The N.A.T.O. alliance is using the conflict in Ukraine to justify military movements from its sea fleet by holding a six warship military exercise in the Black Sea, which is west of southwestern tip of Russia. The ships consist of a rotation of vessels from the U.S., which is taking command of the anti-air exercises, and ships from Canada, Turkey, Italy, Romania and Bulgaria will be participating as well. While these exercises are common, this is the largest N.A.T.O. fleet to ever be present in the Black Sea at one time. The fleet does intend to abide by the controlling law of the region, particularly article 18 of the Montreux Convention, which states that a war vessels not belonging to nations washed by the Black Sea shall not “remain in the Black Sea more than twenty-one days, whatever be the object of their presence there.” This is solved by rotating the ships out every three weeks. While the sources from N.A.T.O. state that these exercises are only intended to last throughout March, they can always be extended in whatever manner N.A.T.O. sees fit.
In addition to the naval exercises in the Black Sea, N.A.T.O. nations neighboring Russia have requested an increase in armaments from the alliance as well as the troops to use them. In a show of force, the nation of Estonia held a parade near the Russian border showing off over 100 military vehicles and over 1200 troops, some of which were American. While Russian officials were quick to take notice of both the naval exercises and the movements of the ground troops, they actually took a bit of offense to the move by Estonia, calling it a stab at Moscow. Estonian leadership was quick to point out that troop movement on their border was acceptable considering the buildup of Russian military on Moscow’s side of the border.
The U.S. is also acting independently of N.A.T.O. and other European leadership in an effort to affect the outcome in Ukraine, despite the shaky cease-fire. Today, 300 soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade arrive in the Lviv region in western Ukraine. Their mission is to help the Ukrainian Army train using different pieces of advanced military equipment, but beyond that, confirm-able details are scarce. It is known that mission is believed to be seven months, but again, the option exists to extend that particular timetable. While training foreign military always has the appearance of non-aggression, the history of the 20th century has always shown that the situation never remains that way. Acts of aggression or all-out war are often the results of these types of incursions. Now, with U.S. soldiers maintaining boots on the ground in Ukraine, the chances that one will become a fatality if aggression resumes is greater. If that happens, it is a virtual guarantee that U.S. involvement will increase exponentially, with much of the blame focused on Russia.
The U.S. military boots on the ground in the Ukraine is also a direct violation of the Minsk Ceasefire agreement, signed between the standing Ukrainian leadership, and the Donetsk People’s Republic to the west. Article 10 of that agreement states that “any foreign military” has to leave Ukraine under watch of the OSCE. That directive also includes the Russian military that is likely in east Ukraine, even though Russian leadership still denies any operation on greater Ukrainian soil. Neither of these things is likely to happen.
To further prove that point, we only need to look at U.S. military leadership, such as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, who said on Wednesday at a Senate Armed Services committee meeting, “I think we should absolutely consider lethal aid and it ought to be in the context of N.A.T.O. allies…” Dempsey was referring to giving the Ukrainian Army U.S. military weapons and equipment, a move that will surely bolster the local military’s ability to control the rebel forces to the east. One has to consider the question that perhaps the U.S. is taking such actions as a direct result of not being included in the Minsk Agreement negotiations and instead being left out of the room while other nations oversaw the proceedings. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Alexander Lukashevich said on Wednesday, “It is evident that they are not trying to bring peace to the country. It is impossible to extinguish the fire of a civil war by weapons. This can be done only through a political dialogue between the warring parties.”