Congratulations to Russia. Some of her senior officials are as, er, misguided as some of ours.
LU’s Kenric Ward reported earlier that Colonel General Leonid Ivashov has claimed the U.S. is “at war” with Russia over Ukraine. (Ivashov is not in a military command or staff position now, but serves as vice president for the Academy of Geopolitical Affairs. He has a history of stirring things up.)
Ivashov took up the refrain of some of the opposition elements in Ukraine, arguing that the presence of U.S. Navy warships in the Black Sea is a precursor to a NATO action of some kind to undermine the Yanukovych government:
Ivashov reported that “under the cover of information commotion, U.S. ships are entering the Black Sea, that is, near Ukraine. They are sending marine infantry, and they have also begun to deploy more tanks in Europe.”
The general has been poorly briefed. The U.S. Navy ships may be closer to Ukraine in the Black Sea than they would be if they were in ports in Italy, but they’re still over on the other side of the Black Sea from Ukraine.
According to Turkish press, USS Taylor (FFG-50), the frigate in the Black Sea, entered the Turkish naval base at Samsun on Wednesday morning, 12 February, for a visit of unannounced duration. (See map. This seems to suggest we’re not at high warble for Sochi security, incidentally.)
This Russian website (along with the Bosphorus Naval News/TurkishNavy.net site) has been keeping tabs on the patrol activities of USS Mount Whitney (LCC-20) and Taylor, and indicates they have been patrolling in international waters in the area shown on the map. (The Russian site also references Taylor’s move from her patrol area to Samsun.)
Neither ship, in any case, is a platform that could project sufficient U.S. power ashore to influence events in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is sending Marines in March to man the Black Sea Rotational Force (BSRF) in Romania. The Marine footprint in-country will not change; the units will swap out. The BSRF has been in place since 2010, and performs a number of regional engagement missions. Its 300-some Marines and sailors are far too small a force to “wage war with Russia” over Ukraine.
As for the tanks alluded to by General Ivashov, they amount to a grand total of 29 M1A2 Abrams tanks, which have been shipped to Germany following refurbishment. That’s all the tanks the U.S. has in Europe now. It’s enough to train with, but nothing close to enough to project or exercise military power with. The tanks are stationed in Germany with 33 Bradley fighting vehicles, also too few for operational use in any foreseeable scenario involving Ukraine or Russia.
Now, as to the veracity of John Kerry’s diplomatic communications, I can’t help the general.