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USA will provide weapons, aircraft, forces to NATO’s rapid response force in E. Europe

The US will provide special operation forces, aircraft and weapons for NATO’s rapid reaction force based in Europe, said Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Washington’s new contribution could result in the increase of US forces in Europe.

Washington will contribute intelligence and surveillance capabilities, special operations forces, logistics, transport aircraft and a range of weapons, Carter announced on Monday in Muenster, Germany after meeting with defense ministers from Germany, Norway and the Netherlands.

Under the plan the contributions would include precision joint fire capabilities ranging from land-based artillery to air support or naval firepower. However, he did not specify the number of troops that would be stationed or where they would come from.

Carter added that he plans to discuss the US contributions to NATO’s rapid reaction force in Europe during his visit to Brussels later this week.

The new contributions could mean an increase in US forces in Europe, unnamed defense officials told AP and Reuters.

“We do so because the United States is deeply committed to the collective defense of Europe,” Carter said.

NATO has been beefing up its forces in its eastern member states to counter what alliance commanders have repeatedly dubbed ‘Russian aggression in Ukraine’. Following a NATO summit in Wales in September 2014, the alliance members agreed to create a rapid 4,000-strong force in Europe ready to be deployed within 48 hours.

However, the initial number of troops planned to be deployed has grown tenfold in less than a year. On Monday, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced that the Spearhead Force might reach 40,000 troops.

“NATO defense ministers … [will] make a decision to further increase the strength and capacity of the 13,000-strong NATO Response Force (NRF) to 30,000 or 40,000 troops,” he said adding that the final decision on the number will be taken on June 24-25 in Brussels.

On June 13, the New York Times released an article saying that the Pentagon could store “battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and other heavy weapons for as many as 5,000 American troops in several Baltic and Eastern European countries.”

The piece came as the Spearhead forces were conducting its first military exercises codenamed Noble Jump in Poland. The drills involved about 2,000 soldiers and some 500 pieces of hardware, including tanks, jets and helicopters.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in turn, announced plans to further strengthen the country’s strategic nuclear armed forces. On Tuesday morning Putin stated that in 2015 Russia’s strategic forces will be getting over 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

If someone threatens our territories, it means that we will have to aim our armed forces accordingly at the territories from where the threat is coming. How else could it be? It is NATO that approaching our borders, it’s not like we are moving anywhere,” Putin said speaking at a joint media conference with Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto in Moscow on Tuesday evening.

Despite the increase in NATO’s military presence near the Russian border, Carter said on Monday that the alliance is not seeking a “cold, let alone a hot war with Russia.”

But make no mistake: we will defend our allies, the rules-based international order, and the positive future it affords us all,” he added speaking in Berlin.

nato-rapid-response-stoltenberg

NATO plans 40,000-strong rapid response force in E. Europe

NATO’s rapid response Spearhead Force in Europe might reach 40,000 troops, a tenfold growth from the initial 4,000-strong force deployed last year, the military alliance’s chief said. Most of these troops will be stationed near Russian borders.

“NATO defense ministers … [will] make a decision to further increase the strength and capacity of the 13,000-strong NATO Response Force (NRF) to 30,000 or 40,000 troops,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday.

The decision is to be officially announced during NATO’s defense ministers meeting on June 24-25 in Brussels.

The troops will be under the command of 6 HQs to be stationed in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania. The Spearhead Force will include Special Forces and rapid response teams, enforced with marine and air components.

A new rapid reaction force ready to be deployed within 48 hours was initially intended to consist of 4,000 troops.

The Spearhead Force has already held its first military drills codenamed Noble Jump in Poland. The war games became “the biggest reinforcement” of defense since Cold War times, said Stoltenberg, adding that the alliance is facing challenges from “the behavior of a more assertive” Russia.

Last week, Stoltenberg criticized Russia for announced plans to add to its nuclear arsenal 40 newly made intercontinental ballistic missiles in 2015.

“This nuclear saber-rattling of Russia is unjustified. It’s destabilizing and it’s dangerous. This is something which we are addressing, and it’s also one of the reasons we are now increasing the readiness and preparedness of our forces,” Stoltenberg said during a news briefing in Brussels last Tuesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin made the announcement about further development of the strategic nuclear armed forces in response to a report that the US is seriously considering deployment of heavy weapons to new NATO member states on permanent basis.

The chill in Russia-US relations already resemble the worst years of the Cold War, yet experts warn that further escalation of the Ukrainian crisis could lead to an open standoff between Moscow and Washington.

If Washington opts to send armaments to Kiev authorities, as some Republicans congressmen want, Moscow would react immediately, experts quoted in US media believe.

Washington should pursue a diplomatic solution for its conflict with Russia, former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul told The New York Times.

“The US-Russia conflict is not going to be resolved in weeks or months,” McFaul said. “This challenge will take years, even decades.”

putin-40-missiles

Moscow will respond to NATO approaching Russian borders ‘accordingly’ – Putin

If NATO threatens Russia’s territories Moscow will respond to the threat accordingly, said President Vladimir Putin. This comes after he announced Russia’s strategic forces will be getting over 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles in 2015.

“If someone threatens our territories, it means that we will have to aim our armed forces accordingly at the territories from where the threat is coming. How else could it be? It is NATO that approaching our borders, it’s not like we are moving anywhere,” Putin said speaking at a joint media conference with Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto in Moscow on Tuesday.

He said at the moment he sees no threat in the alliance’s activities, since the missile defense system wide deployment is a bigger threat.

“I’d refrain from whipping up emotions. Of course, we will analyze everything but so far I see nothing that might prompt us to [take responsive measures],” he said. “What worries us more is the anti-missile defense system that is being deployed – that is a significant thing of strategic importance.”

The comments come after The New York Times ran a piece Saturday, which said the Pentagon could store “battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and other heavy weapons for as many as 5,000 American troops in several Baltic and Eastern European countries.”

Day later, Poland and Lithuania revealed on-going talks with Washington to host US military equipment warehouses. This prompted a harsh reaction from Moscow; Russia warned that it has no binding obligations limiting its armed forces in its Western region.

“Russia will have no other choice but to boost its military potential along its western borders,” General Yury Yakubov, a senior Defense Ministry official told Interfax Monday. He added that a military buildup would affect tactical groupings in the Belarus and Kaliningrad region.

On Tuesday morning Putin stated that in 2015 Russia’s strategic forces will be getting over 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

In response to all these statements, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg accused Russia of “saber-rattling.”

This nuclear sabre-rattling of Russia is unjustified. It’s destabilizing and it’s dangerous. This is something which we are addressing, and it’s also one of the reasons we are now increasing the readiness and preparedness of our forces,” Stoltenberg said during a news briefing in Brussels on Tuesday.

He added that NATO is making sure it “provides the terms of protection of all allies against the enemy.”

NATO forces are currently holding military exercises in Poland codenamed Noble Jump. Their aim, according to Stoltenberg’s interview to the Polish Press Agency, is to show that the Alliance can quickly deploy its forces to any of the member countries.

The drills involve about 2,000 soldiers and some 500 pieces of hardware, including tanks, jets and helicopters. The scenario is based on a hypothetical conflict with several countries taking part. It is the first official exercise of the NATO ‘Spearhead’ force established in Europe to counter what Alliance commanders have repeatedly dubbed ‘Russian aggression’.

Washington also made a statement following Vladimir Putin’s announcement about additional ICBMs.

“It does concern me,” State Secretary John Kerry said, answering a reporter’s question at a briefing. “Nobody should hear that kind of announcement from the leader of a powerful country and not be concerned about what the implications are.”

‘US, EU fails to put enough pressure on Kiev to implement Minsk deal’

Putin made the fresh statements at a media press conference with Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto in Moscow on Tuesday evening. Besides NATO, the two leaders talked much about the on-going crisis in Ukraine and Russia’s role in its resolution.

Putin said Moscow considers the Minsk ceasefire agreement to be ‘fair and balanced’ and criticized the US and EU for failing to make enough effort to pressure Kiev.

We consider [the Minsk] agreements to be fair and balanced and we are exerting the possible pressure on one of the sides of the conflict – on the unrecognized Donetsk and Lugansk republics,” Putin said The eastern Ukrainian republics are ready to hold talks on all points of the Minsk agreement, he said.

Putin noted that “none of the points of the [Minsk deal] are sole responsibility of Donbass, primarily it’s the responsibility of Kiev authorities.”

He also criticized the EU and the US leaders for failing to exercise “enough pressure on Kiev authorities” in the implementation of the ceasefire agreement. There is “no alternative” to the Minsk deal and “as hard as it may be we should follow this path,” he said.

The sides of the conflict “should sit down for direct talks” as there is “no other way,” he added.

Niinisto, in his turn, said that Moscow and Helsinki were actively participating in the OSCE work and pledged that the work would continue.

At present, everybody should exert maximum efforts to restore peace in Ukraine and remove the current strains that are present in Russia’s relations with the West,” he said.

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R E L A T E D :

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SOURCES:
RT News 23/6/2015
RT News 22/6/2015
RT News 18/6/2015
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