TIME russia

Russian Aircraft Intercepted by NATO Forces After Entering Airspace

The Russian intelligence jet reportedly entered NATO airspace on Tuesday

Swedish jets have intercepted a Russian aircraft that briefly entered North Atlantic Treaty Organization airspace Tuesday.

NATO and Swedish forces reportedly noticed the plane, identified as a Russian intelligence jet, traveling near NATO airspace in the Baltic Sea, Reuters reports. The plane later crossed into Estonian airspace for about a minute, and was escorted away.

This interception follows NATO guidelines for halting planes that enter airspace without permission, according to the Wall Street Journal. However, NATO has been keeping a closer eye over the Baltics given high tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

[Reuters]

Read next: Swedish Hunt for ‘Russian’ Sub Recalls the Cold War

TIME latvia

Latvia and U.S. Play War Games as Tensions with Russia Grow

Soldiers from the Latvian army participate in the Silver Arrow NATO military exercise in Adazi, Latvia, Oct. 5, 2014.
Soldiers from the Latvian army participate in the Silver Arrow NATO military exercise in Adazi, Latvia, Oct. 5, 2014. Ints Kalnins—Reuters

NATO members are beefing up their forces in eastern Europe, as Russia dials up its propaganda warfare and military intimidation

Over the sandbanks and marshes of northern Latvia, battle cries rang out late last month as U.S. and Latvian troops stormed a mock-up urban street, a training exercise one officer described as a “Stalingrad-type scenario” for soldiers more used to peace-keeping or fighting rural insurgents. After an €80,000 anti-tank missile and a volley of mortar and artillery fire launch the drills, a U.S. Black Hawk transports Latvian soldiers into the war games scenario, where they go house-to-house searching for a high-value target.

Not far away in the Latvian capital of Riga, officials were getting to work in the newly-inaugurated NATO Strategic Communications Center of Excellence, a hub aimed at countering information warfare by enemies of the 28-member military alliance.

The endeavors are at opposite ends of the tactical spectrum, but reflect the challenges presented by the new hybrid warfare which analysts say is the Kremlin’s modus operandi under President Vladimir Putin. While Russian troops openly went into Crimea this year to annex it from Ukraine, some of Russia’s neighbors are grappling with more subtle meddling and mind games.

“NATO must be flexible,” Latvian Defense Minister Raimonds Vejonis tells TIME, citing economic coercion, propaganda warfare and military intimidation along Russia’s Baltic borders as some of the new threats to emerge in the past year.

“During the last 65 years after the Second World War it was calm and silent in Europe… now the situation has changed this year due to Russian activities in Ukraine. We must be ready to adapt to the new situation, and ready to react to new geopolitical challenges in Europe.”

NATO members are beefing up their forces in eastern Europe as a result. Earlier this year 600 U.S. troops from the 173rd Airborne Brigade deployed to Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia and this week, U.S. tanks returned to Latvian soil for the first time since the Second World War. Joint military exercises have increased in size and frequency. At a NATO summit last month, leaders pledged increased funding for cyber and information warfare units, while also announcing the formation of a Rapid Reaction Force which could deploy to allied nations within days.

Analysts say this is a good start, but there is concern that NATO needs to send a stronger signal that any Russian military intervention – not just a overt invasion – would provoke Article Five, by which an attack on one member demands reaction from all 28.

“This is time for NATO to be crystal clear,” says Matthew Bryza, a former US diplomat now working for the Estonia-based International Center for Defense Studies. “If you use military force in the Baltic states, there will be consequences, there will be war. It needs to be that clear.”

A return to the conventional warfare and military muscle-flexing of the past appears to be the easy part. The generation of military minds overseeing NATO’s transformation is steeped in Cold War history.

“My father was in the military, I grew up in Germany, and was in Berlin when the Berlin Wall fell, so (the context) is certainly not lost on my generation,” says LTC Robert ‘Todd’ Brown, a battalion commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade who designed the urban war games.

The resonance is even stronger in the Baltic states, which spent five decades as part of the Soviet Union. “We know what occupation means,” says Colonel Martins Liberts, Commander of the Latvian Land Forces. He says the joint exercises illustrate the changing focus from peace-keeping and nation-building abroad to multinational forces protecting home soil from conventional threats.

More than 100 of his troops are taking part in the live-fire exercise with U.S. troops over the sand dunes and marshes of Adazi Military Base about an hour’s drive from Riga. After an €80,000 anti-tank missile and a volley of mortar and artillery fire launch the drills, a U.S. Black Hawk transports Latvian soldiers into the war games scenario, where they go house-to-house searching for a high-value target. The street may be made from plywood, and their enemy cardboard silhouettes with balloons pinned to their chests, but the message the Latvians want to send Russia is very real.

“It is a strong political signal to Russia that we are part of NATO [and] Article Five will be enforced if it is be needed,” says Defence Minister Vejonis.

From Russia’s point of view, the war games are another example of NATO creeping closer to its borders, measures it feels are unnecessary and provocative. But Moscow has not held back from its own military posturing: since the start of this year Latvia has detected 170 cases of Russian fighter jets coming close to their border. That compares with about 50 such cases in the previous decade. Russian war ships and submarines have also upped patrols in the Baltic Sea.

The country’s neighbors have also been affected. Last week, Lithuania accused Russia of violating international law after its border guards seized a Lithuanian fishing vessel and its 30 crew whom they accused of illegally trawling for crab in Russian waters. Estonia – which in 2007 blamed Russia for a massive cyber attack on government websites – is currently locked in dispute with Moscow over a security official which its government says was kidnapped on its territory in a cross-border raid last month.

It is these kinds of subtle provocations that Bryza thinks NATO should respond to more forcefully, or risk giving Putin the confidence to escalate the meddling. Bryza also advocates permanent NATO bases on eastern European soil – a move also suggested in the past by Poland and Estonia, but one which would violate a historical NATO-Russia pact.

For now, Latvian officials say they are happy with the Rapid Reaction Force announced in September, but are keen to see it and other defensive measures come into force quickly. “We have been quite good in declarations so far, but implementation is important,” says Andrejs Pildegovics, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs.

“Seeing how deep Russia’s involvement in the war with Ukraine has been, seeing these militaristic statements by Russian leaders, seeing this speculation about how capitals can be conquered in the neighborhood – we think it should be really rapid.”

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 9

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Like Pakistan, Turkey nurtured a militant movement next door. Will ISIS enter Turkey as the Taliban made a new home in Pakistan?

By Michael M. Tanchum and Halil M. Karaveli in New York Times

2. Look homeward: America should form a new North American partnership with Canada and Mexico to tackle global challenges.

By Nicholas Burns in the Boston Globe

3. Protestors in Hong Kong and around the world can bypass government censorship with “mesh networks.”

By Gareth Tyson in the Conversation

4. Early childhood development can dramatically change a child’s life and future. Massively scaling up investment in youth could close the income and skills gaps, and accomplish much more.

By the Brookings Institution

5. Rural America has the nation’s fastest rising child poverty rate. To overcome it, we must confront the weaknesses in our economic recovery.

By the Rural Family Economic Success Action Network

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME georgia

The U.S. Will Help Georgia Join NATO in Face of Putin’s ‘Dangerous Actions’

Georgia's Defence Minister Alasania and U.S. Defense Secretary Hagel attend an official welcoming ceremony in Tbilisi
Georgia's Defence Minister Irakly Alasania (R) and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel attend an official welcoming ceremony in Tbilisi on September 7, 2014. David Mdzinarishvili —Reuters

The Kremlin's incursions in Ukraine have brought the U.S. and Georgia "closer together,” says Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel arrived in Georgia over the weekend to beef up military ties and help the country join NATO.

Hagel’s visit to the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, follows on the heels of the NATO summit in the U.K. last week, where Georgia was made a “NATO enhanced-opportunities partner,” according to a U.S. Department of Defense statement.

At a press conference in the Georgian capital on Sunday, Hagel said the country’s new standing will allow for more participation in more joint training exercises with NATO and boost cooperation.

“The deepening ties between NATO and Georgia are especially important given the dangerous and irresponsible actions of President Putin,” said Hagel.

During a round of talks with the Georgian Minister of Defense, Irakli Alasania, Hagel also laid down conditions that would pave the way for the sale of Blackhawk choppers to Georgia.

The Secretary of Defense’s arrival in Georgia comes days after a tenuous cease-fire was signed in Belarus between Kiev and pro-Kremlin rebels fighting in southeastern Ukraine.

The U.S. has repeatedly accused Moscow of sending armored columns into Ukraine to reinforce the rebels, forcing the U.S. and its allies in Eastern Europe to close ranks.

“Russia’s actions here and in Ukraine pose a long-term challenge that the United States and our allies take very seriously,” said Hagel. “But President Putin’s actions have also brought the United States and our friends in Europe, including Georgia, closer together.”

During a joint press conference in Tbilisi, the Georgian Defense Minister warned that his country’s experience with Russia led to concerns that the Ukraine cease-fire would not last.

“We have bitter experience in Georgia trusting Russian cease-fires, so we better prepare for the contingencies,” Alasania told reporters.

In 2008, Georgian forces were routed during a five-day war against Russia — resulting in what Tbilisi says is the continued military occupation of the separatist territory of South Ossetia by Moscow.

While the uneasy truce appears to be largely holding in Ukraine, there were reports of scattered fighting in the war-weary southeast over the weekend.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: September 5

1. Our nation’s racial divide starts early: America’s public schools are still highly segregated.

By Reed Jordan at the Urban Institute

2. The Pentagon is getting bad advice about responsibly managing its budget and our national defense.

By Nora Bensahel in Defense One

3. “We need to step up our game to make sure that Putin’s rules do not govern the 21st century.”

By Madeleine Albright in Foreign Policy

4. Over a lifetime, and despite the high cost of tuition, a college education is still a great deal.

By Jaison R. Abel and Richard Deitz at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York

5. Reality television – MTV’s “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant” – triggered a plunge in the teen birthrate.

By Phil Schneider in the Aspen Journal of Ideas

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Iraq

U.S. Forms Anti-ISIS Coalition at NATO Summit

Petro Poroshenko, John Kerry
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, third right, meets with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, second left, on the sidelines of the NATO summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. Virginia Mayo—AP

Secretary of State John Kerry urged France, UK, and others to support the fight against the Islamist group in Iraq

Updated 8:43 a.m.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry got diplomats from 10 countries at a NATO summit to agree Friday to join forces to fight an Islamic militant group that has seized territory across Syria and Iraq.

Seated alongside U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Kerry pressed representatives from the UK, France, Australia, Germany, Canada, Turkey, Italy, Poland and Denmark to lend military and financial support the fight against the Islamic State of Greater Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The NATO allies agreed to support anti-ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria via supplies and air support, according to a joint statement statement from Kerry and Hagel.

“This morning we had a meeting with some of our key allies and partners on the serious threat that [ISIS] poses to Iraq, the entire region, and the international community,” reads the statement. “We and the Ministers agreed here today that there is no time to waste in building a broad international coalition to degrade and, ultimately, to destroy the threat posed by [ISIS].”

Kerry’s call to arms echoed an op-ed the Secretary of State published last week, in which he called on the global community to unite against ISIS. U.S. airstrikes launched against the group have played a key role in allowing Kurdish and Iraqi forces to stall and push back against the militants’ advance.

“We have the technology, we have the know-how,” Kerry said. “What we need is obviously the willpower to make sure that we are steady and stay at this.”

Kerry said the countries present at the NATO summit need to form a coalition and come up with a plan by the time the United Nations Security Council convenes in two weeks.

“We need to have this coalesce,” he said.

TIME Ukraine

NATO Too Wary of Russian Threats to Let Ukraine Join

Petro Poroshenko
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko speaks during a media conference during a NATO summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. Virginia Mayo—AP

Despite Russia's actions in eastern Ukraine, the U.S.-led alliance is keeping Kiev at a distance

With its aggression against Ukraine, Russia achieved in just a few months what Vadim Grechaninov has been trying to do for a decade. His mission as President of the Atlantic Council of Ukraine, a lobbying organization based in Kiev, has been to convince his country’s leaders, citizens and military officers that joining NATO is Ukraine’s only path to security. He never had much success. According to a Pew Research poll taken in 2009, a majority of Ukrainians—51%—opposed NATO membership, while only 28% supported it.

That dynamic is now being reversed. The most recent nationwide survey taken in July suggested that, for the first time in their post-Soviet history, a plurality of Ukrainians—44%—would favor joining the alliance that Russia sees as a strategic threat. When the Rating Group, a Ukrainian pollster, conducted the same survey in 2012, they found only 19% of respondents in favor of NATO accession. Ukraine’s new government has likewise embraced the idea, proposing a law last week that would clear the way for NATO membership. But Grechaninov, a retired major general of the Soviet army, is no more optimistic about his country joining the alliance today than he was five years ago, especially after watching the news that came out of the NATO leaders’ summit on Thursday. “They are still bending to Moscow’s demands,” he says of the alliance.

Those demands have been very explicit. The day President Vladimir Putin annexed the Crimean peninsula in March, he warned NATO not to “make itself at home in our backyard or in our historical territory.” As if that wasn’t clear enough, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov drove home the point on Thursday as the NATO summit commenced in Wales. Any attempt to draw Ukraine into the alliance, Lavrov said, would scuttle the fragile peace talks between the Ukrainian government and the separatist rebels whom Moscow has armed and supported since April. “The U.S. wants NATO to win,” Lavrov said in Moscow. “[It wants] a situation where America dictates its will to the whole world.” These ambitions, he added, “will lead to no good.”

A far more alarming message came on the eve of the summit from the Russian military. Yuri Yakubov, an influential general of the Russian army, told the Interfax news agency on Wednesday that Russia would be amending its official military doctrine this year in light of “the approach of U.S. and NATO bases right up to our borders.” He said the revisions would identify the alliance as a “likely opponent” in a future conflict, and it would make some dramatic amendments to Russia’s nuclear strategy. “It is necessary to set out the conditions in which Russia could launch a preventative strike with Russia’s strategic nuclear forces,” he said. In its current form, the doctrine only envisions using nuclear weapons in response to a strike against Russia. It does not mention the possibility of a “preventative” nuclear attack.

This kind of rhetoric was, perhaps thankfully, nowhere to be found during the first day of the NATO summit. Putin’s recent reminder that Russia is “one of the strongest nuclear powers” did not come up in any of the public comments, and neither did the warning from General Yakubov about a preventative strike. The most concrete step NATO announced in response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine was the creation of a “very high readiness” force of several thousand troops that could be deployed near Russia’s borders in the course of about two days. (It took Russian forces no more than a day in late February to sweep into the capital of Crimea and help install a loyal government to prepare the annexation.)

The new rapid reaction force was meant to calm NATO members in Eastern Europe—namely Poland and the Baltic states—though it did not measure up to their demands. What the eastern allies wanted were permanent military bases to be built closer to Russia’s territory. But their allies in Western Europe, particularly Germany, shot down those requests, as they would break a pact that NATO made with Russia in 1997 not to station “permanent combat forces” near Russia’s borders. (It did not seem to matter that, with the conquest of Crimea, Russia broke the pledge it made to the U.S. and U.K. in 1994 never to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty.) Asked at a press conference on Monday whether NATO’s new force would be permanent, its Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said, “Actually very few things in life are permanent.” He added: “The bottom line is you will see more visible NATO presence in the East.”

There were, however, some more encouraging signs than that of NATO unity and assertiveness. The day before the summit, France agreed to halt the scheduled delivery next month of an aircraft carrier to Russia, saying that the conditions were “not right.” It took months of pressure from the U.S. and other allies for the French to stop the weapons transfer, though it is not clear whether France will go ahead with the sale of another warship to Russia next year.

In showing support for Ukraine, the allies also tried to make President Petro Poroshenko feel like the summit’s guest of honor. The leaders of NATO’s five most powerful members—the U.S., U.K., Germany, France and Italy—met with Poroshenko to discuss his country’s conflict with Russia, and they collectively pledged to create several “trust funds” worth about $16 million—a largely symbolic sum—to help modernize the Ukrainian military. But they stopped short of promising to provide Ukraine with any weapons, and they made no commitments to let Ukraine join the alliance at any point in the future.

Speaking by phone from Kiev, Grechaninov says he is disappointed, but not surprised. If Ukraine were to join NATO, every one of its members would be treaty-bound to defend Ukraine’s in case of a foreign attack, and none of the allies have been willing to risk that kind of confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia. Grechaninov understands these fears, but he warns that the alliance is only delaying the inevitable. “Putin can only be stopped by a force greater than his,” he says. “We waited for this force from NATO, and they have it. They can stop Putin. But right now they don’t consider it,” he says, pausing to find the right word. “They don’t consider it expedient.”

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen calls on Russia to pull back from the Crimea during a speech at the NATO Summit in Wales on Sept.4, 2014.

TIME conflict

Obama and British Leader Say They Won’t Be ‘Cowed by Barbaric Killers’

"If terrorists think we will weaken in the face of their threats they could not be more wrong"

The United States and Britain will “not be cowed” by Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria who have killed two American journalists, the leaders of both nations said Thursday.

Ahead of a NATO summit in Wales that began Thursday, President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron published a joint article in the Times of London saying they will “confront” the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), and calling for international action to address security threats around the world.

“If terrorists think we will weaken in the face of their threats they could not be more wrong,” they wrote. “Countries like Britain and America will not be cowed by barbaric killers. We will be more forthright in the defence of our values, not least because a world of greater freedom is a fundamental part of how we keep our own people safe.”

The NATO summit, which is formally scheduled to address the drawdown in Afghanistan and the conflict in Ukraine, comes days after the ISIS released a video depicting its beheading of a second American journalist.

Obama and Cameron also called for NATO to increase pressure on Russia, which Western officials say is meddling in the conflict in Eastern Ukraine between Kiev and pro-Russian separatists.

“With Russia trying to force a sovereign state to abandon its right to democracy and determining the course of its future at the barrel of a gun, we should support Ukraine’s right to determine its own democratic future and continue our efforts to enhance Ukrainian capabilities,” they wrote.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: September 4

1. The results of the NATO summit and the alliance’s stance on ISIS and Ukraine will define President Obama’s foreign policy legacy.

By Jonathan Alter in the Daily Beast

2. Intense boot camps for highly skilled careers may displace costly graduate degrees and get more people working.

By Kevin Carey in Washington Monthly

3. To make a splash in the mobile market despite poor sales of its Windows phone, Microsoft is selling apps to iPhone and Android users.

By Dan Frommer in Quartz

4. The street children of India are publishing a quarterly newspaper, finding a purpose and a passion in telling their stories.

By Mariah Wilson, Chander Bhan and Paul Ewen in Vocativ

5. Harm reduction – versus a law-enforcement focused “war on drugs” – could reduce overdose deaths.

By Josh Eidelson in Bloomberg Business Week

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Iraq

NATO Chief: Alliance Would Consider Intervention in Iraq

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Barack Obama
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, front left, speaks with U.S. President Barack Obama, front right, as they arrives for a group photo during a NATO summit on the grounds of the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales on Thursday, Sept. 4. Jon Super—AP

The statements come as NATO meets to plan its withdrawal from Afghanistan.

NATO Secretary-General Andesr Fogh Rasmussen said Thursday that the alliance would consider containing Islamist militants in Iraq if the Iraqi government requested NATO’s help.

“I’m sure that if the Iraqi government were to forward a request for NATO assistance, that would be considered seriously by NATO allies,” Rasmussen said on Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

NATO leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, are in Wales for a summit to plan the winding down of operations in Afghanistan and respond to the crisis in Ukraine. But Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron wrote in the Times of London on Thursday that their countries will “not be cowed” by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, the militant group that has seized parts of northern Iraq and killed at least two American journalists.

Rasmussen said the international community “has an obligation to stop the Islamic State from advancing further,” though NATO leaders have so far not proposed specific joint action, according to the AP.

The U.S. has launched limited strikes against ISIS in Iraq, and Obama has said he is considering expanding military operations against ISIS to Syria.

[AP]

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