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U.S., NATO Intensify War Games Around Russia's Perimeter

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Along with plans to base anti-ballistic missile facilities in Poland near Russia's border (a 35-mile distance) and in Bulgaria and Romania across the Black Sea from Russia, Washington and the self-styled global military bloc it leads, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO),have arranged a series of military exercises on and near Russia's borders this year. While the White House, Pentagon and State Department pro forma identify al-Qaeda, Taliban, Iran, North Korea, climate change, cyber attacks and a host of other threats as those the U.S. is girding itself to combat, Washington is demonstrating its true strategic objectives by deploying interceptor missiles and staging war games along Russia's western and southern borders.

Two-hundred U.S. Marines participated in the recently concluded "Cold Response 2010" NATO military exercise as part of a 14,000-troop force training for "cold weather amphibious operations, interoperability of expeditionary forces, and special and conventional ground operations" in Norway and Sweden.[1] It was the fourth such military training held in Norway since 2006, and the first to be held exclusively in the Arctic Circle.
The American troops engaged "in tactical exercises at various unit levels, ultimately culminating in a bilateral, brigade-sized beach assault"[2].

The NATO war games included troops from 15 nations. Among them -- in addition to the U.S. -- Britain, Austria, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. Austria, Finland and Sweden are Partnership for Peace affiliates of the North Atlantic military bloc. The drills occurred "entirely north of the Arctic Circle and...emphasize[d] individual and unit cold weather capabilities."

Britain supplied its Amphibious Task Group and 2,000 marines, sailors and soldiers. Royal Marineshave beenin Norway since January, along with American and Dutch counterparts "learning how to survive and fight in extreme weather and terrain."[3] A newspaper from the United Kingdom remarked that "The training prepares them [British combat troops] for their next deployment," and "if you can fight there, you can fight anywhere."[4]

According to the United Kingdom Ministry of Defense, "The exercise is vital in ensuring that the Royal Navy maintains its traditional sea-fighting capability whilst undertaking amphibious warfare in a cold weather environment."[5] Marines and other service members from the U.S., Britain, Germany and fellow NATO and NATO partner states did not train for Arctic warfare to deploy to Afghanistan or the Gulf of Aden.

Cold Response 2010, in which U.S. Marines were involved for the first time in four years, ended on March 4. Less than two weeks later, from March 17-20, NATO warplanes will conduct exercises in the Baltic Sea region over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. All three nations border Russia's mainland or its Kaliningrad territory. The drills will include "French Mirage 2000, Polish F-16, and Lithuanian L-39 Albatross fighters, along with U.S. aerial tankers."[6] Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Dillschneider, spokesman for the Allied Air Headquarters in Ramstein, Germany, described the purpose of the upcoming air exercises near Russia's northwestern border as planned "to demonstrate solidarity with NATO's Baltic members."[7]

Recently, as NATO repeatedly defines itself as global and expeditionary, currently waging the largest and longest war in the world in Afghanistan, it has also increasingly emphasized its "core mission" to respond militarily to alleged threats to member states under its Article 5 "collective defense" provision. There can be no doubt as to which nation the Alliance and its American leader are sending a signalby deploying warplanes to the Baltic region in less than two weeks. It is the same country over whichNATO has been flying continuous patrolsfor the past six years --the same one that the West had it mind when it assigned 14,000 troops for war games in the Arctic Circle earlier this month.

OverlappingNATO's military exercises in Russia's far northwestern neighbor of Norway, the U.S. dispatched the guided missile destroyer USS John L. Hall to Georgia's Black Sea port of Poti for a seven-day stay starting on February 25. Poti is 19 miles from Abkhazia, which America's Georgian client Mikheil Saakashvili is anxious to employ his army -- financed, trained and armed by the U.S. -- to subdue, despite the presence of Russian troops there. The American ship and its crew were engaged in joint exercises with the Georgian navy and coast guard.

"However, the main task of the American vessel in the Black Sea was not the practice of Georgian-American interaction on the sea, but in tracking the drills of the Black Sea fleet," a Russian Navy source said on March 3. A dozen Russian ships had staged "an amphibious landing of troops on the coast of Abkhazia" on February 27 as the U.S. destroyer monitored the action from a few miles down the Black Sea coast.[8] And, on March 1, John Bass, thenew U.S. ambassador to Georgia, presided over the launching of the fourth radar installation on the nation's Black Sea shore constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

On February 22, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke arrived in Georgia after visiting the former Soviet states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to expand American and NATO military equipment transport, troop transit, overflights and other logistics for the deepening war in Afghanistan. Speaking of Kyrgyzstan, Holbrooke said,"the United States would soon renew an agreement to use the Manas airbase, where he said 35,000 US troops were transiting each month on their way in and out of Afghanistan."[9] That is 420,000 American soldiers a year at that rate.

While in Georgia, Holbrooke met with Saakashvili and Defense Minister Bacho Akhalaia, and all three attended what was characterized in the local press as a demonstration training operation at the Krtsanisi National Training Center for U.S.-trained troops headed to the Afghan war front. The Georgian military site has been home to U.S. Marine Corps and Green Beret instructors since 2002. The Georgian armed forces are Washington's proxy army in the South Caucasus, and have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan under U.S. command. They are also the force that assaulted South Ossetia in August of 2008 and were bested by Russia in a five-day war that resulted from that action.

After his inspection, Holbrooke said, "Today I had the honor to take a view of the demonstration exercise on the ground and to meet with soldiers with whom I had some useful talks. I was given the opportunity as well to see US instructors being actively involved in the training process. On my arrival in Washington I will report about it to the United States' president, Secretary of State and my colleagues."[10]

Veteran Indian analyst and former career diplomat M. K. Bhadrakumar wrote of the civilian point man for America's South Asian war --"Holbrooke insisted his visit 'had nothing to do with Georgian-Russian relations,' but the reality is that Washington hopes to incorporate Georgia as a vital link in the proposed NATO supply chain leading to Afghanistan from Europe, which will bypass Russian territory. Clearly, NATO is gearing up to cross over from the Balkans, across the Black Sea, to the Caucasus in an historic journey that will take it to Central Asia via Afghanistan."[11]

American author Edward Herman recently presented a similar perspective in pointing out that, since the end of the Cold War, "Across the globe...U.S. military bases are expanding, not contracting. The encirclement of Russia and steady stream of war games and exercises in the Baltic, Caspian, Mediterranean and Western Pacific areas continue; the closer engagement with Georgia and effort to bring it into NATO moves ahead, as do plans for the placement of missiles along Russia's borders and beyond."[12]

Journalist Eric Walberg followed suit in his March 2 article "Georgia vs Russia: Fanning the flames," in which he stated: "With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the world expected a new era of peace and disarmament. But what happened? Instead of diminishing, the US and NATO presence throughout Europe, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Central Asia rapidly increased, and the world experienced one war after another -- in the Caucasus, Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan, each one hotter and more horrible than the last."[13]

On March 5, military exercises began in Poland with "400 Polish soldiers and scores of U.S. Army soldiers" in what had as its immediate objective training the host country's troops to "cooperate with their American superiors in East Afghanistan."[14]

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Rick Rozoff has been involved in anti-war and anti-interventionist work in various capacities for forty years. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. Is the manager of the Stop NATO international email list at:
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