/Academi suspects, and a bunch of Salafi-jihadis.

Predictably, western corporate media has already gone totally berserk, branding it as the much-awaited Russian ‘invasion.’ A reminder: when Israel routinely bombs Syria and when the House of One Saudi routinely bombs Yemeni civilians, there is never any peep in NATO’s media.

As it stands, realpolitik spells out a possible endgame, as voiced by Donetsk’s head, Denis Pushilin: “The special operation in Donbass will soon be over and all the cities will be liberated.”

We could soon witness the birth of an independent Novorossiya – east of the Dnieper, south along Sea of Azov/Black Sea, the way it was when attached to Ukraine by Lenin in 1922. But now it would be totally aligned with Russia, and providing a land bridge to Transnistria.

Ukraine, of course, would lose any access to the Black Sea. History loves playing tricks: what was a ‘gift’ to Ukraine in 1922 may become a parting gift a hundred years later.

It’s creative destruction time

It will be fascinating to watch what Prof. Sergey Karaganov masterfully described, in detail, as the new Putin doctrine of constructive destruction, and how it will interconnect with West Asia, the Eastern Mediterranean and further on down the Global South road.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the ceremonial NATO Sultan, denounced the recognition of the Baby Twins as “unacceptable.” No wonder: that shift smashed all his elaborate plans to pose as privileged mediator between Moscow and Kiev during Putin’s upcoming visit to Ankara. The Kremlin – as well as the Foreign Ministry – don’t waste time talking to NATO minions.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, for his part, had a recent, very productive entente with Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad. Russia, this past weekend, has staged a spectacular strategic missile display, hypersonic and otherwise, featuring Khinzal, Zircon, Kalibr, Yars ICBMs, Iskander and Sineva  – irony of ironies, in synch with the Russophobia-fest in Munich. In parallel, Russian Navy ships of the Pacific, Northern and Black Sea fleets performed a series of submarine search drills in the Mediterranean.

The Putin doctrine privileges the asymmetrical – and that applies to the near abroad and beyond. Putin’s body language, in his last two crucial interventions, spell out nearly maximum exasperation. As in realizing, not auspiciously, but rather in resignation, that the only language Beltway Neo-conservatives and ‘humanitarian imperialists’ understand is heavy metal thunder. They are definitely deaf, dumb and blind to history, geography and diplomacy.

So, one can always game the Russian military – for instance, imposing a no-fly zone in Syria to conduct a series of visits by Mr. Khinzal not only to the Turk-protected shady jihadist umbrella in Idlib but also the jihadists protected by the Americans in Al-Tanf base, near the Syria-Jordan border. After all, these specimens are all NATO proxies.

The US government barks non-stop about “territorial sovereignty.” So let’s game the Kremlin asking the White House for a road map on getting out of Syria: after all the Americans are illegally occupying a section of Syrian territory and adding extra disaster to the Syrian economy by stealing their oil.

NATO’s stultifying leader, Jens Stoltenberg, has announced the alliance is dusting off its “defense plans.” That may include little more than hiding behind their expensive Brussels desks. They are as inconsequential in the Black Sea as in the East Med – as the US remains quite vulnerable in Syria.

There are now four Russian TU-22M3 strategic bombers in Russia’s Hmeimim base in Syria, each capable of carrying three S-32 anti-ship missiles that fly at supersonic Mach 4.3 with a range of 1,000 km. No Aegis system is able to handle them.

Russia also has stationed a few Mig-31Ks in Syria’s coastal region in Latakia equipped with hypersonic Khinzals – more than enough to sink any kind of US surface group, including aircraft carriers, in the East Med. The US has no air defense mechanism whatsoever with even a minimal chance of intercepting them.

So the rules have changed. Drastically. The Hegemon is naked. The new deal starts with turning the post-Cold War set-up in Eastern Europe completely upside down. The East Med will be next. The Bear is back, hear him roar.

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The U.S. Coast Guard Caught Sailing…Along the Russian Coastline | The Libertarian Institute

Posted by M. C. on April 30, 2021

by Dave DeCamp

black sea map 768x585

For the first time since 2008, a U.S. Coast Guard Cutter entered the Black Sea amid heightened tensions with Russia. The U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet said the USCGC Hamilton entered the waters on Tuesday.

The Sixth Fleet said the Hamilton made the transit “in support of NATO Allies and partners.” The U.S. frequently sends warships into the Black Sea, but this deployment comes at a sensitive time and is clearly meant to send a message to Russia.

The U.S. and its NATO Allies have been hyping Russian military exercises in the region. The Biden administration has expressed “unwavering” support for Ukraine and shipped military equipment to the country amid a stand-off between Kyiv and Moscow.

Russia took notice of the Hamilton and said its Black Sea fleet was monitoring the vessel. “The Black Sea forces and means have begun monitoring the actions of USCGC Hamilton, which entered the Black Sea on April 27,” Russia’s National Defense Control Center said on Tuesday. Russia’s Black Sea fleet also held live-fire exercises in the region.

Separately, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday that U.S. and NATO actions in the region are the region for Moscow’s recent military drills. “The actions of the U.S. and NATO in the European region to increase the combat readiness of troops and strengthen their forward presence is contributing to an increase in military danger,” he said.

NATO forces regularly hold exercises in the Black Sea and are encouraging Ukraine to expand its military presence in the region. In February, Ukraine’s prime minister announced plans for new military bases in the region from NATO headquarters. One will be located on the Black Sea, and the other will be on the Sea of Azov, a waterway between Ukraine and Russia.

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U.S. and NATO demand more interceptor-missile destroyers to operate from Arctic to Antarctic – Anti-bellum

Posted by M. C. on April 1, 2021

Rick Rozoff

The U.S. Navy announced that on March 29 the guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt departed Naval Station Rota in Spain to start a Forward-Deployed Naval Forces-Europe patrol in the Mediterranean Sea (and beyond). While operating in the Mediterranean it will be assigned to the U.S. Sixth Fleet whose area of responsibility the sea is, and will almost certainly enter the Black Sea for exercises after the usual protocol. It’s confirmed that it will participate in exercises in the Baltic Sea and off the coasts of Scotland and Iceland.

This is the warship’s second such deployment.The Naval Station Rota is a colossal base, accommodating U.S. and NATO ships with fuel and logistics requirements as they transit into and out of the Mediterranean. It also contains a 670-acre airfield that is used by U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force aircraft.

USS Roosevelt

The Roosevelt and the other 66 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers Washington has in its almost 500-ship navy (with at least fifteen more under construction and planned) are part of the Aegis Combat System and have been or can be equipped with Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) anti-ballistic missiles or interceptor missiles. (The Standard Missile-3 has been progressing into increasingly more sophisticated and longer-range variants: Block IA, Block IB, Block IIA, Block IIB.)

Although touted as a strictly defensive weapon, what in Pentagonese is called a kinetic hit-to-kill missile with no warhead (in theory), the SM-3 has already superseded the limit of shooting down short- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles initially defined as its purpose and last year the U.S. Defense Department announced an SM-3 shot down an intercontinental ballistic missile in a simulated exercise. (As early as 2016 Russian officials expressed concern that the SM-3 Block IIA “was capable of intercepting missiles not only at the middle stage of their flight path, but earlier in the initial acceleration stage before the separation of their warheads.”) Also, in 2008 the USS Lake Erie, a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser (equipped with SM-3s), shot down a disabled satellite in the exoatmosphere with a modified SM-3. The U.S. Navy has 22 of the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers; with as many as 85 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, active and in the works, the Pentagon will have over a hundred ships equipped to launch SM-3s.

USS Roosevelt, assigned to NATO’s Integrated Air Missile Defense, now in the Mediterranean and most likely shortly in the Black Sea, can at least in theory, then, shoot down an ICBM and a satellite, presumably military as well as civilian.

It is currently one of four SM-3-capable U.S. destroyers continuously based at the Naval Station Rota: The USS Donald Cook, there the whole year, and three others that rotate. In February Donald Cook was in the Black Sea with its counterpart USS Porter to “conduct presence operations, demonstrate commitment to NATO allies and partners in the region, and engage in exercises that strengthen interoperability and collective readiness.”

The four Arleigh Burke-class destroyers equipped for the Aegis Combat System operating out of the Spanish base are part of NATO Missile Defence, which was adopted at the NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal in 2010 and was announced to have achieved interim capability at the summit in Chicago in 2012. When Donald Cook first arrived at Naval Station Rota in 2014 then-NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated, “For the first time, a ship of the United States Navy equipped with the Aegis ballistic missile-defence system is permanently based in Europe.”

In February of last year General Tod Wolters, U.S. European Command commander and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, informed the Senate Armed Services Committee that he wanted two extra Arleigh Burke-class destroyers deployed to Rota.

Each of the destroyers has 56 Tomahawk cruise missiles. Six of the ships deployed in the Mediterranean, or the Black Sea, could then fire 336 of the missiles. It has not been disclosed how many SM-3s they carry.

Given the above reports of the newer versions of the SM-3 being able to shoot down ICBMs as well as satellites, the inevitable question arises of how strictly defensive U.S. and NATO missile defense plans are. What is to prevent anti-ballistic missile SM-3s being used as a threat to the second-strike deterrence capability of another nation, particularly of Russia’s?

In addition, in 2009 the Barack Obama administration announced that it would abandon plans by the George W. Bush administration to deploy elements of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense anti-ballistic missile system in Eastern Europe in favor of what was deemed the European Phased Adaptive Approach or Aegis Ashore alternative. There are (or were) to have been four phases which already have been or will be implemented. They include stationing ground-based SM-3s in Romania – the U.S.-built ballistic missile interceptor site at the Deveselu Air Base was declared operational in 2016 – a radar site at Kürecik in Turkey, a command center at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany and plans for also stationing SM-3s at the Redzikowo military base in Poland.

The Roosevelt‘s presence in the Mediterranean is part of the joint U.S.-NATO, sea- and land-based missile system detailed above. While deployed there it will, according to the U.S. Navy, “conduct maritime security operations in support of national security interests in Europe and Africa”, as well as participating with NATO allies in Exercise Baltic Operations 2021, Exercise Formidable Shield 2021 and Exercise Dynamic Mongoose 2021.

Formidable Shield exercises traditionally feature launching a ballistic missile from the Scottish Hebrides which is shot down by a U.S. ship using an SM-3.

Baltic Operations (Baltops), run by Strike Force NATO, is the largest multinational military exercise conducted in the Baltic Sea.

NATO’s Operation Mongoose exercises are held off Iceland with the participation of submarines, ships and aircraft which engage in anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare maneuvers.

The purview of American and NATO interceptor missile operations goes beyond even the Mediterranean, Black, Baltic, Norwegian, North and Barents Seas and the Atlantic Ocean. In the words of the U.S. Navy press release on the deployment of the Roosevelt, these “Forward-Deployed Naval Forces-Europe ships have the flexibility to operate throughout the waters of Europe and Africa, from the Cape of Good Hope to the Arctic Circle, demonstrating their mastery of the maritime domain.” No land separates the Cape of Good Hope from Antarctica. There’s no reason for the Pentagon and NATO to limit their ambitions to the southern tip of South Africa; why not openly acknowledge they intend to appropriate the entire hemisphere from North Pole to South Pole for their interceptor missile operations?

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Why Russia Likes to Play Aerial ‘Chicken’ with America | The National Interest

Posted by M. C. on August 11, 2020

Nevertheless, the number of such incidents is dwarfed by the surging U.S. military presence along Russia’s border and the incidents that a more robust presence is generating. In other words, most of the interceptions are taking place near Russia and thousands of miles away from the American homeland. The undeniable reality is that the United States and its NATO allies are crowding Russia, not that Russia is crowding the United States, and the aerial encounters must be viewed in that context.

by Ted Galen Carpenter

Over the past few months, there has been a surge of alarming incidents between U.S. and Russian military aircraft. Most of the cases have entailed U.S. spy planes flying near the Russian coast adjacent to the Black Sea—supposedly in international airspace. It is a reckless practice that easily could escalate into a broader, very dangerous confrontation.

The Black Sea region definitely is the epicenter of such episodes. On July 30, a Russian Su-27 jet fighter intercepted two American surveillance aircraft; according to Russian officials, it was the fourth time in the final week of July that they caught U.S. planes in that sector approaching the Russian coast. Yet another interception took place on August 5, again involving two U.S. spy planes. analyst Jason Ditz notes that although U.S. officials did not comment on why those spy planes are there, “the U.S. has seemed to have a growing interest in the Black Sea as tensions grow between Russia and NATO member Romania over control of that inland sea.”

Following the July 30 episode, U.S. officials claimed that the Russian Su-27 “buzzed” the American aircraft, creating a needless safety hazard. That complaint is a frequent U.S. response to such encounters. In January 2018, the Pentagon asserted that a Russian fighter came within five feet of a U.S. Navy plane in an incident over the Black Sea. Similarly, in September 2016, Washington alleged that a Russian fighter flew within ten feet of the U.S. aircraft it was trying to intercept.

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of interceptions of U.S. and NATO military planes each year, not only in the Black Sea region but over the Baltic Sea and areas along the lengthy land border between NATO members and the Russian Federation. In addition, troubling incidents have involved Russian planes buzzing U.S. and NATO ships.

Although both sides can be faulted for engaging in needlessly provocative and dangerous behavior, the United States deserves the bulk of the blame.  As ABC News noted in an April 2020 investigation into such close encounters, most of the episodes have been in the Baltic Sea and Black Sea. The report noted further that “U.S. officials believe Russia’s close encounters with the U.S. military are prompted by Russia’s effort to reassert itself militarily around its borders.”

Granted, Russian aircraft have sometimes conducted provocative aerial approaches to U.S. territory, especially near Alaska, and the frequency of that behavior seems to be growing.  Nevertheless, the number of such incidents is dwarfed by the surging U.S. military presence along Russia’s border and the incidents that a more robust presence is generating. In other words, most of the interceptions are taking place near Russia and thousands of miles away from the American homeland. The undeniable reality is that the United States and its NATO allies are crowding Russia, not that Russia is crowding the United States, and the aerial encounters must be viewed in that context.

One would think that U.S. military and political leaders would exercise greater caution.  It is highly unlikely that the information gathered from spy planes flying off of the Russian coast adds so much to the intelligence already available from satellites that it is worth the risk of a collision and the dangerous diplomatic and military fallout that would ensue. Indeed, the current crop of officials should have learned that lesson from the April 2001 crisis that erupted when a U.S. surveillance plane collided with a Chinese fighter.  Not only was the Chinese pilot killed, but the damaged U.S. aircraft had to make an emergency landing on China’s Hainan Island.

The following days were filled with alarming tensions. Beijing was understandably miffed but then escalated the confrontation by refusing to release the aircraft and—even worse—refusing to release the crew. Eventually, the two governments reached an awkward compromise with George W. Bush’s administration issuing an ultra-vague apology and the crew being able to return home.  China, though, kept the aircraft and its sophisticated technology.

Perhaps most troubling, anti-China hawks in the United States sought to exploit the crisis to promote a much harder-line overall foreign policy toward Beijing. An article by neo-conservative luminaries William Kristol and Robert Kagan was typical.  The authors described the conciliatory U.S. response as “a national humiliation.” Kristol and Kagan saw much wider, dangerous ramifications from such alleged appeasement. “As the Chinese understand better than American leaders, President Bush has revealed weakness. And he has revealed fear: fear of the political, strategic, and economic consequences of meeting a Chinese challenge. Having exposed this weakness and fear, the Chinese will try to exploit it again and again.”

It is a safe bet, that given the current extent of hostility toward Russia among America’s opinion elites, hawkish types would be even more likely to magnify any crisis involving a similar incident. There would be massive political and media pressure on the White House to take an uncompromising stance against Moscow and “stand up to Putin.” The already dangerous cold war with Russia could easily turn hot. Officials authorizing the provocative spy plane flights along Russia’s borders are playing a game of international chicken.  And as the outcomes of games of chicken using automobiles have shown far too often, they can end tragically.  Responsible military and civilian officials should not behave in such a juvenile fashion.

Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow in security studies at the Cato Institute and a contributing editor at the National Interest, is the author of twelve books and more than 850 articles on international affairs. 

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