NATO countries are taking part in a large-scale military drill in Poland.
Some 31,000 servicemen from 24 countries are participating in the land, sea and air exercise called Anakonda-16 (June 7-17) – the largest training event of its type since the end of the Cold War.
This year’s Anakonda is exceptional due to its scale. For comparison, in 2014 the total number of personnel was 12,500, including only 750 from countries outside Poland. This time the exercise involves 12,000 Polish and 14,000 US troops, as well as 1,000 from the UK and others from member states and five partner nations, including Sweden and Finland. The Spanish and the Germans will send several hundred each. The participating forces are equipped with 3,000 vehicles, 105 aircraft and 12 ships.Airborne units, infantrymen, medics, military police and aviation units will operate jointlyin the series of engagements, withair-ground assaults and electronic warfare among other scenarios. The airdrop of more than 1,000 parachutists will be held over the northern Polish city of Torun. Furthermore, the engineers will build a bridge over the Vistula River to carry 300 vehicles. The exercise is being described as the largest peace-time movement of foreign troops in Poland ever, and the first time since 1941 that German tanks will cross the country. The troops are advancing into NATO member Lithuania for the operation, but are heading in the general direction of the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, a clear message that the operation is a simulation of a NATO invasion of Russian territory. The event is evidently planned as a show of force in an attempt to intimidate Russia.
Originally planned for later this year, Polish officials moved the event up to show NATO’s deterrence capabilities ahead of the alliance’s Warsaw summit to take place on July 8-9 at which leaders are expected to decide to station a significant number of troops in Poland and the Baltic states. In that respect, Anakonda is a political exercise as much as a military one.
To magnify the effect, Anakonda-2016 is running concurrently with several military exercises with active US participation. The BALTOPS 16 (Baltic Operation) exercise is taking place in the Baltic Sea since June 6 with several dozen NATO ships engaged. It involves 4,500 troops in Nordic and Baltic countries. The scenario envisages amphibious forces landing in Finland – a non-NATO country neighboring Russia. The US Army’s 82nd airborne division will parachute in at the Polish town of Torun as part of Swift Response 16. The US Army’s Vicenza, Italy-based 173rd airborne brigade will drop in to join the US Army’s 2nd cavalry regiment in the Drawsko Pomorskie training area (Poland). A US Stryker regiment is currently engaged in the Dragoon Ride convoy operation started in Vilseck, Germany, on May 27 to end about 1,400 miles away in Tapa, Estonia, on June 15. From there the regiment will join Exercise Saber Strike 16 – long-standing US Army-led cooperative training exercise designed to improve joint interoperability through a range of missions that prepare the 13 participating nations to support multinational contingency operations. The Iron Wolf 2016kicked off on June 6 to last till June 16 as part of the Saber Strike training, which is the largest US-organized exercise in the Baltic states.More than 5,000 troops from Denmark, the United States, Poland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, France and Germany will train in Lithuania – the largest NATO training event in the country so far.
Poland, the host country, has done its share to whip up anti-Russian hysteria. Before the exercise kicked off, Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz said,Poland would shortly start enrolling the first volunteers in a 35,000-member paramilitary force aimed at “parrying a perceived threat from Russia”. “Enrolment of the first members of the territorial defence force will start in September,” Mr Macierewicz said at a conference of paramilitary organizations in the northern town of Ostroda. Each of Poland's 16 provinces is expected to have a brigade-level force, and Mazovia – the biggest and most populous region in the center of the country – will have two. Paramilitary groups from the Baltic countries also attended the conference in Ostroda. Poland already has a paramilitary group, a “riflemen's association” called the Strzelec, set up in the early 20th century by the architect of Polish independence, Jozef Pilsudski. It has around 12,000 volunteers, many of them youngsters, who get training in military skills. Participating in Anakonda-2016, Strzelec units are taking part for the first time in a major military exercise.
Operation Anakonda, as well as other drills, goes hand in hand with US and NATO operations aiming to encircle Russia’s entire western border, from the Baltics and Eastern Europe to the Balkans. Last month, NATO officials set up a missile base in Deveselu, Romania, and began work on a similar base at Redzikowo in northern Poland. Russian President Vladimir Putin on a recent trip to Greece said people who host US anti-missile bases should get used to being in Russia’s “crosshairs”.
The US guided missile destroyer USS Porter has just sailed through the Bosphorus into the Black Sea with a strengthened missile armament – a year after a similar US warship in the Black Sea, the USS Ross, nearly violated Russian territorial waters, prompting a standoff with Russian warplanes.
Next year, the Pentagon plans to quadruple military spending in Europe to $3.4 billion and begin rotating an armored brigade through Eastern Europe – in addition to extra NATO forces to be deployed to Poland and the Baltics. NATO currently plans to station four battalions in the region – one each in Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia. A typical US army battalion consists of up to 800 soldiers. The bloc also plans to set up several headquarters and command and control infrastructures, as well as weapons and ammunition depots in the region.
The NATO activities violate the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act, which reads: “in the current and foreseeable security environment, the [NATO]Alliance will carry out its collective defense and other missions by ensuring the necessary interoperability, integration, and capability for reinforcement rather than by additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces.”
Russia has condemned the NATO activities near its territory. “We do not hide that we have a negative attitude toward the NATO line of moving its military infrastructure to our borders, drawing other countries into military unit activities,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. “This will activate the Russian sovereign right to provide its own safety with methods that are adequate for today’s risks,” the Minister added.
Sergey Lavrov said that Moscow would take unspecified measures to respond to increased NATO activity in the Baltic region. He made his comments at a news conference with his Finnish counterpart Timo Soini in Moscow on June 6 Monday, the same day as NATO launched BALTOPS – an annual naval exercise, taking part in Finland for the first time. “We do not hide our negative attitude to the movement of NATO’s military infrastructure towards our borders, to dragging new states into the military activity of the bloc,” Lavrov told reporters. “We will invoke Russia’s sovereign right to guarantee its security with measures proportionate to the current risks. I am confident that our Finnish friends and neighbors also understand this,” the Minister emphasized.
Moscow has repeatedly decried the NATO build-up near its borders and said it would deploy three divisions in its west and south to counter perceived aggression from NATO in Eastern Europe.
On June 6, Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said that some US and NATO representatives were feeding anti-Russian “hysteria”. “If you take a listen, you get this impression that NATO is a cornered sheep with predators all around, embodied by Russia and other countries that are not under the US control,” he told reporters in Moscow.
Evidently, Operation Anakonda is a massive provocation, effectively amounting to a dress rehearsal for a NATO invasion of Russia. In the exercise, for the first time since the Nazi invasions of Poland and the Soviet Union during World War II, German tanks will cross all of Poland from west to east. With staggering recklessness, the alliance gives rise to heightened tensions when miscalculations could lead to war between NATO and Russia.