Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced Wednesday that Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist, Lance Cpl. Squire D. “Skip” Wells, Sgt. DeMonte Cheeley and Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith would all receive the award.
The announcement comes the same day the FBI announced that the Chattanooga shooter, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, was “inspired by a foreign terror organization.” It’s not clear what organization Abdulazeez, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Kuwait, might have been emulating.
“Following an extensive investigation, the FBI and NCIS have determined that this attack was inspired by a foreign terrorist group, the final criteria required for the awarding of the Purple Heart to this sailor and these Marines,” Mabus said in a statement, referring to Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
“This determination allows the Department of the Navy to move forward immediately with the award of the Purple Heart to the families of the five heroes who were victims of this terrorist attack, as well as to the surviving hero, Sgt. Cheeley,” he added.
On July 16, Abdulazeez first attacked a military recruiting office in a drive-by shooting, then traveled to a nearby Navy Reserve center, where he shot five Marines, a sailor and a police officer before he was killed by police.
Cheeley, the Marine recruiter who survived a gunshot to the back of the leg, returned to work the same month, Marine Corps Times reported.
The shocking and tragic attacks inspired a wave of concern over the security of military recruiting facilities and prompted Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to call for better training and “physical security enhancements” to protect the military personnel working at such facilities.
“Although the Purple Heart can never possibly replace this brave Sailor and these brave Marines, it is my hope that as their families and the entire Department of the Navy team continue to mourn their loss, these awards provide some small measure of solace,” Mabus said. “Their heroism and service to our nation will be remembered always.”
A new monument at Arlington National Cemetery, near the U.S. capital, will honor American helicopter crews who flew during the Vietnam War.
The Military Times reports Congress has approved the monument, which will be near the Tomb of the Unknowns.
Spearheading the memorial campaign is retired Air Force Lt. Col. Bob Hesselbein, who flew AH-1 Cobra gunships in Vietnam. Hesselbein says Arlington has the greatest concentration of helicopter-crew casualties from the war.
Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin says the monument will create a “teachable moment” for people to understand the story of pilots and crew members. The U.S. relied heavily on helicopters to transport troops and provide support to ground forces near enemy soldiers in Vietnam.
The nonprofit Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association is paying for the monument.
In a foreign policy world full of different carrots and sticks, the CIA used an interesting incentive to dangle from a pole of enticements: Viagra.
Where money and guns have been the traditional tools of clandestine diplomacy, the New York Times’ CIA sources say the big blue pill was renowned by aging Afghan warlords who have multiple wives to satisfy.
Running money to informants is difficult for the Agency. To keep their assets in place (that is to say, to keep them alive and feeding information) money isn’t always the best motivator. According to the New York Times’ CIA source, the informant will run out and buy conspicuous items with his new funds.
It won’t be hard to figure out where he got those funds.
Guns are another troublesome carrot for potential informants. The CIA has to assume that – in the Afghan world of fluid allegiances – any arms given to today’s ally could be used against American troops by tomorrow’s enemy.
So a magic blue pill that revitalizes an aging man’s libido while invigorating the same man’s ego is a perfect way to cement an uneasy alliance. The nature of the gift keeps the reward from being too obvious or flashy while at the same time, not being something potentially dangerous to U.S. troops in the country.
While Viagra is relatively well-known in Afghanistan (and reportedly sold in markets in the country), CIA officers operating in remote areas have to earn the trust of tribal leaders and be careful not to offend their religious sensibilities when making the initial pitch.
They also have to be careful not to offend anyone’s ego when explaining just what the pill does.
No word on whether Cialis is planning an expansion into the Afghan marketplace.
In the opening days of 1991’s Operation Desert Storm, ships and aircraft from the United States, Great Britain, and Canada, intercepted the Iraqi Navy as it tried to flee into Iran. The resulting battle in the waters between the Shatt al-Arab waterway and Bubiyan Island was one of the most lopsided naval engagements in history, and the Iraqi Navy essentially ceased to exist.
Desert Storm did not go well for Iraq.
Operation Desert Storm kicked off in earnest on Jan. 17, 1991 as Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces refused to leave Kuwait, the neighbor it invaded just a few months earlier. When the deadline to leave passed, Coalition forces took action. One of those actions involved massive naval forces in the Persian Gulf. In the face of this overwhelming opposition, Iraq’s Navy decided to follow the example of Iraq’s Air Force.
They would immediately gear up, head out, and attempt to escape to Iran and away from certain death. Unlike the Air Force, the Navy never quite made it.
Iraq’s Air Force: Property of Iran.
Allied naval forces were actually the first to respond to Iraqi aggression. A joint American-Kuwaiti task force captured Iraqi oil platforms, took prisoners on outlying Iraqi islands, and intercepted an Iraqi attempt to reinforce its amphibious invasion of the Saudi Arabian city of Khafji – those reinforcements never arrived. Instead, the ships they were on were annihilated by Coalition ships.
Any remaining Iraqi Navy ships tried to escape to Iranian territorial waters in a mad dash to not die a fiery, terrible death. They were counting on the idea that small, fast, and highly maneuverable missile craft could make littoral waters too dangerous for heavy oceangoing ships.
Back when Battleships weren’t museums.
In the end, upwards of 140 Iraqi ships were either destroyed by Coalition forces or fled into the hands of the Iranian Navy. American and British ships, British Lynx helicopters, and Canadian CF-18 Hornets made short work of the aging flotilla, in what became known as the “Bubiyan Turkey Shoot.”
The only shot Iraq’s navy was able to fire in return was a Silkworm missile battery, from a land-based launcher, at the American battleship USS Missouri. The missile was destroyed by a Sea Dart missile from the UK’s HMS Gloucester, rendering it as effective as the rest of Iraq’s Navy.
Air Force pilots of the 1980s-era stealthy B-2 Spirit bomber plan to arm the B-2 with new weapons and upgrade the aircraft to fly the aircraft on attack missions against enemy air defenses well into the 2050s, service officials said.
In coming years, the B-2 will be armed with with next generation digital nuclear weapons such as the B-61 Mod 12 with a tail kit and an Long Range Stand-Off weapon or, LRSO, an air-launched, guided nuclear cruise missile, service officials said.
The B-61 Mod 12 is an ongoing modernization program which seeks to integrate the B-61 Mods 3, 4, 7 and 10 into a single variant with a guided tail kit. The B-61 Mod 12 is being engineered to rely on an inertial measurement unit for navigation.
In addition to the LRSO, B83 and B-61 Mod 12, the B-2 will also carry the B-61 Mod 11, a nuclear weapon designed with penetration capabilities, Air Force officials said.
The LRSO will replace the Air Launched Cruise Missile, or ALCM, which right now is only carried by the B-52 bomber, officials said.
Alongside its nuclear arsenal, the B-2 will carry a wide range of conventional weapons to include precision-guided 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs, 5,000-pound JDAMs, Joint Standoff Weapons, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles and GBU 28 5,000-pound bunker buster weapons, among others.
The platform is also preparing to integrate a long-range conventional air-to-ground standoff weapon called the JASSM-ER, for Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, Extended Range.
The B-2 can also carry a 30,000-pound conventional bomb known as the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, Maj. Kent Mickelson, director of operations for 394th combat training squadron, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“This is a GBU-28 (bunker-buster weapon) on steroids. It will go in and take out deeply buried targets,” he said.
“It is a dream to fly. It is so smooth,” Mickelson added.
In a special interview designed to offer a rare look into the technologies and elements of the B-2, Mickelson explained that the platform has held up and remained very effective – given that it was designed and built during the 80s.
Alongside his current role, Mickelson is also a B-2 pilot with experience flying missions and planning stealth bomber attacks, such as the bombing missions over Libya in 2011.
“It is a testament to the engineering team that here we are in 2016 and the B-2 is still able to do its job just as well today as it did in the 80s. While we look forward to modernization, nobody should come away with the thought that the B-2 isn’t ready to deal with the threats that are out there today,” he said. “It is really an awesome bombing platform and it is just a marvel of technology.”
The B-2 is engineered with avionics, radar and communications technologies designed to identify and destroy enemy targets from high altitudes above hostile territory.
“It is a digital airplane. We are presented with what is commonly referred to as glass cockpit,” Mickelson said.
The glass cockpit includes various digital displays, including one showing Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) information which paints a rendering or picture of the ground below.
“SAR provides the pilots with a realistic display of the ground that they are able to use for targeting,” Mickelson said.
The B-2 has a two-man crew with only two ejection seats. Also, the crew is trained to deal with the rigors of a 40-hour mission.
“The B-2 represents a huge leap in technology from our legacy platforms such as the B-52 and the B-1 bomber. This involved taking the best of what is available and giving it to the aircrew,” Mickelson said.
The Air Force currently operates 20 B-2 bombers, with the majority of them based at Whiteman AFB in Missouri. The B-2 can reach altitudes of 50,000 feet and carry 40,000 pounds of payload, including both conventional and nuclear weapons.
The aircraft, which entered service in the 1980s, has flown missions over Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. In fact, given its ability to fly as many as 6,000 nautical miles without need to refuel, the B-2 flew from Missouri all the way to an island off the coast of India called Diego Garcia – before launching bombing missions over Afghanistan.
“Taking off from Whiteman and landing at Diego Garcia was one of the longest combat sorties the B-2 has ever taken. The bomber was very successful in Afghanistan and very successful in the early parts of the wars in Iraq and Libya,” Michelson added.
The B-2 crew uses what’s called a “long-duration kit,” which includes items such as a cot for sleeping and other essentials deemed necessary for a long flight, Mickelson explained.
As a stealth bomber engineered during the height of the Cold War, the B-2 was designed to elude Soviet air defenses and strike enemy targets – without an enemy ever knowing the aircraft was even there. This stealthy technological ability is referred to by industry experts as being able to evade air defenses using both high-frequency “engagement” radar, which can target planes, and lower frequency “surveillance” radar which can let enemies know an aircraft is in the vicinity.
The B-2 is described as a platform which can operate undetected over enemy territory and, in effect, “knock down the door” by destroying enemy radar and air defenses so that other aircraft can fly through a radar “corridor” and attack.
However, enemy air defenses are increasingly becoming technologically advanced and more sophisticated; some emerging systems are even able to detect some stealth aircraft using systems which are better networked, using faster computer processors and able to better detect aircraft at longer distances on a greater number of frequencies.
The Air Force plans to operate the B-2 alongside its new, now-in-development bomber called the Long Range Strike – Bomber, or LRS-B. well into the 2050s.
B-2 Modernization Upgrades – Taking the Stealth Bomber Into the 2050s
As a result, the B-2 fleet is undergoing a series of modernization upgrades in order to ensure the aircraft can remain at its ultimate effective capability for the next several decades, Mickelson said.
One of the key upgrades is called the Defensive Management System, a technology which helps inform the B-2 crew about the location of enemy air defenses. Therefore, if there are emerging air defenses equipped with the technology sufficient to detect the B-2, the aircraft will have occasion to maneuver in such a way as to stay outside of their range.
The Defensive Management System is slated to be operational by the mid-2020s, Mickelson added.
“The whole key is to give us better situational awareness so we are able to make sound decisions in the cockpit about where we need to put the aircraft,” he added.
The B-2 is also moving to an extremely high frequency satellite in order to better facilitate communications with command and control. For instance, the communications upgrade could make it possible for the aircraft crew to receive bombing instructions from the President in the unlikely event of a nuclear detonation.
“This program will help with nuclear and conventional communications. It will provide a very big increase in the bandwidth available for the B-2, which means an increased speed of data flow. We are excited about this upgrade,” Mickelson explained.
The stealth aircraft uses a commonly deployed data link called LINK-16 and both UHF and VHF data links, as well. Michelson explained that the B-2 is capable of communicating with ground control stations, command and control headquarters and is also able to receive information from other manned and unmanned assets such as drones.
Information from nearby drones, however, would at the moment most likely need to first transmit through a ground control station. That being said, emerging technology may soon allow platforms like the B-2 to receive real-time video feeds from nearby drones in the air.
The B-2 is also being engineered with a new flight management control processor designed to expand and modernize the on-board computers and enable the addition of new software.
This involves the re-hosting of the flight management control processors, the brains of the airplane, onto much more capable integrated processing units. This results in the laying-in of some new fiber optic cable as opposed to the mix bus cable being used right now – because the B-2’s computers from the 80s are getting maxed out and overloaded with data, Air Force officials told Scout Warrior.
The new processor increases the performance of the avionics and on-board computer systems by about 1,000-times, he added. The overall flight management control processor effort, slated to field by 2015 and 2016, is expected to cost $542 million.
A stampede of wild boars mauled to death three waiting in ambush Sunday in Iraq, Kurdish said Tuesday.
The mangled bodies were discovered by refugees fleeing territory controlled by the about 50 miles southwest of Kirkuk, said Sheikh Anwar al-Assi, a chief of the local Ubaid tribe and supervisor of anti- forces.
responded by going on a spree of the area’s wild boars, said Brigadier Azad Jelal, the deputy head of the Kurdish intelligence service.
The were preparing an ambush of local tribesmen, al-Assi said. Five other were injured.
“It is likely their movement disturbed a herd of wild pigs, which inhabit the area as well as the nearby cornfields,” he said.
Al-Assi said the executed 25 people attempting to flee three days before the boars .
Anti-jihadist tribesmen retreated to the Hamrin mountains when seized the nearby town of Hawija in 2014.
In short, China has turned their coast guard into a sort of paramilitary force, the largest of it’s kind in the world. In some cases, China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) vessels have simply been painted white and repurposed for maritime “law enforcement.”
Sometimes, the .50 caliber machine guns still hang over the sides of vessels once used for war and now used to intimidate neighboring nations.
But unlike military disputes, where internationally agreed-upon accords regulate standard operating procedures, these coast guard ships fall in a legal gray zone that China has come to exploit.
“What we have is a situation in East Asia where China in particular is not using naval vessels to intimidate, not using [traditional] force, but they’re taking actions that are below that line of triggering any kind of military confrontation, and yet intimidating other actors,” Bonnie Glasser, an expert on security in the Pacific from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider in a phone interview.
Glasser, who headed up the report on China’s coast guard, compiled 45 incidents in the South China Sea and found China’s coast guard involvement in two thirds of them.
But according to Glasser, “what we have been able to compile is just a fraction of the number of incidents in the South China Sea,” where China’s larger ships have repeatedly rammed, harassed, and used water cannons on fishing vessels from the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and others.
“In my conversations in the Philippines — Chinese ramming of other ships is considered to be part of their acceptable rules of engagement. That’s just what they do,” said Glasser.
According to Glasser, the legal framework marks a step in the right direction, but does nothing to stop the harassing actions of China’s coast guard, which operates as a navy in all but name. What’s more, the majority of signatories to the recent ASEAN CUES agreement had already signed a similar agreement in April 2014, rendering the agreement even more empty.
“China’s ASEAN CUES agreement is not new, and was already agreed upon. [Chinese state media] portrayed it as some breakthrough… Everyone is applauding, and it’s nice to have, but it doesn’t address the problem,” said Glasser. The real problem, of course, is that no meaningful laws regulate their paramilitary coast guard.
A boarding team from the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) Haikou makes way toward the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Waesche July, 16, 2014, during a Maritime Interdiction Operations Exercise as part of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014. | U.S Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Manda M. Emery
“China is building very large coast guard vessels,” and lots of them in a “quantity as well as quality” approach, said Glasser. The sheer size of the ships, usually weighing more than 1,000 tons, as well as the way they’re armed, make other nation’s law enforcement craft “pale in comparison.”
Essentially, the Chinese bully civilian craft with hulking boats that intimidate on sight. Only Japan even comes close to having the capability to defend itself, with 105,000 total tonnage of coast guard ships to China’s 190,000. But Glasser says that actual military capability should come second to infrastructure, in the form of internationally agreed-upon law.
“Putting in place acceptable procedures of behavior and other confidence building measures is the way to go, rather than everyone having the ships the size of China’s,” said Glasser, nodding to the potential arms race that could result from China’s unilateral military buildup.
“Many different risks are posed if China goes ahead and develops the Scarborough Shoal… it would undermine US credibility, cause the Chinese to continue to test the US, and push forward a greater agenda of seeking control of the air and sea space,” Glasser said.
Furthermore, China undermining the US would cause “enormous anxiety in the region, with the US seen as weakening in it’s ability and will,” Glasser said.
“Reverberating effects, as well as security threats eventually posed by China having capability near main bases (the Subic Bay) would be a threat to the Philippines and the US.”
So for now, China has found a loophole in international law that allows its paramilitary “second navy” of a coast guard to muscle smaller nations out of their rightful claims. China has shown a persistent will to militarize and enforce its claims in the South China Sea. Unless the US, and its allies in the Pacific, can get China to agree to a legal framework, Beijing appears ready to continue pushing its claims by force.
There is a perceived weakness in the way international law is enforced at sea, and China is exploiting it handily. As Donald Rumsfeld said, “weakness is provocative.”
Edward Snowden won’t see any of the proceeds from his new memoir — instead, the US government is entitled to seize the profits, a federal judge ruled Dec. 17, 2019.
Snowden’s memoir, “Permanent Record,” describes his work as a contractor for the National Security Administration and his 2013 decision to leak government secrets, including the fact that the NSA was secretly collecting citizens’ phone records. Snowden has lived in Moscow since 2013, where he has been granted asylum.
The US sued Snowden on the day his memoir was published in September, alleging that he violated contracts with the NSA by writing about his work there without pre-clearance.
Judge Liam O’Grady made a summary judgement in favor of the US government on Dec. 17, 2019, rejecting requests from Snowden’s lawyers to move the case forward into the discovery stage. O’Grady ruled that Snowden violated his contracts, both with the publication of the memoir and through other public speaking engagements in which he discussed his work for the NSA.
Edward Snowden Speaks Ahead of Memoir Release | NowThis
“Snowden admits that the speeches themselves purport to discuss intelligence-related activities,” O’Grady wrote in his decision, adding that Snowden “breached the CIA and NSA Secrecy agreements.”
In recent years, Snowden has maintained his criticisms of US surveillance while also turning his attention to big tech companies. In November, he decried the practice of aggregating personal data, arguing that Facebook, Google, and Amazon “are engaged in abuse.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
How realistic is the combat in “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back?” To find out, we went to veteran owned and operated Military Muscle Gym in Davie, Florida, where owner Kelsey De Santis — a Marine Corps MP turned martial arts trainer — and MMA star Anthony “Rumble” Johnson broke down the weapon strategy, positioning and disarmament techniques from the film.
Any object can be a weapon, but you have to “make it count”
Positioning is key to destabilizing an opponent and gaining an advantage
Disarming a gun attacker at close range, according to a U.S. Coast Guard Weapons Specialist
From stories of MRE jalapeño cheese-packet mac cheese to homecoming meals made by family members, the fond memories of food while serving can be vivid and sometimes terrifying. Watch how Navy veteran and pop-up chef August Dannehl cooks a four-course meal for his fellow vets with each course inspired by the veterans’ stories from service.
Amuse: Habanero Truffle Mac Cheese with 3 Cheeses and Leek
David Burnell’s memory comes from the times serving in the Marines when he could take the time to enjoy a self-made concoction of mac and cheese using the jalapeño cheese packet and spaghetti noodle pack from the MRE.
Appetizer: Striped Bass Ceviche with Uni and Yucca Chip
Daphne Bye’s memory is from her father’s traditional Peruvian Ceviche, which he made for her every time she came home. Daphne was brought up on the flavors of South America and would always crave the Ceviche, homemade by her family, especially when away from home for extended periods of time.
1st Course: Short Rib Carne Asada with Platanos and Apricot Mojo
Max Tijerino’s memory comes from his childhood. While he was deployed in the Marines, he would crave his mother’s Nicaraguan version of Carne Asada with fried sweet plantains. It was a dish that would always take him back to being a child, growing up as the son of an immigrant mother in Miami.
Main Course: Beer-Can Roasted Chicken with French Pomme Puree
Jawana McFadden’s memory is from her time in Army training. Her mother, being a vegan, brought her up to eat meat very rarely which lead to Jawana being completely pork-free. During Army training the constant bacon, ham sandwiches, and pork chops forced Jawana to eat nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. So coming home, Jawana’s mother went out of her way to make her a beautiful roasted chicken.
The moment newly-arrived Marines entered the jungles of Vietnam, they were faced with a question from the most persistent recruiter. The call of the Blue-Eared Barbet, a bird indigenous to southeast Asia and beyond, has a distinctive, high-pitched warble:
In the elephant grass, there lives a bird whose call sounds like reeeuhuuup, and of course Marines call it the RE-Up Bird. As I am sure you know, re-up means to re-enlist, an idea not popular with the Marines over here.
It was the question no one was ready to answer right away. Luckily for the soldiers and Marines in the Vietnamese jungles, night time brought out the Tokay Gecko, who had the perfect answer to the Re-Up Bird.
Yes, the nocturnal lizard’s own distinctive call earned it a nickname as well. And the nights in the central highlands of Vietnam were filled with the refrain of this continual question-and-answer game.
Elbert Franklin Evans recounted his earliest encounters with Vietnam’s nighttime sign-countersign between the Barbet and the Gecko in his 1997 book, “Night On The Perimeter:”
“I heard the snickers from the soldiers on the bunker on my left. They enjoyed this jungle sonata, which echoed their own sentiments. Re-up? F*** you. You found humor in unlikely places in the bush, and this small bit of humor was peculiarly calming.”
Vietnam veteran John Podlaski writes extensively about the sounds of the jungle at night on his blog, which is named after his book, “Cherries, a Vietnam War story,” about his 1970 deployment to the country.
Shrinking ice coverage in the Arctic has drawn the attention of NATO, Russia, and other countries to the high north, where the promise of more accessible waterways means potential military and commercial competition.
Since Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea and incursion in Ukraine, however, NATO members have been concerned about Moscow’s actions closer to home, and developments in recent weeks indicate the alliance is focusing on securing waterways around Europe, in the Baltic and Mediterranean seas and the eastern Atlantic — all areas that could be contested in a conflict with Russia.
Below, you can see what NATO is being warned about, and what the alliance is and isn’t doing to address it.
A Russian Ilyushin Il-22 Bizon and a Su-27 Flanker, flying along the Baltic coast, May 14, 2019.
(UK Ministry of Defense)
The Baltic Sea, bordered by six NATO member countries and with Russia’s second-largest city, St. Petersburg, at its eastern end, has always been a busy area.
Encounters between NATO forces and Russian forces at sea in the Baltic and in the skies over Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, where NATO members carry out air patrols, have been on the rise since 2014. (The air policing mission has actually been going on since 2004.)
That encounters include an incident this summer in which a Russian Su-27 fighter escorting Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s plane turned into a NATO jet, forcing it away.
These tensions have come with military buildup as well.
Starting in 2016, NATO deployed some 4,500 troops in battle groups to the Baltics and Poland. Since the end of 2017, Sweden, which like Finland is not part of NATO, has sent new military forces to Gotland Island, which it had withdrawn from in 2005.
In Kaliningrad, an exclave that is home to Russia’s Baltic Fleet, Moscow has deployed new weaponry, including nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, and upgraded facilities, including what appear to be active nuclear-weapon storage bunkers.
Summer 2019, Russia also set up a helicopter base on Gogland, a small island between Finland and Estonia. Estonian officials played down the military significance, but the base is still seen as a Russian move to assert its power in the region and keep its neighbors guessing.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge participates in a photo exercise during exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) in the Baltic Sea, June 9, 2018.
(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Theron J. Godbold)
NATO countries along the Baltic have sought a more robust presence, and Germany has taken the lead.
Among NATO members, Germany, which has been criticized for the paucity of its defense spending and the quality of its armed forces, has taken the lead and tried to bring NATO and the EU closer together on Baltic security.
Vice Adm. Rainer Brinkmann, deputy chief of the German navy, said in September 2019 that Russia was the “one main challenge” in the Baltic and that Western partners “must take appropriate measures to cope” and “to prevent the Baltic Sea from being a ‘mare clausum,'” or “closed sea.”
Like its neighbors, Russia has legitimate reasons to be in the Baltic, but the number of actors there, each with their own national and commercial interests, make it a delicate situation, according to Christopher Skaluba, director or the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council.
“I think [the Russians] know that aggressive actions in the Baltic are likely to get the attention, in a way they probably didn’t want, of the NATO nations and Sweden and Finland.”
“The Baltic is pretty small place. There’s a lot of players. That piece of it gets really ugly really quick,” Skaluba told Business Insider in October 2019. “I think for lots of reasons, there are more incentives to avoid [conflict] than there are to … catalyze it.”
An F-35B fighter jet aboard the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, Oct. 13, 2019.
(LPhot Kyle Heller/UK Ministry of Defence)
A new battle of the Atlantic.
Russia’s navy is increasingly active in the North Atlantic, and though the level of that activity and the size of Russia’s navy don’t appear to reach that of the Cold War, it has set NATO on edge.
Growing tension between NATO members and Russia in the Atlantic has been called “the fourth battle of the Atlantic,” following World War I and II and the Cold War.
The UK in particular has struggled to keep up, calling on NATO allies to help track Russian subs thought to be lurking in and around British waters.
“In 2010, a Royal Navy ship was called on just once to respond to Russian navy ships approaching UK territorial waters. Last year we had to respond 33 times,” the UK’s then-defense minister, Gavin Williamson, said in May 2018.
The Royal Navy has built new aircraft carriers, equipping them with Britain’s first F-35s, and acquired US-made maritime patrol aircraft after scrapping its Nimrod patrol aircraft in 2010.
Royal Navy frigate HMS St Albans is currently the Nations on call warship for escorting foreign warships.
The UK and its allies in Europe want to keep “a critical choke point” between them open.
While any conflict in the Atlantic today is likely to look much different than previous battles, it’s likely to involve the English Channel and waters around it, especially the North Sea — at least that’s the concern of the five European countries who effectively revived the Cold War-era “Channel Committee” November 2019.
The pact signed on Nov. 7, 2019, by senior navy leaders from Germany, France, the UK, Belgium, and the Netherlands pledges to “harmonize” naval purchasing plans, potentially to include common procurement, according to Defense News.
But the countries also want to increase personnel exchanges and joint training and eventually recognize the professional qualifications of service members across the group.
“The Channel area is the front door to Central Europe and an important gate to the Baltic Sea,” the text of the pact says. “It is the critical choke point for the maritime traffic between the United Kingdom and continental Europe.”
The committee is also another military tether between mainland Europe and the UK, whose future relations with the rest of the continent remain in doubt amid the turmoil of Brexit.
The Mediterranean has also become a venue for what the US and others see as an emerging great-power competition.
NATO members in southern Europe have been focused on immigration from the Middle East and North Africa and the threat of terrorism emanating from those regions.
But Russian naval forces are a constant presence in the Mediterranean, traveling to and from Moscow’s bases in the Black Sea and and its base in Tartus, Syria, which is Russia’s only such facility outside the territory of the former Soviet Union.
With the ongoing civil war in Syria, the eastern Mediterranean has also become a venue for military operations, with Russian subs demonstrating their new ability to strike targets on land with missiles.
The Russian presence around the Mediterranean and Black seas, Iran’s presence in Syria, and antagonistic intra-alliance relations with Turkey all present security challenges for NATO, according to a recent Atlantic Council report.
“As the south becomes more congested and contested, and great-power competition intensifies, NATO defense, deterrence, and containment mission in the south is increasingly urgent and more complex,” the report states.
US Navy destroyer USS Carney fires it MK 45 5-inch lightweight gun at night while on patrol in the Mediterranean Sea, Sept. 11, 2016.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Weston Jones)
The lack of a strategy in the Mediterranean could have more serious consequences for the alliance as a whole, according to one deputy secretary general.
NATO has made a lot progress improving its defense and deterrence against Russia since 2014, “but it was more talk than action when it came to addressing problems in the south,” Alexander Vershbow, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council and coauthor of the report, said during its presentation October 2019.
“This theme figured prominently in my farewell address to the North Atlantic Council three years ago, and unfortunately the situation hasn’t changed all that much since then,” added Vershbow, who was deputy secretary general of NATO and US ambassador to Russia.
According to the report, “many of the conventional defense and deterrence challenges associated with NATO’s east are now reemerging in the south,” including enhanced Russian anti-access/area-denial capabilities, provocative actions in the Black Sea, and hybrid activity on the ground.
Though NATO has taken steps to remedy its shortcomings in the Mediterranean — such as setting up a “hub of the south” at Joint Forces Command in Naples, Italy — establishing a maritime-focused enhanced southern presence there could be a way to counter Russia and sharing the burden of doing so among members, Vershbow said.
“Russia is back with a vengeance in the eastern Mediterranean and in the Black Sea,” which adds a geopolitical dimension to NATO’s need to project stability and bolster defense and deterrence, Vershbow added.
“The lack of an effective southern strategy could put alliance solidarity at risk if the publics in the southern NATO countries see the alliance as failing to address what they consider to be their priority concerns,” Vershbow said. “It could undermine their willingness to share the burdens of collective defense against Russia, and everybody loses in that scenario.”
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