18:06 GMT05 December 2020
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    NATO Seeks Expansion to Eastern Europe (362)

    The major US-led international navy exercise BALTOPS 2016, which kicked off in the Baltic Sea last weekend, is openly anti-Russian, yet those who predict an aggressive answer from Russia's part have got it all wrong.

    As if Scandinavia's unfounded fear of Russia was not manifest enough, former Danish brigade general and historian Michael Clemmesen recently admitted the provocative nature of the exercise, supposedly aimed at keeping Russia at bay, simultaneously warning of a fierce Russian response.

    The formal goal of the major exercise, encompassing 6,000 personnel, 50 vessels and 60 aircraft, is to demonstrate the willingness to defend the Baltic states against a Russian aggression. Perhaps surprisingly for many, Russia's ambassador to Denmark Mikhail Vanin dispelled the anxiety that is continuously instilled among ordinary Danes.

    "He [Clemmesen] is dead wrong. Russia will not venture anything aggressive. We will not dramatize the exercise, but instead keep an eye on it. However, we do not think that the exercise is wise. It is a provocation, and Denmark should have refrained from participating in this anti-Russian show," the Russian ambassador told Berlingske.

    "I am very disappointed with such a prediction, and I totally disagree. There are way too many pensioned generals, who write about politics. <…> It is very unclever and provocative ideas they spread in the public," the Russian ambassador said.

    "The generals are still living in the Cold War era, and their blood circulates faster when they think back of the war. Just take your [Danish] former Foreign Minister Uffe Ellemann-Jensen. He always seems so happy when he gets to talk about Russia's aggression. He is young, vigorous and enthusiastic when he talks about the Cold War," Mikhail Vanin commented sarcastically.

    According to Vanin, Russia's main interests are peace and prosperity. The ambassador also stressed the deadly consequences of the present-day militarism.

    "Should it ever come to a war, it would not be just a conflict, but a war for total eradication. It will be the end, and nobody wants that. We are not the Soviet Union, we are not the Bolsheviks, we do not want to exterminate anyone. We think in a completely different way. But obviously we have our interests and desires and expect respect," the ambassador said.

    From Russia's perspective, however, there may hardly arise any debate on who is provoking whom in the Baltic Sea. NATO's triple military exercises in the Baltic Sea region, numbering a total of 40,000 soldiers, serve as a perfect proof. Objectively speaking, NATO had only twelve members in 1991, nut now has swelled up to 28.

    "I have worked with NATO for many years and know of personal experience that NATO badly needs an enemy, a powerful enemy like Russia. Now, NATO has a mission and I think it will take long," former Lieutenant General Yevgeny Buzhinsky, chairman of the independent PIR think-tank told the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. "NATO has been looking for a strong enemy for 25 years, and now they have found one in Russia," he said.

    Danish army training
    © Flickr / 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command
    In June, NATO will simultaneously hold three military exercises: Anakonda in Poland, Saber Strike in the Baltic states and BALTOPS in the formally still non-aligned Finland and Sweden, all with the intention of fencing off a fictional Russian threat.

    Denmark's contribution is the support ship Absalon with a crew of 113 men, a minesweeping unit, currently on board a German vessel, a transport ship and a Bornholm-based navigation unit.

    NATO Seeks Expansion to Eastern Europe (362)


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    military drills, Saber Strike 2016, Anakonda 2016, BALTOPS 2016, Scandinavia, Sweden, Russia, Denmark, Finland
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