NATO, US Military Tighten Ring Around Russia

The Obama Administration and its NATO co-conspirators are tightening the noose they hope to ring around Moscow’s neck, allegedly in an effort to force Russia to “de-escalate” the Ukraine crisis. The destroyer USS Truxtun passed through the Dardanelles today, on its way into the Black Sea for “previously scheduled” exercises with the Bulgarian and Romanian navies. The Truxtun left Norfolk, Va., last month, as part of the USS George HW Bush aircraft carrier battle group and had been in port in Souda Bay, Greece, according to a US Navy press release, until it departed for the Black Sea, yesterday. The Bush is currently on a port visit in Pireaus, Greece, according to the “Status of the Navy” website.

Meanwhile, the six additional F-15 fighter jets that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced yesterday would be deploying to Lithuania have reportedly arrived, more than doubling the size of the NATO air policing mission in the Baltics. Lithuania’s defense minister said the move was in response to Russia’s “aggression in Ukraine and its amplified military activity in the Kaliningrad region.”

Meanwhile, Polish President Donald Tusk announced yesterday that his government would be consulting with the US on expanding military ties between the two countries. This includes cooperating to organize joint Air Force drills with the participation of the Polish and US air forces,” he said, reports Defense News. “We have to be prepared for long-term instability across Poland’s eastern border. This is why we will be developing a range of means to strengthen our fast-response capacity in critical situations,” he added. Poland has already embarked on a major military modernization program, to include development of its own missile defense capability, which Hagel vowed to aid during his visit to Warsaw, last month.

Separately, Tomasz Siemoniak, Poland’s Minister of National Defense, announced that a dozen US Air Force F-16 jets would be arriving in Poland, next week, along with 300 military personnel, to participate in a training exercise. According to the International Business Times, Siemoniak said that the exercise was originally scheduled to be smaller, but Poland had requested it be enlarged after Russia “invaded” Crimea. “When we face such a dramatic challenge for our security, we need to reassure our allies that our security guarantees are valid,” US ambassador to Poland, Stephen Mull said.

Russian actions in response might indicate that these US military moves are anything but “symbolic,” as some Western press commentaries suggest. Two days ago, on March 5, the Russian Defense Ministry announced the test-firing of an RS-12M Topol ICBM from a launch site in Astrakhan, a mere 280 miles from the Ukrainian border, to the Kapustin Yar test site in Kazakhstan. The ministry stated that there would be two more ICBM test launches before the end of March. The US National Security Council treated the test as a routine event in accord with the New START Treaty, but in such extraordinary times as these, even previously scheduled events are anything but routine.

The ICBM test was followed by a snap exercise of air defense forces in Russia’s Western Military District, following on the broader snap drills of air, ground and naval forces in the Western and Central military districts that concluded, last week.

In Crimea itself, Ukrainian officers interviewed by the Los Angeles Times blame the Russian Black Sea fleet for the sinking of an old Russian ship across the entrance to a body of water called Donuzlav Lake, about 80 miles north of Sevastopol, blocking in a Ukrainian navy base. In a separate article, the same Times reporter also reports that Russian troops have lifted the blockade of some Ukrainian military bases in the Crimea.

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