NATO to Train Ukraine Regime Troops for Southeast Operation
May 14, 2014
OPINION: NATO to Train Ukraine Regime Troops for Southeast Operation
MOSCOW: On May 9 the website of United States European Command, one of six regional unified (land, air, naval and special forces) combatant commands used by the Pentagon to divide up the entire planet, announced the opening ceremony of Exercise Spring Storm in Estonia run by the U.S.’s Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR).
The event was held at the Ämari Air base in the Baltic nation, which recently has been inaugurated as a hub for U.S. and other NATO nation’s warplanes after the manner of the Šiauliai Air Base in nearby Lithuania, where NATO warplanes have been operating for continuous air patrols initiated over a decade ago. During the last, recently concluded, U.S. rotation the number of multi-role combat aircraft deployed for that mission was increased from the customary four to ten.
Following the war games in Estonia, the Special Operations Command Europe forces will participate in the Flaming Sword 14 exercise in Lithuania and Latvia from May 18-30, then the Namejs 14 drills in Latvia from May 19-25. In the words of the U.S. armed forces publication Stars and Stripes on May 9, “U.S. Special Operations Command Europe is planning additional exercises in the region as part of an effort to reassure allies in border regions around Russia and Ukraine.”
The special forces maneuvers will overlap with the deployment last month of 600 members of the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team – airborne rapid reaction combat troops – for exercises in the same three countries and Poland.
In its account of the current special operations exercises in the Baltic Sea region, European Command reports:
“SOCEUR has also added a number of Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) events in five countries across the Baltics and Eastern Europe to be conducted over the next two months. These JCET events are the first in a series of expanded U.S. special operations training activities in Eastern Europe and the Baltic region; they are the first in a developing persistent rotational SOF presence in the region…”
Stars and Stripes indicates that, given the ambitious scope of and time required to operationalize the following, plans for the expanded and in fact permanent presence of American special operations forces in nations bordering Russian territory have been underway long before the current Ukrainian crisis:
“In addition to long-standing annual exercises, SOCEUR has added a number of new training programs over the next two months in five counties across the Baltics and eastern Europe. Follow-on missions are also being planned to ensure an ongoing presence of special operators, according to the command.
“The so-called Joint Combined Exchange Training events will involve small teams of operators, who work on a range of combat tactics on 30-day rotations. The troops, including Green Berets, SEALS and Air Force operators, will be pulled from SOCEUR headquarters in Stuttgart and across the SOF [Special Operations Forces] community to maintain a constant rotational presence.”
The commander of SOCEUR, Air Force Major General Marshall B. Webb, is quoted stating, “Through these types of annual exercises, SOCEUR elements have developed lasting relationships and extensive interoperability with our special operations partners in the majority of countries bordering Ukraine over the last seven years.”
The time frame he uses may be a reference to the annual Jackal Stone special operations forces exercises the U.S. and its NATO allies and partners have held in Eastern Europe since 2008.
The first was hosted by Hungary, Romania and Ukraine and included personnel from the U.S., Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Sweden and Ukraine. The 2010 iteration was conducted in Lithuania and Poland and the 2011 one in Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine.
Romania and Bulgaria, Ukraine’s and Russia’s Black Sea neighbors, also host the U.S. Army’s Task Force East and the U.S. Marine Corps’ Black Sea Rotational Force, the latter assigned since 2010 to further the NATO integration of 16 nations in the Balkans, Black Sea and Caucasus regions (Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Ukraine) through regular multinational training and exercises.
The current and upcoming special operations exercises in the Baltic states officially include the participation of units from the U.S. and its NATO allies and partners Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Norway, Finland and Sweden. All but the U.S. and Sweden border Russia.
What is not reported but is to be assumed is that Ukrainian special forces, already the recipient of several years of Jackal Stone exercises designed to achieve special forces interoperability with the U.S. and NATO, will be trained for ongoing combat operations against opponents of the Kiev junta in the east of their nation.
It is worth recalling that the Pentagon’s Georgia Train and Equip Program, which for the past twelve years has trained the Caucasus country’s combat forces for deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan – and for the five-day war with Russia in 2008 – was initially run by United States Army Special Forces, the Green Berets, in the Black Sea state. A thousand U.S. troops led the Immediate Response 2008 NATO and Partnership for Peace war games in Georgia, which only ended a week before Georgian – U.S.-trained – special forces launched a bloody assault of the South Ossetian capital of Tschinval, triggering the war with Russia.
A Reuters feature of March 2 of this year written by one Peter Apps asserts that “Ukrainian special forces or irregular units could mount hit-and-run attacks on Russian forces in the country.” If there were Russian forces in the country; but in lieu of that option they can and no doubt are being used against self-defense volunteers in the east of the country.
Special operations units also participated in the NATO Response Force Steadfast Jazz exercises last November in the Baltics and Poland, which with 6,000 troops – air, sea and land forces – constituted NATO’s largest war games since 2006. Thirteen warships were deployed off the coast of Poland and 60 military aircraft were employed.
The secretary general of the U.S.-dominated military bloc, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, stated at the time:
“The purpose of the NATO Response Force is to be able to defend any Ally, deploy anywhere, and deter any threat – all at short notice. It is the spearhead of NATO. Every year, we test it, to make sure that it is sharp and ready for use.”
The NATO-led Cold Response military exercises in Norway also routinely include a thousand or more special forces troops. This year’s version in March featured the participation of 16,000 troops from sixteen nations conducting exercises in northern Norway, not far from the Russian border.
Until recently the U.S. and NATO have trained special operations forces for integrated military action abroad, particularly in Afghanistan. Having achieved the desired real-life combat training in South Asia, those troops and units are home for use domestically and against neighboring states.