On Thursday, NATO defense ministers met in Brussels and gave a final approval for the expansion of the Enhanced NATO Response Force to 40,000 troops as part of a major escalation of the US-led alliance’s military manoeuvres in a bid to cull down on Russian activities in recent weeks.
The NATO ministers, that included US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, spoke deeply about Moscow’s recent airstrikes in Syria against Islamist militants who are keen on overthrowing the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The ministers went to great lengths to discuss aggressive strategies around the Russian border in a bid to ensure that the Western interests are not tampered by Moscow in any way possible.
Turkish airspace violation
Moreover, Washington and its NATO allies, are not happy with Russian warplanes crossing Syria’s northern border and entering Turkish airspace last weekend and all the decision makers in Brussels agreed that this was an effective act of war from NATO.
NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg told reporters before entering the meeting that the alliance is ready and willing to defend all of its allies which includes Turkey.
He also added that NATO was willing to deploy its troops to Turkey and has already started taking steps to increase NATO’s capacity and preparedness to take measures when things heat up.
It is clear that exaggerating upon the alleged violations of Turkish airspace and make it sound like an act of war is part of the grander scheme of things in a bid to add more fuel to the confrontation between Moscow and Washington and Pentagon is reportedly keen on using the aforementioned event as a proper basis for its future initiatives to pile up pressure on Russia.
However, Russian President, Vladimir Putin insists that the violations of the Turkish airspace were purely incidental but his claims have been simply rejected by both Washington and NATO who blame Moscow for adding more fuel to the fire.
In reality, the Islamist militias, including both ISIS and Al-Nusra Front which is affiliated with Al-Qaeda, work in close proximity to the Turkish border which serves as their pipeline for funds, arms and foreign fighters who have kept pouring in for over a year now.
Moreover, Turkey also sees the border with Syria as a huge threat to its security since 2012 when one of its warplanes was shot down by a Syrian missile after it accidentally flew into Syrian airspace. As a result, Turkey declared a five mile buffer zone and now has the right to shoot down any target that is within the aforementioned distance of the Turkish border.
However, it should also be noted that Turkey has violated Syrian and Iraqi borders on numerous occasions – from carrying out bombing raids against Kurdish camps to launching air strikes against Syria. All these actions were taken by Turkey without being granted permission from either country’s government which means that its case for border violations against it is not going to be a strong one.
Boasting of NATO’s military buildup, Secretary General Stoltenberg told the assembled ministers, “We are implementing the biggest reinforcement of our collective defense since the end of the Cold War.”
US involvement in Ukraine
This buildup was actually the result of the crisis that took over Ukraine in February 2014 when a US-sponsored coup in Kiev ousted President Viktor Yanukovych and brought to power a far-right and ultranationalist regime that was submissive to Washington and the European Union.
If that was not enough, the dramatic expansion of US and NATO alongside Russia’s western borders has further increased the threat of a military confrontation between the two chief protagonists, United States and Russia and if it happens, the consequences will be borne by the entire international community.
The crisis in Syria further exacerbated the danger of war between the two nuclear-armed powers. The Syrian crisis can also trace its roots to Washington and its allies that attempted to effect a regime change and install a US-puppet government in Damascus in a ploy that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. If that was not enough, Russian intervention has further complicated the mess as the two could confront one another during their separate adventure.
US Defense Secretary, Carter was naturally not happy with Moscow for not giving Washington enough time before it launched 26 cruise missiles against enemy targets in Syria from warships that are still deployed in the Caspian Sea some 900 miles away.
However, Carter did have something to say.
“This will have consequences for Russia itself…” He added, “I also expect that in coming days, the Russians will begin to suffer casualties in Syria.”
Most of Carter’s speech surrounded Moscow’s military actions in which he stated that Russia is not targeting ISIS and in fact, is taking out only those elements that are looking to effect a regime change in the war-torn country. Without being too open, Washington has expressed its concerns that Russia is conducting airstrikes against Al-Nusra and other Islamist militias that are connected with Al-Qaeeda. The West is operating in a de facto alliance with these groups.
Other initiatives taken by NATO
Apart from adding more troops to the NATO Response Force, there were other big decisions made at the meeting in Brussels. The NATO ministers made a huge move by adding two new military headquarters, one in Hungary and another in Slovakia. The other six are already planned in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Poland and Romania. These headquarters are known as NATO Force Integration Units with each HQ having around 80 military personnel. The idea behind these headquarters is to have a place to plan and prepare for a rapid deployment of NATO troops when it is required.
Britain has also announced that it will start regular deployment of units of up to 150 soldiers to Poland and Ukraine for training. According to the country’s Defense Minister Michael Fallon, the action has been taken as a response to the aggressive and provocative behavior of Russia.
Russia is clearly not happy with the British announcement and has condemned these actions.
“An invented excuse about the suggested threat coming from Russia is possibly just camouflage used to disguise the plans to further expand NATO toward our borders,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. “Of course, any plans to bring NATO’s military infrastructure closer to the Russian Federation lead to reciprocal steps needed to restore the necessary parity.”
Apart from discussing the issues in Syria and escalation in Eastern Europe, the ministers also discussed the grim situation that has developed in Afghanistan. The recent fall of Kunduz to the Taliban has thoroughly exposed the viability of Washington’s puppet regime in the country. Carter has asked for a change in the exit strategy with 6,000 non-US NATO troops set to be withdrawn from the country in a few months.