Black Sea to Budapest in 3 minutes with a river cruise ship.
1648 Km distance – 2 weeks
Black Sea to Budapest in 3 minutes with a river cruise ship.
1648 Km distance – 2 weeks
SMARDAN TRAINING AREA, Romania — Almost 200 U.S. paratroops dropped into Romania on Tuesday and were joined by a ground force of cavalrymen, marking the official expansion into southeastern Europe of a campaign to reassure allies worried about Russia’s intentions.
For almost a year now, U.S. troops have maintained a constant presence in the Baltic states and Poland in response to Russia’ seizure of Ukrainian territory. Now, Operation Atlantic Resolve is moving south, with a series of exercises slated to take place in Romania, Bulgaria — another NATO ally — and the Republic of Georgia, an aspiring NATO member.
“Today marks the beginning of Atlantic Response South,” said Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army Europe, as soldiers with the Vicenza, Italy-based 173rd Airborne Brigade parachuted onto the training grounds in eastern Romania.
Tuesday’s training exercise, which brought together troops from the 173rd with soldiers from the Vilseck, Germany-based 2nd Cavalry Regiment, is the beginning of what is expected to be a steady Army presence in the strategic Black Sea region, Hodges said.
Another major exercise, expected to start in May, will send U.S. troops across the Black Sea by ferry to train with Georgian troops.
Meanwhile, the mission on Tuesday, which included Romanian forces and was part of the Saber Junction exercise, was a test of the U.S. Army’s ability to conduct quick-response missions, traveling long distances on short notice.
As Russia conducts snap exercises across its territory and moves large forces on short notice around the country, it is important for the U.S. and its allies to demonstrate their own capabilities, Hodges said.
“This shows we can do this, too,” Hodges said.
On Tuesday, paratroops flew into Romania from Italy, parachuting into Smardan Training Area, where their task was to retake an airfield captured by a fictional enemy.
Meanwhile, troops with the 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, convoyed three hours from Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, bringing about 20 Stryker vehicles with them. The task of the day was for the troops to gain control of the battlefield, with the 2nd Cavalry holding the territory.
While the 173rd will rotate back home in a few days, troops with the 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry, will stay on in Smardan for about a month, working alongside their Romanian counterparts, soldiers said.
Sgt. Jordan Wright, 25, a member of the 2nd Squadron, said he expects the conditions during the next month on the Romanian training site to be austere but beneficial.
“I think it’s going to build a stronger relationship,” said Wright. “This is definitely a mission that feels good to be a part of and show commitment to our allies.”
The increased U.S. presence across the Baltics and into the Black Sea region comes amid concerns over Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and, more recently, saber rattling in connection with U.S. and NATO missile defense plans in Europe.
Those plans include Romania. In recent days, Russian officials have also threatened that Denmark would be subject to nuclear targeting if it joined the missile defense effort.
For Hodges, such rhetoric is cause for worry and underscores the need to bolster readiness.
“Only Russia talks about using nuclear weapons. Only Russia threatens nuclear strike,” Hodges said. “I think it is reckless language.”
With U.S. troops arriving by air and land in Romania on Tuesday, the Army was able to show it can move forces quickly in response to a crisis, Hodges said.
“That’s a big, long move that the Army has to be able to do,” Hodges said. “That’s just about the ultimate reassurance.”
NEWPORT, Wales – A Canadian warship will sail into the Black Sea in the coming days to take part in a multi-lateral exercise with Ukrainian, U.S. and other vessels.
HMCS Toronto, a Halifax-class frigate, will enter the Black Sea on Sept. 6 to begin the exercise starting on Sept. 8, military officials at the NATO summit here said Thursday.
The focus of the exercise, called Sea Breeze, is on interoperability, they added.
The U.S. and Ukraine are leading the exercise, with NATO participation. Fourteen warships are involved.
Military officials said that Sea Breeze is a long-standing exercise and is not being conducted in response to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
But the exercise comes a little more than a week after Ukrainian rebels opened fire on a Ukraine navy ship in the Azov Sea.
Ukraine said one of its naval patrol vessels came under artillery attack by pro-Russian rebels from from the shore.
In addition to Sea Breeze, about 100 Canadian soldiers are currently taking part in a NATO exercise called Steadfast Javelin 2. That is being conducted in Poland and the Baltic States.
Another exercise, Rapid Trident, will take place starting Sept. 11 in Ukraine. Only 13 Canadian military personnel will take part in that.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is scheduled to attend a series of bilateral meetings Thursday with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and NATO officials.
Harper will also attend a meeting on Afghanistan in which he will reiterate Canada’s commitment to continue to assist that country. Canada is not providing troops for future missions to Afghanistan but will provide financial and aid support.
SINGAPORE/LONDON (Reuters) – Russia’s $40 billion South Stream gas pipeline project has fallen victim to plunging energy prices, stalling European demand and the political standoff between the European Union and Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine.
Russia on Monday said it had scrapped the project to supply gas to Europe without crossing Ukraine, citing EU objections, and named Turkey as its preferred partner.
South Stream planned to supply 63 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas a year, equivalent to more than 10 percent of European demand, from Russia via the Black Sea into the EU toward the end of this decade, cementing Russia’s role as the region’s dominant supplier.
But it came under increasing fire this year. The crisis over Ukraine led to Brussels freezing its approval process, and the pipeline also hit trouble over weak European gas demand and energy prices, undermining its economics.
“I think the likelihood of South Stream being built is now is close to zero,” said Pierre Noel, senior fellow for economic and energy security for International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).
South Stream would need to be marketed at an equivalent of $9.50-$11.50 per million British thermal unit (mmBtu), including a 30 percent export duty, estimates have shown. The average European spot gas prices have ranged between $6-$9 per mmBtu this year.
“Decreasing oil-indexed prices for gas and lower sales are likely to drive Gazprom to the red this year,” said Mikhail Korchemkin of East European Gas Analysis, forcing the firm to reduce its investment program.
Russian state-controlled Gazprom sells most of its gas under oil-linked contracts. With oil prices tumbling 40 percent since June and European gas demand down 10 percent since 2010, Gazprom’s gas revenues have plunged.
“Cancellation of the project can reduce Gazprom’s negative cash flow in 2014-2017”, Korchemkin added.
Gazprom meets almost a third of Europe’s demand, which in turn makes up 80 percent of its revenues.
“It (scrapping South Stream) reflects internal Russian pressure on where it is going to invest limited resources at a point in time when sanctions are hitting,” said Carlos Pascual, a fellow at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, referring to Western sanctions over Ukraine.
“It’s harder, more expensive to access capital and the fastest growing gas markets in the world are in Asia, and Russia has virtually no export capacity to the Asian market,” he added.
The announcement on scrapping South Stream came during a visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Gazprom chief executive, Alexei Miller, to Turkey, during which Putin proposed building it to Turkey instead, offering its gas at a discount.
“I don’t think Putin is bluffing. I think he’s really adapting to a fundamentally new geopolitical situation in Europe,” the IISS’ Noel said.
Yet the notion of running South Stream to non-EU member Turkey is not new and is seen by some as a political ploy by Russia to win the support of those EU members in favor of the pipeline.
South Stream exposed cracks in EU strategy as Hungary, Austria, Serbia and Bulgaria among others saw it as a solution to the risk of supply disruptions via Ukraine, which have occurred three times during the last decade. Brussels, on the other hand, saw it as entrenching Moscow’s energy stranglehold on Europe.
“The alternative to Turkey is even more doubtful than the direct option to Europe,” one financial adviser who has dealt with the matter said on condition of anonymity.
The gas discount offered to Turkey casts further doubt over a project that was already economically doubtful, and would be far too big for Turkey alone to receive all the gas, supplying four times its annual demand.
“Even if it went to Turkey, most of its gas would end up in Europe, so it begs the question why introduce a transit risk instead of attempting to solve Russia-EU differences and run it directly to Europe as initially planned,” the adviser added.
Nato’s top military commander, Gen Philip Breedlove, has warned that Russian “militarisation” of the annexed Crimea Peninsula could be used to exert control over the whole Black Sea.
Speaking in Kiev, Gen Breedlove said Russian military assets being installed in Crimea would have an effect on “almost the entire Black Sea”.
Mr Breedlove is in Ukraine for high-level talks with Ukrainian leaders.
Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in March 2014.
Russia’s defence ministry said on Wednesday that it had deployed a batch of 14 military jets to Crimea, as part of a squadron of 30 that will be stationed on the peninsula.
An initial batch of fighter jets were flown to Crimea’s Belbek air base “from military air bases in Krasnodar Territory,” Russian agency Interfax reported.
Gen Breedlove had said earlier on Tuesday that a large number of Russian troops were also active inside Ukraine, training and advising separatist rebels.
Russia has continued to deny allegations from western countries that it played any direct role in the conflict in Ukraine, which has claimed more than 4,317 lives.
President Vladimir Putin said that Russia “poses no threat to anyone” and would “resist efforts to draw it into geopolitical intrigue,” Russia’s Tass news agency reported on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel launched a strong attack on Russia’s actions against Ukraine whilst addressing a session of parliament in Berlin.
“Nothing justifies or excuses the annexation of Crimea by Russia… Nothing justifies the direct or indirect participation of Russia in the fighting in Donetsk and Luhansk,” she said, speaking in the Bundestag.
“Russia is calling into question Europe’s peaceful order and it is trampling on international law.”
She added that the possibility of a lasting ceasefire in eastern Ukraine was unlikely and therefore continued economic sanctions on Russia remained “unavoidable”.
The US and the EU have placed sanctions on Russia for its alleged involvement in the Ukrainian crisis.
Human cost of conflict in east Ukraine
4,317 deaths since April – 957 of them since the 5 September ceasefire, and 9,921 people wounded
466,829 internally displaced people within Ukraine
454,339 refugees living abroad, 387,355 of them in Russia
UN data from 18 November
The Pentagon announced Wednesday the U.S. Army will be sending 200 paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team to Ukraine. The paratroopers from the 173rd, known as “Sky Soldiers,” will participate in a joint military exercise, Rapid Trident, against Russia’s objections.
Russia had warned against any NATO exercises in Ukraine, which is facing a Russian invasion of its eastern borders in support of pro-Moscow separatists. Although Putin’s overall goal isn’t clear, it appears Russian and separatist forces are marching on the Ukrainian city of Mariupol to create an overland route to Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Russia annexed in March.
The Sky Soldiers will participate in the Exercise Rapid Trident alongside 1,300 other soldiers from a wide swath of countries, including Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Ukraine, and a host of NATO states.
Paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade of the U.S. Army in Europe take part in military exercise “Black Arrow” in Rukla, Lithuania, on May 14, 2014.
A Humvee of the U.S. Army’s 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team is parachuted during the NATO-led exercise “Orzel Alert” held together with Canada’s 3rd Battalion and Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry, and Poland’s 6th Airborne Brigade in Bledowska Desert in Chechlo, near Olkusz, south Poland May 5, 2014.
Ukraine signed an offshore oil and gas production-sharing agreement with Italian group Eni (ENI.MI) and France’s EDF (EDF.PA) on Wednesday and Kiev’s energy minister estimated the project could draw up to $4 billion of investment.
The scheme to explore for oil and gas on the western Black Sea’s shallow shelf could provide Ukraine with up to 3 million tonnes of oil a year, Energy Minister Eduard Stavytsky was quoted as saying by Ukrainian news agency UNIAN.
The former Soviet republic consumes around 5 million tonnes of oil per year, including 1.5 million tonnes of imports that are mostly from Russia.
The UNIAN report gave no details on expectations for gas production.
Eni said in a statement the agreement signed on Wednesday concerned a 1,400 square-km area in waters off Western Crimea. The area includes the Subbotina oil license as well as the Pry Kerch block where several oil and gas prospects have been identified.
Eni, which already has a shale gas deal in Ukraine, said it would be the operator in the venture with a stake of 50 percent.
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