In Ukraine, the military training exercise Rapid Trident has begun.
In the west of that country, soldiers from a variety of NATO and non-NATO nations are joining with Ukrainian military forces to conduct training missions. In the east, Russian forces are working alongside pro-Moscow separatists to destabilize Ukraine. What could possibly go wrong?
Rapid Trident 2014 is a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff directed, EUCOM scheduled, USAREUR conducted, Ukrainian led Situational and Field Training Exercise held at the International Peace Keeping and Security Center (IPSC) in Yavoriv, Ukraine. The exercise will be conducted September 15-26, 2014.
Rapid Trident supports interoperability among Ukraine, US, NATO and Partnership for Peace member nations. 15 countries are taking part in the exercise with participation of approximately 1,300 personnel. RT14 will consist of a multinational battalion-level field training exercise.
In preparation for the field training exercise, training audiences will undergo one week of situational training exercises that focus on field training exercise key tasks such as countering improvised explosive devices, convoy operations and patrolling. The exercise will feature a combined, internationally staffed battalion focused on peacekeeping and stability operations.
NATO members like Canada, Bulgaria, the U.S, the U.K., Latvia, Lithuania, Germany, Poland, Romania, and Spain have joined the armies of former Soviet Republics like Azerbaijan, Moldova, and Georgia in participating in these exercises which will continue until September 26.
These exercises come on the heels of a NATO summit in Wales where the subject of Russian intervention in Ukraine was near foremost on the list of subjects the Atlantic allies discussed. There, NATO members formally agreed to establish what they described as a “spearhead force” which could rapidly deploy to Eastern Europe.
Russia has not reacted passively to NATO’s multiple warnings. Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his country’s military forces to carry out another major exercise in the east. That came after Moscow declared that it would push for the development of new offensive conventional and nuclear weapons to counter NATO’s increased activity.
Perhaps more worryingly, the Russian bear has been scratching at the door of NATO-member Baltic states recently. Over the weekend, a Russian human rights ambassador warned of “far-reaching, unfortunate consequences” if these former Soviet Republics continue to act in a way which Moscow views as hostile toward their ethnically Russian minority populations.
Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian foreign ministry’s human rights ombudsman, told a conference in the Latvian capital of Riga on Saturday that “entire segments of the Russian World” were struggling to uphold their human rights, according to a transcript published on the ministry’s website on Monday. “One of the obvious and, perhaps, key reasons for this state of affairs is the ceaseless growth of xenophobic and neo-Nazi sentiments in the world [and] their subsequent deep penetration into the consciousness of the political establishment in a whole array of foreign governments,” Dolgov said.
The timing and tone of his speech suggest Russia’s growing willingness to use ethnic groups abroad as a political wedge. President Vladimir Putin has spoken frequently of his vision of a broader Russian-speaking federation in recent years and reserved the right to protect Russian speakers with military force after Russian troops annexed Crimea in March.
Some will say that these NATO exercises will not reduce tension in the region, but there is an argument which suggests that the only way to reduce tensions in this region is to present a credible deterrent which could discourage further Russian aggression. It is good to see that NATO takes the latter position.