>In a move that will no doubt further antagonize the Kremlin, the “former” communist state of Poland and the “former” Soviet republic of Lithuania are advocating the inclusion of Ukraine, another “former” Soviet republic, in a tri-national peacekeeping brigade to operate under the command of the United Nations, the European Union, or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Both Poland and Lithuania are NATO members, while the alliance has promised to admit at some point Ukraine and Georgia. The latter is yet another “former” Soviet republic under Russian occupation, by way of breakaway regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
“This reflects our support for Ukraine. We want to tie Ukraine closer to Western structures, including military ones,” Poland’s Deputy Defense Minister Stanislaw Komorowski told reporters in Brussels, after signing a letter of intent on Tuesday. “This is also proof that Ukraine is taking seriously its desire for closer cooperation with members of the EU and NATO,” he added.
In issuing this statement Komorowski was probably casting a nervous glance over his shoulder at September’s Russian-Belarusian war game Zapad 2009, which was later exposed by the Polish media as a rehearsal for a nuclear attack against his country. On Wednesday, though, Russia’s NATO envoy Dmitry Rogozin downplayed the geopolitical significance of Zapad 2009: “Our NATO colleagues should agree with confidence-building measures in the close-to-border military activities proposed by Russia, rather than attempt to think up a new problem in our relations.” In other words, nothing to see here, comrades. Russia is your friend.
Pictured above: Ukraine’s first deputy minister of defence Valerii Ivashcenko speaks during the seventh Informal High-Level NATO-Ukraine Consultations at NATO headquarters in Brussels, on November 16. In attendance were NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and defense ministers and other senior officials from Ukraine and NATO countries.
This announcement by Poland and Lithuania, both of which are EU members, comes two days before an EU summit with Russia, the primary purpose of which is to increase cooperation with Moscow. It also comes ahead of a December visit to Moscow by NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who has made improving ties with Russia a top priority since taking over the alliance in August. For the most part, NATO officialdom is effusive in its praise of the Polish-Lithuanian proposal. “There is absolutely no reason why cooperation between individual allies and Ukraine should not be stepped up. If extra capability was made available for NATO operations that can only be welcome by the alliance,” James Appathurai gushed.
The proposed Polish-Lithuanian-Ukrainian military pact is also significant because, as American geopolitical analyst Jeff Nyquist states in a November 15 interview with the Polish blog, The Underground: “Poland is a front line state in the struggle against Russian [Bolshevik] power, and everything that happens in Poland today is decisive for Europe. The Russians face serious problems at home, and their strategy of neutralizing the United States is simply a preliminary step to subjugating Europe [via the EU].”
NATO and Russia have resumed formal cooperation on “broad security threats” after relations were suspended following Russia’s re-invasion of Georgia in August 2008. The Russian military’s spotty performance in that operation prompted the Soviet strategists to implement a program of modernization for the armed forces’ command structure and hardware.
With respect to command structure reform, this Tuesday Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov declared that he was generally pleased with the progress that had taken place over the last year in the transformation of the Russian Armed Forces into a “lean, mean, fighting machine.” Serdyukov commented: “I think we have generally attained the goal of a new image, higher mobility and combat readiness of the armed forces. I cannot say we are fully satisfied with our work. We just say that the armed forces’ reform continues in the right way.” Chief of the General Staff, Nikolai Makarov, who recently met with his Cuban counterpart in Havana, noted that “The measures implemented in 2009 helped create a new system of combat readiness of the armed forces, based on reduced time frame to prepare the standby formations and units to fulfilling designated assignments, from 24 hours to one hour.”
With respect to military hardware upgrades, on November 12, during his annual address to the Federal Council, the upper chamber of Russia’s rubberstamp parliament, President Dmitry Medvedev explained that in 2010 the armed forces would receive 30 ground- and sea-based ballistic missiles, five Iskander missile systems, 300 armored vehicles, 30 helicopters, 28 combat planes, three nuclear submarines, and one corvette combat ship. “These and other measures will make the armed forces’ modern, mobile and capable of combat,” crowed Medvedev.
Russia’s president also ordered that servicemen be supported by automatic control centers and digital communication by 2012. However, several weeks before, at a conference on the defense industry, Medvedev expressed “dissatisfaction with the pace of the development and modernization of Russian defense sector.” “Over the past few years, a lot of money has been invested in the modernization and development of the defense sector. However, the results are not high, I would say,” he complained.
As we have blogged before, Russia is also in an advanced state of negotiations with NATO member France over the acquisition of a Mistral-class, helicopter-carrying amphibious assault ship, as well as construction rights to the building of four more such ships. It is not likely that the Russian Navy intends to challenge its US counterpart on the high seas in the near future. However, these large vessels, each of which can hold 900 troops and 40 tanks, could conceivably be used to support a re-invasion of Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia (via the Baltic Sea), or Ukraine and Georgia (via the Black Sea).
It is expected that Russia’s first stealth fighter, the Sukhoi PAK-FA, to be produced in collaboration with strategic partner India, will be ready for trial flights by 2012, while its first stealth bomber will be built by Tupolev and introduced by 2020. Incidentally, we rather suspect that the Fourth World War might break out before these combat aircraft enter the Kremlin’s service. In any event, it appears that the supersonic Tu-160 bomber, once again under production, may already incorporate some “stealth” (radar-invisible) features. This possibility was exposed in 2006 when these and other aircraft of the Russian Air Force allegedly approached Canadian airspace over the North Pole without detection by the bi-national North American Aerospace Defense Command.
In a related story, Russian bomber patrols in the United Kingdom’s Flight Information Region have become so “thick” since their official resumption in August 2007 that both the British Defence Ministry and British Airline Pilots’ Association fear a collision between commercial aviation and the invading aircraft, most of which are lumbering Tu-95 Bears. The Russian nuclear bombers normally take off from bases near the Arctic Circle and are quickly spotted by Norwegian air traffic controllers. The Norwegian Air Force then scrambles its interceptors, before handing over escort duties to its Danish counterpart. Lastly, Royal Air Force Typhoon fighters are launched under “quick reaction alert” procedures from bases in Coningsby, Lincolnshire, and Fife. Incidentally, the UK’s Flight Information Region is a corridor of international airspace that begins only 12 nautical miles from the coast, placing British cities within a “stone’s throw” of Russian air-launched cruise missiles.
A British House of Commons Defence Committee report released in July insisted that “Russia’s tactics were not the actions of a friendly nation.” This is true. We might add that the military potential of the USA’s chief ally in Europe will probably be “vaporized” during the first few minutes of the Fourth World War. When the Soviet strategists decide that the time is ripe to re-invade Europe, they will be able to count on communist agents in the North Atlantic Alliance–like Hungary’s KGB-trained spymaster Sandor Laborc, who was chief of NATO intelligence in 2008–to compromise the organization’s intelligence-gathering capabilities and, thus, combat readiness.
One thing is sure, the Soviet strategists are determined to remilitarize at full throttle without sparing any expense in the midst of the global economic recession. On November 14–while touring the Russian missile cruiser Varyag, then anchored in Singapore where the Russian president was attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit– Medvedev boasted: “The financial crisis will have an absolutely minimal effect on the military component, on arms procurements. Between 30% and 90% of the military will receive new equipment in 2011-20.”
The modernization of the Kremlin’s military hardware is accompanied by a reform of its war doctrine to include some changes to the situations that could “trigger” the use of nuclear weapons or preemptive strikes against “potential foes.” In early October Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council and former FSB/KGB chief, explained: “In respect to the possibility of preventive or nuclear strikes we will formulate some provisions that will be somewhat different from those contained in the current doctrine.” The draft doctrine, titled The New Face of the Russian Armed Forces until 2030, is still being developed by the General Staff and will be forwarded to Medvedev for consideration by December 2009.
The Kremlin’s current military doctrine was adopted in 2000 and outlines the role of the Russian military in ensuring the “defense of the country” and preparing for and waging war. The doctrine lists factors that Moscow perceives as potential threats, both domestic and foreign, and declares support for a “multipolar” (Communist Bloc-dominated) world, as opposed to a “unipolar” (US-dominated) world. It is unlikely that the Soviet strategists will in their new war doctrine change their views with respect to the unacceptable notion of a US-dominated world.