October 13, 2017 by Peter KORZUN
The US took advantage of the ballyhoo raised over the “Russian threat” allegedly posed by joint Russian-Belarusian Zapad-2017 military exercise held in September to increase its Army presence in Poland. The alliance again tried to reaffirm its bogus Russia narrative but the Zapad training event was transparent with observers invited and the forces withdrawn to home bases after it was over.
According to Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov, the US 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, was meant to have rotated out of Europe with its weapons and equipment left to be manned by troops of the US 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. Instead, the 2nd Armored Brigade had been quietly deployed to Poland (Boleslawiec, Drawsko Pomorskie, Torun, Skwierzyna, Zagan) with its own armored vehicles, while weaponry and equipment of the 3rd Brigade had remained and could be manned within 2 hours by bringing in troops from the US Ramstein Base in Germany. An armored brigade combat team comprises about 4,200 troops and includes approximately 250 tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Paladin self-propelled howitzers, plus 1,750 wheeled vehicles.
The move was taken against certain background. NATO has already deployed four multinational battalions across Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. In a separate move, the US military sent the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team along with a corresponding aviation brigade, to Gdansk on a year-round basis in September. It was the first time two armored brigades with full complement of soldiers and equipment were deployed in Europe under the pretext of supporting the exercise dubbed Operation Atlantic Resolve.
The argument that the rotating forces are deployed on temporary basis holds no water. Rotation of units does not make the presence less permanent. There is always a force of a given size in place.
In accordance with the European Reassurance Initiative, the US Army is reopening or creating five equipment-storage sites in the Netherlands, Poland, Belgium and two locations in Germany. The Army Prepositioned Stocks (APS) will be sufficient for another armored brigade to fall in on. The rotating brigade will bring its own equipment. The move will add hundreds of the Army’s most advanced weapons systems to beef up the US European Command’s combat capability. It will also free up an entire brigade’s worth of weapons currently being used by US forces training on the continent to enable more American troops to be rushed in on short notice.
NATO is pushing ahead with its military «Schengen zone» in Europe to do away with travel restrictions on the movement of NATO forces and equipment across Europe. There will be no need to ask for permissions while crossing national borders. The sovereignty of member states will be reduced to facilitate cross-continent operations.
The Scandinavian Peninsula is being militarized. Last summer, NATO forces were allowed for the first time ever to train on the territory of Finland (the coastal area at Syndale) during BALTOPS NATO drills. In September, Sweden hosted Aurora-2017 – its largest joint military exercise with NATO in 20 years. It was held across the entire country but focusing on the Mälardalen Valley, the areas around cities of Stockholm and Gothenberg and on the strategic island of Gotland.
330 US Marines are deployed to Norway’s Værnes military base near Trondheim to bolster the readiness of new pre-positioned tanks and weaponry stored throughout the year in underground caves. Værnes lies about 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) from the Russian-Norwegian frontier. The unit can be easily reinforced. The only purpose for the deployment is preparation for an attack against Russia. After all, the Marines Corps is the first strike force. And it’s not Russian Marines being deployed near US national borders, but US Marines deployed in the proximity of Russia. They are using Cold War-era Norwegian caves to store new tanks, artillery and other military equipment to ramp up their presence. Norway plans to have over 50 US-produced F-35 stealth warplanes in 2019. It will give it the capability to strike deep into the Russian territory.
Logistics infrastructure for offensive operations is being beefed up. US European Command Chief Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti is planning for an expanded military presence in Europe to eventually include a full US Army division. It’s not NATO members only. Ukraine hosts US military to be permanently stationed on its soil. Sweden and Finland, non-NATO states, allow NATO forces to exercise on their national territories.
NATO has increased its naval and air patrols in the Black sea. A multinational brigade is deployed in Romania. The unit is intended to facilitate the deployment of reinforcements. The US military base in Bulgarian Novo Selo hosts American and NATO troops. The facility can hold as many as 5,000 servicemen during exercises. US heavy tanks are expected to be stationed there.
Georgia and Ukraine are fully involved in the plans. Romania hosts a ballistic missile defense (BMD) site with the plans underway to have another operational Aegis Ashore BMD system deployed in Poland next year. Aegis Ashore uses the Mk-41 launcher capable of firing Tomahawk long-range precision-guided missiles against land assets in violation of the INF Treaty.
The quiet deployment of the additional US brigade, as well as other development described above, constitutes a fragrant breach of the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act. By signing the document NATO pledged not to seek “additional permanent stationing of substantial ground combat forces» in the nations closer to Russia «in the current and foreseeable security environment». Signed 20 years ago, the agreement appears all but dead amid the alliance’s unprecedented push to beef up its military presence near Russia’s borders.
Russia notified in advance about Zapad-2017 exercise and made a good will gesture inviting together with Belarus observers from NATO states, though it did not have to. According to the Vienna Document, the move is unnecessary if the number of troops participating in the exercise does not exceed 13,000. The Russian forces went back. Unlike Russia, the US used NATO exercises as a pretext to substantially expand its military foothold in Eastern Europe. This deployment is a part of large-scale effort to boost NATO permanent military presence near the Russia’s borders in the largest build-up since the Cold War. The policy is highly provocative and destabilizing. These war preparations greatly reduce European security and the chances for revival of constructive dialogue between Russia and the alliance. There is only one explanation for the fact – the bloc is preparing for an aggression and Russia has to take steps to defend itself. Tensions are running high and an arms race is provoked but it was not Moscow who started it.