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Russian envoy to NATO: You crossed ‘red line’ with military build-up

NATO has tripled its military presence on Russia’s western borders over the past five years, forcing Moscow to take retaliatory steps

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NATO is bringing a “military dimension” to tensions between Russia and some of its Western neighbors by following through with a military build up which includes NATO military bases, and even missile defense systems. Russia’s delegate to NATO, Aleksandr Grushko, stresses that the security situation has gone from tight concerns to armed apprehension, calling these maneuvers “unjustified” at a panel at the Valdai Club:

NATO has crossed a line with its “unjustified” military build-up on Russia’s doorstep, Russian envoy to NATO Aleksandr Grushko has warned. He added that global security cannot be ensured without Russia.

Relations with states neighboring Russia never developed “military dimensions” despite strained relations with some of them, including with the Baltic states, Grushko said. But the situation has now changed, thanks to the military bloc, he told a discussion panel at the Valdai Club on Tuesday.

“Now, thanks to NATO, we have a military dimension, it was their choice, they crossed the red line,” Grushko said.

While the West has been trying hard to isolate Russia and fuel anti-Russian hysteria, international security is the only thing that suffers from this approach, according to Grushko. Any NATO and EU attempts to create “isolated safe havens” are doomed to failure, the diplomat said, as the creation of solid security systems cannot succeed without Russia.

“If they do not want dialogue, then there won’t be any. It takes two to tango, as you know, it will be a conscious choice of the alliance,” Grushko said.

 

Grushko isn’t alone in this observation, as First Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov has also warned that such a build up actually serves to worsen the security status of NATO countries which are host to military assets and forces facing Russia, stating  “[I am] sure that the negative consequences of NATO’s military preparations should spark serious concern among all [sides], as they worsen the security situation with regard to those states whose territories are being used to deploy NATO forces and assets.”

As some of Russia’s neighbors are keen to welcome NATO hardware, staff, and bases which they also seen to be excited to host, they are putting themselves right in harm’s way by harbouring the very threats that Russia has listed as some of its top military concerns.

“These very steps have been undertaken by the alliance year after year in the framework of its policy of ‘restraining’ our country. In Europe, a bridgehead is currently being formed to deploy, should the need arise, an offensive grouping,” Titov said.

Russia holds a certain amount of foreboded about “the expansion of the alliance’s naval and air-activities, new military infrastructure” as well as “the scale and intensity of the exercises” that NATO is implementing around Russia, he said.

Additionally, the US, in order to combat “Russian aggression”  is investing over $200 million for the development of military installations in Eastern Europe.

Titov added that “According to further plans to develop the US / NATO missile defense system in Europe, in addition to the already functioning facility in Romania, a similar missile defense base is set to be put into operation in Redzikowo, Poland, in 2018.”

NATO has tripled its military attendance to Russia’s western border over the past five years, with combat ready troops growing from 10,000 to 40,000 in number, which has necessitated Moscow taking retaliatory steps. NATO is regularly holding more than 30 military exercises next to Russia per annum perceiving Russia as the enemy combatant.

Over the course of this build up, the US has taken the liberty to effectively liberate itself from the 1987 treaty to do away with intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles. A European Deterrence Initiative was created to “reassure” European NATO members with military funding to the tune of over $4.5 billion, with funds ready to go to Estonia, Slovakia, Hungary, Iceland, Luxembourg, Latvia, Romania, and Norway in order to modernize their military infrastructure to be capable of hosting the most advanced hardware.

These Eastern European countries, by hosting NATO’s military presence for deployment, are not making themselves more secure against potential “Russian aggression” that they are training and equipping their military and hosting foreign militaries for, but rather, they are making themselves targets, for if some perceived “Russian aggression” were something of a shooting war, the places where the bullets are coming from are going to be the highest on the priority list of targets that the Russians will aim for.

How is this bolstering their security, especially if that security is estimated on the potentiality of a conflict with Russia? To put it more bluntly, they’re acting like Daffy Duck announcing duck season.

 

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Explosion in Crimea, Russia kills many, injuring dozens, terrorism suspected

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Via Sputnik:

“We are clarifying the information at the moment. Preliminary figures are 50 injured and 10 dead. Eight ambulance crews are working at the site and air medical services are involved,” the press-service for the Crimean Ministry of Health stated.

Medics announced that at least 50 people were injured in the explosion in Kerch and 25 have already been taken to local hospital with moderate wounds.

Local news outlets reported that earlier in the day, students at the college heard a blast and windows of the building were shattered.

Putin Orders that Assistance Be Provided to Victims of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The president has instructed the Ministry of Health and the rescue services to take emergency measures to assist victims of this explosion, if necessary, to ensure the urgent transportation of seriously wounded patients to leading medical institutions of Russia, whether in Moscow or other cities,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said.

The president also expressed his condolences to all those affected by the tragic incident.

Manhunt Underway in Kerch as FSB Specialists Investigate Site of Explosion – National Anti-Terrorist Committee

The site of the blast that rocked a city college in Kerch is being examined by FSB bomb disposal experts and law enforcement agencies are searching for clues that might lead to the arrest of the perpetrators, the National Anti Terrorism Committee said in a statement.

“Acting on orders from the head of the NAC’s local headquarters, FSB, Interior Ministry, Russian Guards and Emergency Ministry units have arrived at the site. The territory around the college has been cordoned off and the people inside the building evacuated… Mine-disposal experts are working at the site and law enforcement specialists are investigating,” the statement said.

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10 percent of American F-22 fighter jets damaged by Hurricane Michael

Part of the reason the F-22’s were left in the path of the storm is that they were broken and too expensive to fix or fly.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Note to the wise: When a hurricane comes, move your planes out of the way. Especially your really expensive F-22 fighter planes. After all, those babies are $339 mil apiece. Got the message?

Apparently the US Air Force didn’t get this message. Or, did they find themselves unable to follow the message?

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The Washington Times reported Tuesday that between 17 and 20 of these top-of-the-line fighter jets were damaged, some beyond the point of repair, when Hurricane Michael slammed ashore on Mexico Beach, Florida, not far from the Tyndall Air Force Base in the same state. The Times reports that more than a dozen of the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets were damaged after being left in the path of the extremely fierce storm:

President Trump’s tour Monday of devastation wrought by Hurricane Michael took him close to Florida’s Tyndall Air Force Base, where more than a dozen F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets were damaged after being left in the path of the powerful storm.

The pricey fighter jets — some possibly damaged beyond repair — were caught in the widespread destruction that took at least 18 lives, flattened homes, downed trees and buckled roads from Florida to Virginia.

The decision to leave roughly $7.5 billion in aircraft in the path of a hurricane raised eyebrows, including among defense analysts who say the Pentagon’s entire high-tech strategy continues to make its fighter jets vulnerable to weather and other mishaps when they are grounded for repairs.

“This becomes sort of a self-defeating cycle where we have $400 million aircraft that can’t fly precisely because they are $400 million aircraft,” said Dan Grazier, a defense fellow at Project on Government Oversight. “If we were buying simpler aircraft then it would be a whole lot easier for the base commander to get these aircraft up and in working order, at least more of them.”

This is quite a statement. The F-22 is held to be the tip of the American air defense sword. A superb airplane (when it works), it can do things no other plane in the world can do. It boasts a radar profile the size of a marble, making it virtually undetectable by enemy radars. It is highly maneuverable with thrust-vectoring built into its engines.

However, to see a report like this is simply stunning. After all, one would expect that the best military equipment ought to be the most reliable as well. 

It appears that Hurricane Michael figuratively and physically blew the lid off any efforts to conceal a problem with these planes, and indeed with the hyper-technological basis for the US air fighting forcesThe Times continues:

Reports on the number of aircraft damaged ranged from 17 to 22 or about 10 percent of the Air Force’s F-22 fleet of 187.

The Air Force stopped buying F-22s, considered the world’s most advanced fighter jets, in 2012. The aircraft is being replaced by the F-35, another high-tech but slightly less-expensive aircraft.

Later in the tour, at an emergency command center in Georgia, Mr. Trump said the damage to the F-22s couldn’t be avoided because the aircraft were grounded and the storm moved quickly.

“We’re going to have a full report. There was some damage, not nearly as bad as we first heard,” he said when asked about the F-22s, which cost about $339 million each.

“I’m always concerned about cost. I don’t like it,” Mr. Trump said.

Still, the president remains a fan of the high-tech fighter jet.

“The F-22 is one of my all-time favorites. It is the most beautiful fighter jet in the world. One of the best,” he said.

The Air Force managed to fly 33 of the F-22s to safety, but maintenance and repair issues kept 22 of the notoriously finicky aircraft on the ground when the powerful storm hit the base.

About 49 percent of the F-22s are out of action at any given time, according to an Air Force report this year.

This is a stunning statistic. This means that of the 187 planes in existence, 90 of them are not working. At their cost, that means that over thirty billion dollars worth of military equipment is sitting around, broken, just in airplanes alone.

As a point of comparison, the entire Russian military budget for 2017 was $61 billion, with that budget producing hypersonic missiles, superb fighter aircraft and tanks. Russian fighter planes are known for being able to take harsh landing and take-off conditions that would cripple the most modern American flying machines.

It would seem that Hurricane Michael exposed a serious problem with the state of readiness of American armed forces. Thankfully that problem did not arise in combat, but it is no less serious.

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Saudi Arabia trying to squirm free of Khashoggi murder (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 2.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a quick look at Saudi Arabia’s possible admission to killing journalist Jamal Khashoggi…accidentally, while they were torturing the man inside the consulate in Istanbul.

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Via Zerohedge

Even before the publication of last night’s Saudi trial balloon hinting that the kingdom would soon acknowledge that the extrajudicial killing of Jamal Khashoggi – the insider-turned dissident journalist who walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week and never walked back out – was the result of a “botched” kidnapping attempt carried out by “rogue killers” (despite reports that the US intelligence community knew that Khashoggi was being “targeted”), two realities had become increasingly clear. One: That the Saudis would avoid responsibility for the killing by pinning it on some unfortunate underling, and two: that there would be few, if any, lasting diplomatic repercussions.

And as more media organizations confirmed reports about Saudi’s plans to spin Khashoggi’s murder as a botched interrogation (we can only imagine what was said in that room to justify the use of such extreme violence), CNN calculated the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh for approximately 15 minutes early Tuesday, following his 12-hour-plus flight to the kingdom.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s meeting with King Salman of Saudi Arabia lasted no more than 15 minutes, CNN estimates based on the time the top US diplomat’s motorcade arrived at the royal court and departed.

The motorcade arrived at the royal court at 11:42 a.m. (4:42 a.m. ET) and left 26 minutes later. There is a fair distance to walk from where the motorcade dropped Pompeo off to where he met the king.

While Trump said on Monday that Pompeo would travel to Turkey “if necessary”, the Saudi’s decision to “come clean” about Khashoggi’s death pretty much rendered Pompeo’s fact-finding mission unnecessary.More important are developments in Turkey, where the joint Saudi-Turkish “investigation” is turning its attention toward the home of the Saudi consul, where a black diplomatic van that departed the Saudi consulate just under two hours after Khashoggi entered was captured on camera disappearing into a garage. Some speculate that this is where the killers finished disposing of Khashoggi’s body. This comes after a “nine-hour” search of the Saudi consulate building that, according to leaks published in Al-Jazeera, turned up “evidence of tampering” by the Saudis. On Tuesday, Turkey’s foreign minister clarified that Saudi had yet to admit its role in Khashoggi’s disappearance and probable death.

Turkish investigators will carry out a search of the Saudi Consul General’s residence on Tuesday as the probe into the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi continues, according to a Turkish diplomatic source.

CCTV footage released to the media from the day the Washington Post writer vanished show movement of vehicles from the consulate building to the Consul General’s residence nearby.

As speculation mounts that the incident could unseat the increasingly authoritarian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (who has already marginalized or incapacitated nearly every threat to his rule), it’s looking more likely that neither the US nor the rest of the Western world will do much to punish the world’s most important oil exporter, which can “weaponize” the oil market seemingly on a whim.

Any punishment for this flagrant violation of human rights will need to come, therefore, from the private sector, which, according to Bloomberg, could sabotage MbS’s grand Vision 2030 plan, which aims to remake the Saudi economy via a flood of foreign direct investment:

The economic strategy of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, known as MBS, is to make investment the main engine of economic growth instead of government spending, but the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi could frustrate these ambitions. Foreign direct investment, a key part of the plan to reinvent Saudi Arabia’s economy, declined sharply in 2017 and is unlikely to return to previous levels, leaving the government’s target for 2020 beyond reach, according to analysis by Bloomberg Economics. Increased policy uncertainty and, after the Khashoggi incident, the risk of reputational damage to foreign companies working in Saudi Arabia won’t help.

 

 

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