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How Ukraine’s War Is to Be Settled: Zelenskiy, Crimea, and Donbass

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On April 30th, Ukraine’s Central Election Commission announced that after the final voting tabulations (which included more than 13% of Ukrainians living abroad), Volodmyr Zelensky had beaten the sitting President, Petro Poroshenko, by a vote of 73.22% to 24.45%. The biggest single issue that Ukraine’s new President will be dealing with is going to be whether to continue, or to end, Ukraine’s war against its two break-away regions, Crimea in the extreme south, and Donbass in the far east.

Ukraine’s ‘civil’ war had started in late February 2014, when the United States’ longstanding efforts at regime-change in that country (in order to install an anti-Russian government in the European country that has the longest border with Russia) finally succeeded. These efforts succeeded there in much the same way that the U.S. regime’s efforts at regime-change in 1953 Iran did, and that the U.S. regime’s efforts at regime-change in 1954 Guatemala did, and that the U.S. regime’s efforts at regime-change in 1973 Chile did: by means of a bloody coup. In each case, the U.S. coup replaced an existing democracy and it installed instead a fascist dictatorship, which was promptly followed by a ‘civil war’ when the U.S.-installed dictatorship targeted for extermination and/or expulsion the leaders and voters for that overthrown democracy. In each of these coup-cases, the first task of the newly installed dictatorship was to eliminate enough of the voters who had voted for and backed the democracy, so that any future ‘elections’ would install only other fascists and thereby continue that government as being a U.S. vassal-nation.

A month before Zelenskiy’s April 23rd electoral win, UAWire headlined on March 23rd, “Front-runner in Ukraine’s election race names condition for returning Crimea”, and reported that Zelenskiy had suddenly made the radical statement: “Crimea will return only when power changes in Russia. There is no other choice.” This view accepted the likelihood that Crimea would remain as a part of Russia (which it had been for hundreds of years until 1954 when the Ukrainian Nikita Khruschev, as the Soviet dictator, arbitrarily gifted it from Russia to his own homeland). Zelenskiy’s statement directly contradicted the view that Ukraine’s Government had emphatically stated ever since the U.S. Government’s successful February 2014 coup (which was hidden behind massive grassroots anti-corruption demonstrations at Kiev’s Maidan Square) replaced Ukraine’s neutralist, simultaneously pro-Western and pro-Russian, Government, by the present rabidly anti-Russian U.S.-imposed regime. This U.S.-installed regime promised, repeatedly and consistently, that it would invade and conquer Crimea, and would thereby restore it to Ukraine, as Crimea had been, from 1954 to 2014.

That UAWire report also quoted Zelenskiy’s remark about the other breakaway region from Ukraine, Donbass: “Residents of Donbas should ‘realize that they are Ukrainians,’ stressed Zelensky.” This too constituted a radical break away from the U.S.-imposed Ukrainian Government’s repeated promises (which U.S. President Barack Obama had strongly supported) to retake Donbass by force — not by any means of convincing Donbassers about anything. The American regime’s view was that the residents of Crimea and of Donbass should have no say in whether or not they are to be ruled by Ukraine’s Government. 

None of the other candidates in the Presidential contest veered apart from the U.S.-installed regime’s consistent line of war against Russia and of retaking both Crimea and Donbass. All of them promised victory against Russia.

Zelenskiy thus won this election as the peace-candidate in the race. Ukrainians had finally become sick and tired of being at war against Russia, and that’s the main meaning of Zelenskiy’s enormous 73% win.

This victory by Zelenskiy represented actually the will not of the U.S. regime, but of the EU regime, which had never been quite as eager as the U.S. regime was to conquer Russia. On March 15th, France’s Ambassador to Ukraine, Isabel Dumont, communicating privately to Ukraine’s then-existing Government. Writing on behalf of all seven of the G7 Ambassadors, she warned Ukraine’s far-right Minister of the Interior, Arsen Avakov, that “the G7 group is concerned by extreme political movements in Ukraine.” Those “extreme political movements in Ukraine” were Ukraine’s two racist-fascist, or ideologically nazi, political parties, Svoboda and Right Sector, both of which had provided the shock-troops, which had worked for the U.S. regime during the coup, and which subsequently led in the new regime’s ethnic-cleansing campaign to kill as many as possible of the residents in Donbass. (90% of the Donbass voters had voted for the Ukrainian President that Obama overthrew.) America’s Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty headlined, on March 22nd, about the March 15th G7 statement, “G7 Letter Takes Aim At Role Of Violent Extremists In Ukrainian Society, Election”. This reported that the G7’s concern referred specifically to “products of the Azov Battalion.” That battalion is (though RFERL carefully ignored the fact) a self-organized blatantly white-supremacist Ukrainian organization of members both of Svoboda and of Right Sector. Azov’s founder and leader, Andrei Biletsky (or “Beletsky”), calls his movement “Ukrainian Social Nationalism,” and he has laid out in writing its program as “racial purification of the Nation” and specifically as being a return to “old Ukrainian Aryan values forgotten in modern society.” His followers had, under Obama (during and since the coup), powerfully helped to install the far-right post-coup regime, which regime now possibly could finally end — Obama’s coup in Ukraine thus to become terminated in abject failure (which it actually already is) and perhaps ultimately even to become abandoned by the Europeans. So: Zelenskiy will need will need to be very concerned with what the EU’s leadership wants. If Ukraine now were to lose the EU’s continued support, it would become totally isolated.

The EU’s new position on Ukraine is decidedly less American than it had formerly been. It’s no longer much respecting the U.S. regime. It falls more into line with what Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, has advocated for and helped to negotiate for in the Minsk accords (which the U.S. regime refused to particiate in). He wants Donbassers to be restored again into the electorate of the Ukrainian Government, but only in a way which those people themselves participate in helping to shape — and not (as the U.S. regime has constantly championed) by means of coercion: by military force (war).

Here is how Russia’s position on Donbass evolved into this fixed and steady policy:

On 19 September 2014, I headlined “Russia’s Leader Putin Rejects Ukrainian Separatists’ Aim to Become Part of Russia”, and reported the momentous news that Putin had finally decided not to allow the former Ukraine’s far-eastern Donbass region to be admitted into the Russian Federation, in any such way as he had, just a half-year before, on 16 March 2014, allowed Crimea in — simply by means of a majority-vote of the residents there to abandon Ukraine and to join Russia.

Then, a year later, on 12 September 2015, I bannered “U.S.-Installed Ukrainian Regime Now Fears Return of Donbass to Ukraine”, and reported that, and explained why, “for Ukraine to re-absorb the breakaway region, Donbass (its two districts Donetsk and Lugansk), back into Ukraine, would be politically disastrous, unless the residents there are eliminated.”

The reason for that “politically disastrous” was made clear by the voting-map for the 2010 Ukrainian Presidential election, which election had been won by the Presidential candidate who had advocated for Ukraine to have cordial relations both with Russia to the east and with the European Union and the U.S. to the west: Viktor Yanukovych. (The voting percentages for him are indicated on that map as the places that voted for “Janukovych”). The dark-purple part of that voting-map indicates the areas where Yanukovych had won by 90% or higher, which was the highest support in all of Ukraine, and almost all of the dark purple area is in Donbass. This is the reason why the Obama-installed regime wanted to eliminate those people. They could vote out-of-office Obama’s Ukrainian regime. So: if those voters aren’t permanently eliminated from Ukraine (or ethnically cleansed from Ukraine), then the U.S. regime’s control over Ukraine’s Government won’t be able to last long, and probably won’t even survive beyond the next Ukrainian elections. In other words: the U.S.-installed Ukrainian regime depends, for its very existence, not only upon the U.S. regime, but also upon eliminating from any future Ukrainian election the voters who live in Donbass. That’s the reason why “U.S.-Installed Ukrainian Regime Now Fears Return of Donbass to Ukraine”. At least between the time of ther U.S. coup and Zelenskiy’s win, Ukraine’s regime demanded the land in Crimea and in Donbass, but with the voters there either dead or gone as refugees to Russia — but definitley not participating in future Ukrainian elections.

Only in this light can the recently reaffirmed news that Putin wants the residents of Donbass to become Ukrainians again, become correctly understood: Putin doesn’t want a U.S.-stooge-regime to be ruling next door in Ukraine. He wants those pro-Russian residents to be voting in Ukraine, and he has no need for them to be added to Russia’s electorate. Their presence in Ukraine’s electorate reduces Ukraine’s anti-Russia policies, and thereby increases Russia’s safety. So: this is what Putin wants.

Thus, on 19 April 2019, Reuters headlined “Putin’s INTERVIEW-ally advised the new president of Ukraine to agree with Moscow and reclaim the Territory” of Donbass, and reported that a Ukrainian legislator who serves as a rare negotiator between Ukraine and Russia, “Viktor Medvedchuk, a significant figure of the Ukrainian pro-Russian opposition,” is urging Ukraine’s newly elected President, Vladimir Zelenskiy, to negotiate with Putin the return of Donbass to Ukraine. The article closed by saying, of Medvedchuk, that:

his party “opposition platform-for life”, which occupies the second place according to the polls, may be ready to cooperate with Zelensky after the October parliamentary elections, But the decision will be taken for each individual case. Zelenskiy hinted that he would not want to join the coalition with the Medvedchuk party and did not say whether he would be ready to work with him on an ad hoc basis.

And, then, on 23 April 2019, UAWire headlined “Russia to offer Zelensky deal on gas and the Donbas”, and reported that:

Moscow sees a chance to improve relations with Ukraine following the outcome of the presidential elections in Ukraine, announced Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Monday as he commented on the results of the second round of voting after which 41-year-old Vladimir Zelensky won with over 70% of the vote. …

According to Medvedchuk, who had traveled to Moscow to meet with Putin and representatives of the Russian government two weeks ago, Moscow promises a 25 percent discount on gas if Ukraine agrees to resume direct purchases from Gazprom instead of reverse flow purchases from European countries as has been the case since 2015. …

Moscow’s main goal is to return the territories of the Donbas controlled by the pro-Russian militants to Kyiv on its own terms.

A deal on how to implement peace in the east of Ukraine can be reached “within a few months” and enforced within “six to eight months”, Medvedchuk said, adding that any negotiations on this issue should be conducted by Kyiv, Moscow and the two breakaway pro-Russian regions.

If Zelenskiy takes up Russia’s invitation, then the sticking-points will be:

Can ways be found that will persuade the residents of Donbass, whom the U.S.-imposed Ukrainian regime has been trying to exterminate and/or force to flee into neighboring Russia, to become again citizens of Ukraine? If, indeed, “any negotiations on this issue should be conducted by Kyiv, Moscow and the two breakaway pro-Russian regions,” then the residents in Donbass (who had voted around 90% for Yanukovych and since then were bombed and even firebombed by the U/S.-installed Ukrainian regime) would have a say in their own fates. How could they vote to become Ukrainians, after that — Ukraine’s war against  them? The inducements would have to be pretty strong.

Zelenskiy would, in that scenario, be seeking to absorb those voters back again into what would now be Zelenskiy’s own electorate, and therefore he would probably be voted out-of-office in his re-election campaign. Would he be willing to do such a thing? Well, if he were to be strong for Donbassers’ rights and for the Ukrainian Government’s protection of them, then maybe, because then he’d win Donbassers’ votes at least as much as Yanukovych did. That would be the end of Obama’s impact upon Ukraine.

Whereas, in The West, the war against Donbass is portrayed as Russia invading that part of (the former) Ukraine in order to ‘grab’ ‘another piece’ of its territory, the reality is that it’s an invasion there by the U.S.-installed Ukrainian regime in order to make sure that Donbass’s voters will never again be voting in any Ukrainian elections. One of the reasons that the publics in the U.S. international empire endorse their regimes’ aggressions against Russia — and against any nation’s leader (such as against Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Viktor Yanukovych, Hugo Chavez, and Bashar Assad) who is friendly toward Russia — is the rampant fraudulent headlines such as was epitomized in the 7 December 2018 The Week magazine, “Ukraine: Is Russia trying to take another chunk?” It’s hardly a free press in the sense that the empire’s propaganda says it is. It’s a deceit-machine. The publics within the empire are overwhelmingly deceived, especially about international relations (which is what’s necessary in order to be able to increase the empire).

CONCLUSIONS 

The Minsk accords and all the rest are now just PR. The residents in Donbass have become stranded between two governments — one which wants them dead or otherwise gone, and the other which doesn’t need them but which does whatever it can to help them to survive where they are, until they finally accept becoming again ruled from Kiev.

If I were to venture a guess as to what the outcome of this will be, it would be that Zelenskiy will give the war-weary residents both in Ukraine and in Donbass — and also the residents of Crimea, which Putin did accept into Russia — what they want, while Ukraine extracts from Gazprom and Russia whatever discounts they can get, in return for reducing Russia’s costs to maintain the people in Donbass. 

What will happen if that doesn’t? Maybe, long term, Donbass will be able to become admitted into Russia, without the U.S. regime and its allies invading Russia on the excuse of there having been ‘another land-seizure by the dangerous and aggressive Russian dictator Putin’ (or his successor). But, post-coup, Ukraine’s leaders need to satisfy the U.S. and its allies (now especially the EU), and so the U.S.-led group will then ultimately determine what Ukraine does regarding Donbass. 

Only if the U.S. too somehow gets a peace-President can Donbassers have peace. If Zelenskiy doesn’t follow through on the peace-path and the U.S. wants the war against Donbass to resume, then that’s what will happen: the war against Donbass will resume. 

A way needs to be found to restore Ukrainian voting rights and social services to Donbassers and yet to allow Donbassers to be protected by Russia against Ukraine’s nazis. It won’t happen unless there is a U.S. President who wants peace with Russia, instead of conquest of Russia. Zelensky said “Crimea will return only when power changes in Russia. There is no other choice.” But the reality is that Crimea will remain as a part of Russia, and that Donbass will return to Ukraine only if and when America’s Government finally and truly ends its side of the Cold War, which Russia’s side ended in 1991 while the U.S. side secretly continued on right into the present, aiming ultimately to conquer Russia.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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Eastern Europe

An Impending Revolution

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Large crowds have demonstrated their anger at the results of the presidential election in Belarus. Photo: Kseniya Halubovich

Even on the end note, the year contains surprises enough to deem it as a year of instability and chaos given every nook and cranny around the globe is riddled with a new crisis every day. Latest down in the tally is the country of Belarus that has hardly streamlined over at least half a decade but now is hosting up as a venue to rippling protests in almost all the districts of its capital, Minsk. The outrage has resulted from the massive rigging imputed on the communist party in ruling for almost three decades since the split of Soviet Union in 1994. With Europe and Russia divided on the front as the protests and violence continue to rage: a revolution is emerging as a possibility.

The historical map of Belarus is nearly as complex as the geographical landscape which might only stand next to Afghanistan in terms of the intricacies faced by a landlocked country as such. Belarus is located in the Eastern European region bordered by Russia to the north-eastern perimeter. Poland borderlines the country to the West while Ukraine shares a border in the South. The NATO members, Lithuania and Latvia, outskirt the borders of Belarus in the Northwest, making the region as a prime buffer between the Russian regime and the western world. As Belarus stands as a junction between the European Union (EU) and Russia, the proximal nature brings about interests of either parties in the internal affairs of Minsk. However, the nature of the bond shared between the trio is by no means a triangle unlike other former soviet nations since Belarus has casted its absolute loyalty to Russia since the split of Soviet Union and ultimate accession to power of president, Alexander Lukashenko, the leader of the Communist Party of Belarus. Along with the alliance, however, came the unwanted dependency since over the 26-year rule of Lukashenko, he crippled the economy and the political writ of Belarus, using every last ounce of authority to subdue the opposition and the democratic mechanism of the country, earning him the nefarious title ‘Europe’s last dictator’.

The outburst of protests today stems from this very problem that is more deep-rooted than what comes across as apparent. The excessive and draconian use of power and autonomy has invalidated the independence of Belarusians and turned them haplessly at the mercy of Russian aid and support while blocking out any western support in the name of guarding national sovereignty. The ongoing surge of dissent was triggered earlier in August when the elections turned about to be absurdly rigged in favour of Alexander Lukashenko, granting him an indelible majority of 80% of the total vote count along with a lifetime of rule over the country despite his blatant unpopularity across the country. The accusations were further solidified when one of the popular opposing candidates, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, casted a complaint with the authorities regarding the falsification of election results. Instead of being appeased, she was detained for 7 straight hours and was even forced to exile to the neighbouring country of Lithuania. This resulted in major tide of riots and protests erupting all across Minsk, preceding over 3000 arrests over the election night.

On the official front, however, an aggressive stance was upheld along with a constant refusal of Lukashenko from stepping down from the long-held office or even considering a review of the polls counted despite exorbitant reports of unfair results. Heavy use of rubber bullets and tear gas was an eccentric protocol adopted by the local police force which instead of placating the rioters, further ignited the protests in more districts of the capital city. The anti-government relies also entitled ‘March of Neighbours’ transitioned into a high scale protest with many of the state employees resigning from their positions to stand upright against the long overdue corrupt regime. With the protests raging over months and the Lukashenko government getting more and more aggressive with their policies, the fear that once sparkled in the eyes of the natives is dwindling exceedingly and is turning into a cry for an outright revolution, which would be a ground-breaking one ever since the revolution of Iran back in 1979.

European counties have taken their conventional passive position in the crisis sinceEU is well aware of the Russian influence in Belarus and does not want to interfere with a probability of a direct conflict with Russia. However, they did call out their protest over the rigged elections, slapping sanctions over Belarus yet have not accused Lukashenko directly but instead have proposed a thorough international dialogue. Russia, on the other hand, faces a complex position since the dependence of Belarus bought Moscow a base against the West along with other regional rogues like Ukraine. However, high scale protests and rising chances of a full-blown revolution is hardly the choice Russian intends to opt. As the situation continues to unfold, economic reforms, as promised by Lukashenko, appears to be the only option that both EU and Russia could encourage as a bipartisan plan. Despite that, with six months of protests erupting as an outrage over a tyranny of 26 years, the reform-offering might be a bit late an offer since its no more about the country anymore, it’s about a struggle between a liberal or a communist Belarus.

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Eastern Europe

The 44-Day War: Democracy Has Been Defeated by Autocracy in Nagorno-Karabakh

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The people of Artsakh are seen as pro-Russian. Is this Pro-Moscow assessment of people of Artsakh accurate, and why Russian peacekeepers are welcomed in Nagorno-Karabakh?

***

The Republic of Artsakh and its people developed the nation’s democracy for approximately three decades. Back in 1991, Artsakh held a referendum on its independence, as well as democratic elections under a barrage of Azerbaijani rockets. The people of Artsakh accomplished this step by themselves, being convinced that without freedom of the individual, there is no freedom for the country. The Artsakh National Liberation Movement was nothing but a struggle for freedom and the right to decide one’s own destiny.

The development of democracy was not easy for a war-torn country with ade-facto status, limited resources, lack of institutions, combined with the threat of resumption of hostilities and the temptation of using elements of authoritarianism in governance as well as in the public mood. 

Nevertheless, during the last three decades, the people of Artsakh have managed to develop working democratic institutions, ensure political pluralism, and form effective human rights institutions. The vivid examples thereof are the 2020presidential elections held on a competitive basis, a 5-party Parliament, and the constitutional mechanisms for the separation of powers.

It is noteworthy that the full spectrum of democratization in Artsakh has been carried out by the country alone, without the direct support of international governmental and non-governmental organizations, and despite the numerous appeals by the civil society of Artsakh made to them.

However, Artsakh’s democracy has been highly regarded not only by parliamentarians, politicians and experts who have visited Artsakh, but also by the international organizations, such as Freedom House in its Freedom in the World annual reports. In these reports Artsakh is on the list of partly free countries, making progress in ensuring political and civil liberties each year, while Azerbaijan holds on to a not free status all the while making regressive steps in every aspect.

The people of Artsakh believed that the development of democracy would inevitably strengthen the position on unimaginability of any vertical relationship with dictatorial Azerbaijan. The people of Artsakh believed that they were keeping the eastern gate of the European civilization and its set of values. The people of Artsakh believed that those in West involved in the conflict settlement process, particularly France and the United States would view the Artsakh struggle with an understanding that it was created by their examples and ideals of freedom.

And what did the people of Artsakh receive as a result of believing in the West? They faced a new war and a new bloodshed unleashed by the same Azerbaijan. They also faced a harsh reality in the form of gross violations of human rights, war crimes and destruction of their cultural heritage. The principle of equality and self-determination of peoples in general, and the notions of freedom and human rights in particular completely collapsed before the eyes of the people of Artsakh.

One doesn’t have to be a military expert to understand that Artsakh, a small country with limited resources and capabilities, could not on its own resist Turkey-backed Azerbaijan for long, especially given the direct involvement of Turkish command staff and thousands of mercenaries from the Middle East terrorist organizations in the conflict, and the use of advanced military technology likethe banned weapons and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

What did the people of Artsakh need to prevent this war? The answer would have been the de jure recognition of Artsakh that at least would have dampened the possibility of a new war, put an end to the century-old conflict, and establish long lasting peace and security in the region.

Instead of recognizing their unalienable right to self-determination, a new war was imposed on the people of Artsakh. As a result of this war, the people of Artsakh were left with a devastated country, thousands of dead and wounded compatriots, a new generation of refugees and IDPs, dependence on the peacekeeping mission for physical security, a “neither peace nor war” situation, as well as an uncertain future.

Russia wanted to come to Karabakh and so it did. Russia is in Artsakh not because the people of Artsakh were dreaming of weakened sovereignty while they continued to think of what West would do, but Russia came to Artsakh because Russia, unlike the West, acts rather than speaks. When on the one hand there are European and American concerns expressed in empty statements and on the other hand there are Russian peacekeepers and tanks, there is no room left for thinking long.

Let’s look at the values in which European Union, United States, Canada, and the rest of the so called “civilized world” believe in: the ideas of human rights and freedoms which they been advocating for years across the world. Now let’s try to see what is left from them all. Maybe once can find an inspiration for writing new books and sharing ideas about the future of humanity vis-à-vis the civilized world. Perhaps, in the European Union, in the United States, in Canada, and in the rest of the so called “civilized” world, their population may enjoy the ideals of human rights, but the people living in small and unimportant countries are often deprived of such rights. Perhaps the Western intellectuals and authors will write books on how the West left the faith of the people of Artsakh to the hands of the terrorists while empowering the Turkish-Azerbaijani dictators with their indifference and inaction. Indeed, for the West, the lives of the people of Artsakh are not valuable just because they are from a ‘gray’ zone, because they live in a country that doesn’t officially ‘exist’. These discriminatory phrases are definitions time and again used by the Western officials. It is what it is. The West, however, should not forget to celebrate Zero Discrimination Day and quote articles from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Later, when Turkish expansionism and terrorism will knock on the Western doors, the West will remember those unimportant people from an unrecognized country that absorbed the first blow. At that juncture, the West will also remember how it admired the people of Artsakh’s endurance and collective resistance, but at the same time left them alone in their fight against terrorism and modern military technology. Perhaps, for the West it is just like watching a fun action movie with popcorn and cola.

Having 193 or 194 member-countries in the United Nations (UN)as a result of recognition of Artsakh would not change the existing international legal order, however, it could serve a textbook example for rising democracies and a lesson for the dictatorships and international terrorism. By not recognizing the right of the people of Artsakh to self-determination, the West is burying the concepts of human rights, freedoms, and democracy, thereby paving a way for the next military-political adventures of dictators. The West should decide. The longer the West spends on thinking without any concrete action, the further the region will move away from it.

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Eastern Europe

NATO invented new threat in the Baltic States

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It seems as if NATO has changed its priorities in the Baltic States.

It is well known that NATO member states agreed at the 2016 Summit in Warsaw to enhance NATO’s military presence in the eastern part of the Alliance.

So, the arrival of the multinational Allied battlegroup in Latvia in June 2017 concluded the deployment of forces under NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence in the Baltic States and Poland, thereby implementing the decisions made at the NATO’s Summits. Since than NATO has been actively enhancing its military capabilities in the Baltic States. It increased the number of troops and deployed heavy weapons including tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery. Canada is the framework nation for the battalion-size NATO battlegroup deployed to Latvia.

It was said that NATO’s enhanced forward presence is defensive, proportionate, and in line with international commitments.

Though it was absolutely evident that NATO pursues not only the stated goals, but some hidden ones. Among them are convincing of the need to increase defence budgets of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, political support at all levels, loyalty to all decisions made by leading NATO member states.

The more so, NATO invented new threat in the Baltic States. All of a sudden the Baltic States have been turned to the drone test site. In order to justify NATO new interests, it was said that unmanned aerial vehicles are an emerging threat to NATO soldiers deployed around the world, and especially in the Baltic region.

The leadership of the enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group in Latvia even held a symposium in Camp Adazi in November to talk about how to deal with the drone threat.

Latvia’s Battle Group Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Trevor Norton said that NATO recognized this threat as they prepared to deploy to Latvia, and made it a priority to come up with solutions.

“When I was looking at our adversaries and the way in which they have conducted recent operations around the world, it was obvious that they used UAS to great effect,” he said. “I determined that if we were to continue to be successful in deterring foreign aggression, we must demonstrate the ability to counter the threat of UAS. This is what led me to the idea of running a counter-UAS symposium and exercise.” In his turn Latvian Minister of Defense Artis Pabriks acknowledged that “the Latvian Defence Department has taken into account the lessons learned from the use of drones in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”

It should be said that this conclusion looks more than odd. Does Pabriks consider Armenia and Azerbadzan as adversaries?

The symposium combined presentations by experts from the United Kingdom and Canada with open discussion between members of all nine nations of the Battle Group as well as members of the Latvian National Armed Forces about the capabilities they have in Adazi, and how they could use them to minimize the UAS threat. Finally, they tested some of their weapon systems in shooting down target drones at the Camp Adazi range. And, probably, this was the main goal.

Major Matt Bentley, the organizer of the symposium, stressed that this is a complex problem that will not be solved with one symposium. He said it was an important first step in the process of developing practices and capabilities that can defend Allied soldiers from drones while defending Latvia. Following the symposium, the Battle Group drafted a service paper to send to all sending nations for each ally to consider as they develop ways to defeat this threat.

According to LCol Norton, as Allied nations develop ways and means to combat the threat posed by UAS, the Battle Group will be in a good position to test them in a multinational context. In the meantime, the Battle Group will continue to build and refine tactics, techniques and procedures using the tools at hand to mitigate the threat. So, NATO invented new threat in the Baltic States to convince these countries in need to pay more and to deploy more foreign troops on their territory. And all this against the backdrop of a pandemic and an acute shortage of funds for medicine in Latvia.

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