Pentagon Confronts Russia In The Baltic Sea

Rick Rozoff | Twelve months ago a new U.S. administration entered the White House as the world entered a new year.

Two and a half weeks later the nation’s new vice president, Joseph Biden, spoke at the annual Munich Security Conference and said “it’s time to press the reset button and to revisit the many areas where we can and should be working together with Russia.”

Incongruously to any who expected a change in tact if not substance regarding strained U.S.-Russian relations, in the same speech Biden emphasized that, using the “New World Order” shibboleth of the past generation at the end, “Two months from now, the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will gather to celebrate the 60th year of this Alliance. This Alliance has been the cornerstone of our common security since the end of World War II. It has anchored the United States in Europe and helped forge a Europe whole and free.” [1]

Six months before, while Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he rushed to the nation of Georgia five days after the end of the country’s five-day war with Russia as an emissary for the George W. Bush administration, and pledged $1 billion in assistance to the beleaguered regime of former U.S. resident Mikheil Saakashvili.

To demonstrate how serious Biden and the government he represented were about rhetorical gimmicks like reset buttons, four months after his Munich address Biden visited Ukraine and Georgia to shore up their “color revolution”-bred heads of state (outgoing Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko is married to a Chicagoan and former Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush official) in their anti-Russian and pro-NATO stances.

While back in Georgia he insisted “We understand that Georgia aspires to join NATO. We fully support that aspiration.”

In Ukraine he said “As we reset the relationship with Russia, we reaffirm our commitment to an independent Ukraine, and we recognize no sphere of influence or no ability of any other nation to veto the choices an independent nation makes,” [2] also in reference to joining the U.S.-dominated military bloc. Biden’s grammar may have been murky, but his message was unmistakeably clear.

Upon his return home Biden gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal, the contents of which were indicated by the title the newspaper gave its account of them – “Biden Says Weakened Russia Will Bend to U.S.” – and which were characterized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies as “the most critical statements from a senior administration official to date vis-a-vis Russia.” [3]

It took the Barack Obama government eight months to make its first friendly gesture to Russia. In September of last year the American president and Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that they were abandoning the Bush administration’s plan to station ten ground-based midcourse interceptor missiles in Poland in favor of a “stronger, smarter, and swifter” alternative.

The new system would rely on the deployment of Aegis class warships equipped with SM-3 (Standard Missile-3) missiles – with a range of at least 500 kilometers (310 miles) – which “provide the flexibility to move interceptors from one region to another if needed,” [4] in Gates’ words.

The first location for their deployment will be the Baltic Sea according to all indications.

The proximity of Russia’s two largest cities, St. Petersburg and Moscow, especially the first, to the Baltic coast makes the basing of American warships with interceptor missiles in that sea the equivalent of Russia stationing comparable vessels with the same capability in the Atlantic Ocean near Delaware Bay, within easy striking distance of New York City and Washington, D.C.

Although Washington canceled the earlier interceptor missile plans for Poland, on January 20 the defense ministry of that country announced that not only would the Pentagon go ahead with the deployment of a Patriot Advanced Capability-3 anti-ballistic missile battery in the country, but that it would be based on the Baltic Sea coast 35 miles from Russia’s Kaliningrad district. [5]

The previous month Viktor Zavarzin, the head of the Defense Committee of the Russian State Duma (the lower house of parliament), said “Russia is concerned with how rapidly new NATO members are upgrading their military infrastructure” and “that Russia was especially concerned with the reconstruction of air bases in the Baltic countries for NATO’s purposes which include signal and air intelligence radio of Russian territory.” [6]

As it should be.

Since the Baltic Sea nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were ushered into NATO as full members in 2004, warplanes from Alliance member states have shared four-month rotations in patrolling the region, with two U.S. deployments to date.

Shortly before the patrols began almost six years ago the Russian media reported that “Relations between Russia and Estonia have been tense ever since NATO built a radar station on the Russian-Estonian border last year. On March 23, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko warned Russia would retaliate ‘if NATO planes fly over Russian borders after the Baltic nations join the alliance.'” [7] Read more of this post

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