Russia's national security vs NATO expansion. Part Two

    The United States was never going to comply with any restrictions on the deployment of its troops in Europe
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    The first part is here.

    Now a little bit about specific measures to strengthen the eastern flank of NATO.

    The eastern flank of NATO is the countries adjacent to the western border of Russia (from north to south) - Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria. The Mediterranean and Baltic Seas, the northern region of the Atlantic Ocean are also taken into account.

    The United States was never going to comply with any restrictions on the deployment of its troops in Europe. The strengthening of forces and means occurred time after time, from year to year, as soon as "fresh" ideas appeared in the minds of American politicians and the military. Without hesitation they terminated previously assumed bilateral and international treaties and obligations.

    Here are just some of the measures taken.

    2001

    One of the serious acts to increase the military threat can be considered the 2001 decision of the US President George W. Bush's administration to withdraw unilaterally from the Treaty on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems (ABM) between the USSR and the United States of May 26, 1972.

    After that, the spread of the US missile defence system to Eastern and Central Europe was started. Poland became the most active participant of the future project. After lengthy negotiations, it was decided to deploy the ground-based version of the US “Aegis Ashore” missile defence system there. The final decision was made with the participation of US Vice President Joe Biden and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

    Since 2005, the Russian leadership has warned about the perniciousness of such decisions leading to a violation of strategic parity between the United States and Russia. But our concerns were not heeded.

    The first US missile defence base was opened at the Romanian Deveselu Airbase on May 12, 2016. The AN/SPY-1 radar station and 24 Standard Missile 3 Block I vertical launch missiles are located at this base.

    The construction of a missile defence base in the Polish village of Redzikowo was started in 2016. It was expected that 24 RIM-161 Standard Missile 3 Block IIA interceptors would appear there in 2018. Then the plans changed due to financial problems. In mid-April 2022, the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita, citing the director of the US Missile Defence Agency, John Hill, reported that an anti-missile system test would be conducted in the coming weeks.

    2014

    The buildup of US troops in Europe began in April 2014 as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve. First of all, it was planned to strengthen the US military presence in the Baltic countries and Poland.

    2016

    Large-scale strengthening began after the Warsaw NATO summit (July 2016). NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence program was adopted at the summit. According to the plan, foreign multinational battalions or so-called battalion tactical groups (BTG) numbering 1,000 people were deployed on a rotational basis on the territory of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland. The basis of BTG was to be Canadians in Latvia, Germans in Lithuania, Britons in Estonia and Americans in Poland. A multinational infantry brigade was being deployed in Romania.

    What is a battalion (combat/advanced) tactical group? These are several military units of the allies in the bloc. As a rule, it is based on a mechanised battalion, numbering 30-90 armoured combat vehicles (ACV) and 500-800 people. The battalion is also given means of reinforcement. For example, a tank company (10 tanks), an artillery battery (9-12 guns and/or MLRS), air defence units with dozens of MANPADS and several short/medium range air defence systems, reconnaissance and support units.

    2017

    In March 2017, the next transfer of large military contingents took place. This time, troops from Great Britain were being transferred to the Baltic states. About 300 tanks and armoured combat vehicles were delivered to Estonia. Among the vehicles are Challenger 2 tanks and AS90 self-propelled guns. Units of the French Armed Forces numbering up to a mechanised battalion also arrived there.

    By that time, there were already 200 US units in Estonia with Abrams tanks and M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles. At that time, there were US army units in Latvia, numbering about 400 people and up to 50 ACV.

    During the Russian-Belarusian exercises "West-2017" (September 2017), the 2nd armoured brigade was transferred to Poland to strengthen the American 3rd armoured brigade (87 M1A1 Abrams tanks, M109 Paladin self-propelled guns, 144 M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, 100 units of automotive equipment).

    2018

    By 2018, the number of US troops in Europe reached 60,000 troops. The reinforcement was due to the deployment of top-level management bodies and the transfer of additional military contingents, including heavy weapons.

    2019

    In Poznan (Poland), since October 2019, the advanced rotating headquarters of one of the divisions of the US Ground Forces (GF) has been located. At first it was the headquarters of the 1st Infantry Division. One brigade of the US Army ground forces that is rotating every nine months is subordinated to the headquarters of division. The brigade's units are also located in Hungary, Germany, the Baltic states, and Romania.

    The division's acquisition of units began earlier. Back in September 2019, the 1st tank battalion of the 9th regiment of this division arrived in Lithuania near the town of Pabradė (10 km from the border with Belarus). The battalion consists of about 500 soldiers, 30 Abrams tanks, 25 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and about 70 vehicles.  As was confirmed by Lithuanian Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis, such a presence is an important "deterrent factor" in the Baltic states.

    2020

    By 2020, the American contingent in Europe numbered 52,000 people. By the decision of US President Donald Trump, it was reduced by several thousand people. The Joe Biden administration reversed that decision.

    On August 15, 2020, Polish Defence Minister and US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo signed an agreement to strengthen the presence of American troops in the country.

    In October 2020, the Pentagon restored the 5th Army Corps (V or 5 AK) of the US Army to support the Command of the US ground forces in Europe and Africa (United States Army Europe and Africa, USAREUR-AF, Wiesbaden, Germany). It was deployed again to control the actions of the US military, allies and partner countries in Europe.

    The forward headquarters of the corps was located in the Polish Poznan. The army corps of the US Army can consist of from two/three to six/seven military formations of the division level. At the maximum, it is an analogue of two combined all-arms armies.

    2021

    In August 2021, the US Army Command in Europe and Africa announced the restoration of the previously abolished 56th Field Artillery Command. In November of the same year, it was restored in a new "multi-medium format" one in the city of Mainz-Castel (Germany). The main task of the command is to plan and implement the fire damage of objects throughout Europe.

    In the third decade of November 2021, in order to "contain" either Russia or Belarus, several dozen M109 Paladin self-propelled guns were transferred eastward through the railway junction in Polish Legnica. It was precisely at the same time when in Brussels Polish President Andrzej Duda asked to strengthen NATO's presence on the eastern flank.

    Also in November, armoured vehicles from Germany and military personnel from the UK were transferred to the Baltic states. The UK has deployed a previously withdrawn brigade of ground forces in Germany, numbering up to 250 units of tanks, armoured personnel carriers and artillery.

    2022

    A slight reinforcement of troops was noted back in January 2022. Back then four F-16 fighters were sent from Denmark to Lithuania and one frigate to the Baltic Sea, the Netherlands sent two F-35 fighters to Bulgaria, and NATO was going to send ground forces units and one ship for the rapid response forces. Spain sent two warships to the Black Sea, but they did not reach there. France intended to send units of ground forces to Romania.

    At the end of January 2022, the American leadership announced the transfer of about 8,500 troops ready for transfer to Europe. As NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg later stated, they were intended for the NATO response force in Romania.

    In early February, US President Biden announced the transfer to Poland of about 2,000 troops from the 18th Airborne Corps (Fort Bragg, North Carolina, US). About 1,700 of them from the 82nd Airborne Division (Fort Bragg) were transferred to Poland, and 300 soldiers to Germany.

    At the meeting of NATO Defence Ministers on February 16-17, 2022, the issue of deploying four multinational Battalion Tactical Teams with a thousand people in each one in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia on the eastern flank was considered. The final decision was made at an emergency NATO summit in Brussels on March 23, 2022. At the same time, they decided to strengthen the air defence and missile defence systems in Eastern Europe.

    Kirby also announced the beginning of the transfer of a new group of US troops for "temporary reinforcement" on February 23. In particular, about a thousand servicemen of the 2nd Armoured Cavalry Regiment of the US were transferred from Germany to Romania. The American 173rd Airborne Brigade from Italy was transferring about 800 people to the Baltic states. Among military equipment: MLRS tactical missiles M142 HIMARS with a range of up to 300 km, and the similar to it M270 MLRS.

    20 AH-64 Apache attack helicopters flew from Germany to Bulgaria, 12 AH-64 Apache were transferred from Greece to Poland. Eight F-35 aircraft were relocated from Germany closer to the borders of Russia.

    Pentagon spokesman Kirby said that these forces are deployed on the territory of Romania, Poland and Germany "at the request and invitation of these countries" without determining the duration of their stay.

    During the period of February 15-26, 1,500 servicemen and 700 pieces of equipment of the US Armed Forces were transferred from Germany through the Czech Republic to Slovakia.

    According to him, in the event of an attack, for example, of Latvia and Estonia, the troops on the "eastern flank" should ensure that possible aggression is repelled without involving troops from other parts of Europe.

    As it became known, 290 servicemen of the 173rd US Airborne Troops arrived in Ukraine. According to the US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt and the Pentagon press service, they will train Ukrainian servicemen at the Yavorov training ground. Canadian media also report on the transfer of 200 military personnel to Ukraine.

    Additional US forces, which are being transferred to Europe on the basis of bilateral agreements are subordinate to the Command of the US Ground Forces in Europe and Africa. There is no question of subordination to the collegial governing bodies of NATO. In particular, they are not subordinate to the Supreme High Command of the Allied Armed Forces of NATO in Europe (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, SHAPE, Mons, Belgium).

    The command of the US Army in Europe and Africa may receive additional reinforcement. The same Kirby said on March 30 that the United States allows further strengthening of troops in Europe on a permanent basis if "European states turn to the US army for armed support."

    On April 9, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated his intention to send "permanent and full-scale military forces" to the eastern borders of the alliance. According to him, the goal of NATO's "fundamental transformation" is to establish a "new norm of European security" to protect it against a possible Russian attack.

    In mid-April, a division of the 109th Artillery Regiment of the US National Guard (Pennsylvania) arrived in Lithuania "to strengthen the rotational contingent". The unit is armed with a battery of 155-mm self-propelled howitzers M109A6 Paladin, a total of more than 100 units of vehicles. Noting the event, Lithuanian Defence Minister Arvydas Anušauskas said that the decision to strengthen the Battalion Tactical Team of the forward-based group to the brigade level will be made at the end of June at the Alliance summit in Madrid.

    European hospitality knows no limits. Looking back at their neighbours, in particular Slovakia, the leaders of the Czech Republic in mid-April 2022 started talking about hosting a permanent US military base. However, then the leaders of the ruling coalition said that negotiations on this are not underway yet. The local opposition opposed this decision.

    By the beginning of April 2022, the number of troops stationed on the eastern flank (approximately): from the United States – 100,000-102,000 troops, from NATO – 40,000, ships – 130 units and aircraft – 130 units.

    Three carrier strike groups (CSG) are stationed in the Mediterranean: one of them belongs to US Navy, the second one is French, and the third one is Italian. There are two CSG in the North Atlantic – British and Italian ones.

    It is also possible to add here 30,000-40,000 military personnel from 27 NATO countries who previously arrived in Norway for the exercise "Cold Response 2022". It is believed that it was completed on April 2. But there is a suspicion that the forces and means will linger a little in that area. The ships of

    Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1), which took part in this exercise, have already entered the Baltic Sea.

    The national armed forces of the eastern flank countries have a total of about 290,000 people. Taking into account the troops subordinate to NATO and the American grouping, the total number of personnel reaches 430,000 people.

    The distribution of NATO forces and assets by country (without the United States): in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, mainly units of the ground forces, army aviation and air force are concentrated, in total about 7,700 military personnel. In Poland and Slovakia, the emphasis is on ground forces. There are up to 12,600 military personnel in total. There are approximately 14,600 people from NATO in Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.

    US troops in Europe (in the first approximation) are located as follows: a significant part, about 40,000 troops, are in Germany. The second, smaller, but still comparable in size, grouping is located in Poland and Slovakia. The remaining troops are more or less evenly distributed across the rest of the European NATO countries.

    There is another feature. Slovakia, for example, handed over its old, still Soviet, S-300PMU anti-aircraft missile division to be sent to the territory of Ukraine. Instead of the departed one, it received the Patriot air defence system and 150 maintenance personnel from the Netherlands. It is reported that the complex will be located at the Sliač airbase for at least six months. And, although the leadership of Slovakia does not recognise this, there is an opinion that the Patriot air defence system will remain in Slovakia forever.

    It turns out that there is an increase in the quality of weapons "covering" the countries of the eastern flank of NATO. This is not the isolated incident. In the developed territory, NATO specialists are constantly improving the communication and control systems used by the troops.

    Along with this, the improvement of old military facilities and construction of new ones are underway to prepare them for the future deployment of NATO troops. In Lithuania, for example, the Pabradė training ground is being upgraded. By the end of 2023, it will be able to receive up to 3,000 military personnel.

    At the same time, it is planned to complete the construction of three more military camps with a total capacity of 3,000 people. Reconstruction of the Rūdninkai military training ground will be carried out. This training ground is definitely intended to accommodate American units. It is about 20 kilometres from the border with Belarus.

    It would seem that the Americans have gained access to countries that have practically surrounded Russia from the west. It would be possible for them to stop at this. But no, it was also necessary to close the so-called "anaconda loop" from the south. Therefore, NATO, led by the United States, confidently mastered such lands.

    Here is a list of military facilities in Ukraine, one way or another involved in the deployment of foreign armed forces:

    - "International Centre for Peacemaking and Security" (Yavorov training ground; Yavorov, Lvov region);

    - US Navy base (Ochakov, Nikolaev region);

    - British Navy base (Yuzhny Port, 30 km northeast of Odessa);

    - 235th interspecific training centre (Shirokiy Lan training ground; Mikhaylovka village, Nikolaev region);

    - 241st combined arms training ground (Alyoshki, Kherson region, 80 km to the border with Crimea);

    - 233rd combined arms training ground (Malaya Lyubasha, Rovno region, 100 km to the border with Belarus);

    - 242nd combined arms training ground (Goncharovskoye, Chernigov region, 20 km to the border with Belarus, 110 km to the border with the Russian Federation);

    - training base of neo-nazis (Mariupol);

    - Naval Intelligence Centre (Snake Island in the Black Sea);

    - military camps under construction in the Sumy region: in the area of Shostka (50 km to the border of the Russian Federation, 165 km to Bryansk) and Sumy (30 km to the border with the Russian Federation, 135 km to Kursk).

    There is another nuance. The United States is systematically implementing the idea of deploying its troops on the basis of bilateral agreements with host countries. This makes it easier for them to solve issues, including legislative and logistical ones. Thus, the Americans exclude the need to obtain the collective consent of the member countries of the bloc for the corresponding manoeuvre.

    In this case, the opinion of neighbouring countries can be ignored. Pushing the right solution with this approach is, of course, easier. Especially if the partners themselves go to meet them.

    Naturally, the Russian leadership assessed such actions as threatening national security and took appropriate measures.

    In particular, after much persuasion and negotiations, in response to the deployment of elements of the US missile defence system in Eastern Europe, Iskander-M operational and tactical missile systems were put on combat duty in the Kaliningrad Region in the spring of 2018. As a result, the hint was ignored.

    Therefore, a more serious response followed. At a meeting of the Board of the Russian Defence Ministry on May 31, 2021, Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu said: "The actions of our Western colleagues are destroying the security system in the world and forcing us to take adequate counteraction measures. We are constantly improving the combat strength of the troops. By the end of the year, about 20 formations and military units will be formed in the Western Military District."

    At the beginning of March 2022, due to the continued strengthening of NATO's eastern flank, the issue of strengthening Russia's western border was raised again. Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu to prepare and submit relevant proposals. The head of The Defence Ministry said that the task of strengthening the western borders is being solved by the General Staff.

    A new, more formidable military-technical response was given at 15:12 Moscow time on April 20, 2022.

    At that moment, a test launch of a new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile was carried out from the Plesetsk cosmodrome. As a result of the successful launch, which confirmed the design characteristics, "training combat units arrived in a given area at the Kura training ground on the Kamchatka Peninsula."

    According to the Russian Defence Ministry, "the missile has unique characteristics that allow it to reliably overcome any existing and promising missile defence systems." The head of the rocket can be equipped with hypersonic gliding warheads.

    Of course, the Sarmat is not a weapon that is designed to ensure specifically the security of our western flank. But this is the weapon that, by and large, that is, on a global scale, will cool the latest fever of the West.

    If they haven't understood it yet, then it can be explained in simple language - all the missile defence systems of all the countries hostile to us are now multiplied by zero. After that, by clicking with our fingers we can multiply by zero all the blocs and alliances hostile to us. We can do it, but we still give them time to think hard.

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