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Saber Strike: NATO rushes thousands of troops, including air defence systems, to Poland and Baltic states “to boost readiness on its eastern flank”

NATO’s Saber Strike 18 exercises involving some 18,000 troops from 19 nations will begin on June 3 in Poland and the Baltic states, as the Western alliance looks to boost readiness on its eastern flank.

The maneuvers will run through June 15 and come as Poland has indicated it is considering a proposal to host a permanent contingent of U.S. troops in the way that Germany and Italy have done since World War II.

The United States leads a multinational NATO battle group in Poland, while allies Germany, Britain, and Canada command three others in the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, where the Saber Strike maneuvers will be held.

“The long-standing U.S. Army Europe-led cooperative training exercise is designed to enhance readiness and interoperability among allies and regional partners,” the U.S. Army said.

It added that the maneuvers will “demonstrate the alliance’s determination and ability to act as one in response to any aggression.”

The United States and NATO have bolstered their presence in Poland and elsewhere on the alliance’s eastern flank since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

An “information document” by the Polish Defense Ministry seen by news agencies suggests that Warsaw could spend $1.5 billion to $2 billion to help cover the cost of permanently basing a U.S. tank unit in Poland.

Russia immediately attacked the proposal, saying such a deployment “will not benefit in any way the security and stability on the continent.”

NATO has deployed some 6,000 troops in the region, and the U.S. Army has established a new European headquarters in Poland to command the forces.

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https://www.rferl.org/a/nato-s-massive-saber-strike-maneuvers-in-poland-baltics-set-to-launch/29268187.html

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Bulgaria: US moves military assets near Black Sea Coast

Lt Gen Evgeny Buzhinsky told Dermot Murnaghan that shooting down American missiles is the least that Russia would do, and that if Russian blood is shed in Syria, then Americans “will shed their blood also”.

“Your Prime Minister Churchill said if you had to choose between war and disgrace and you choose disgrace, then you get both. I don’t think Putin will choose disgrace,” he added.

Asked how close we are to nuclear war, Mr Buzhinsky said: “Very close – closer than we were during the 1962 Cuban crisis.”

He said Russia has been cornered and demonised from all angles.

“We are at all kinds of war with the collective West. Economic war, diplomatic war, information war – the last war which we’re not waging yet is a real fought war.”

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https://news.sky.com/story/live-donald-trump-tells-russia-to-get-ready-for-syria-airstrikes-11326296

US would not seem to leave Syria “very soon” but, conversely, recent satellite imagery (al-Tanf and surrounding areas) reveals Washington increasing its presence in the war-torn country

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., agreed with President Trump that American involvement in Syria needs to end, but said Trump’s statement that the U.S. will leave soon is off-base.

Sanders said on CNN’s “State of the Union” the U.S. cannot stay in Syria forever but the idea that American forces can leave “very soon,” as Trump said, isn’t possible.

“It’s not a yes or no,” Sanders said when he was asked if he agreed with Trump’s statement in a speech Thursday.

“I think we absolutely do not want to get involved in this terrible civil war in Syria, which is so destructive, so destabilizing to the entire region. But, I don’t know that you can pull out tomorrow.”

Trump caught much of the foreign policy world off-guard Thursday when he said he expected the U.S. to leave Syria soon.

“By the way, we’re knocking the hell out of ISIS. We’re coming out of Syria very soon. Let the other people take care of it now — very soon, very soon, we’re coming out,” Trump said.

“We’ll have 100 percent of the caliphate as they call it, sometimes referred to as land, we are taking it all back quickly, quickly. We’re going to be coming out of there real soon, going back to our country where we belong, where we want to be.”

Sanders said working with all the region’s players — including Russia — must be a part of the peace process.

“Our job now is to work with our allies in the entire region and that is to do everything that we can to bring peace to Syria, make sure that Russia is part of that process,” he said. “But absolutely, I do not want to see American troops get stuck in a never ending civil war in Syria.”

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https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/bernie-sanders-trump-is-right-that-us-cant-stay-in-syria-forever-but-americans-cant-pull-out-tomorrow

Serbia has provoked Pristina by sending several fighter jets (Soko J-22s Orao) over Preševo area, very close to the border with Kosovo “Tense times”

“Serbian military airplanes reportedly flew at very low altitudes above Preshevë / Preševo – an Albanian majority town in south Serbia bordering #Kosovo. On the same day, Kosovo Serbs in north Mitrovica announce they will unilaterally create ethnic entity/association. Tense times”

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US-led forces establish new military outposts east of Hajin, Deir ez-Zor

The battleground in eastern Syria has only grown more complex as the U.S.-led, mostly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces and the Russia-backed Syrian military fought two separate campaigns to destroy ISIS. As the Syrian military, backed by various pro-government militias—many of which were supported by Iran—and Russian warplanes, retook Deir Ezzor city and the border town of Al-Bukamal, they declared victory over ISIS and reclaimed the region for Assad.

On the other side of the Euphrates River, however, the Syrian Democratic Forces maintained control of lucrative oil fields. The Kurdish leadership had reportedly entered into preliminary talks with the Syrian government to negotiate the return of these sites in exchange for greater autonomy across majority-Kurdish northern Syria, but two major developments have upset the dynamics of eastern Syria.

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http://www.newsweek.com/us-wanted-attack-russians-syria-again-moscow-stepped-mattis-says-864666

Something is moving in China too. Military hardware spotted north east of Beijing, the city where Kim Jong Un allegedly made a surprise visit today

Kim Jong Un made a surprise visit to Beijing on his first known trip outside North Korea since taking power in 2011, three people with knowledge of the visit said.

Further details of his trip, including how long Kim would stay and who he would meet, were not immediately available. The people asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the information.

Speculation about a possible visit by a high-ranking North Korean official circulated around the Chinese capital Monday, after Japan’s Kyodo News reported that a special train may have carried Kim through the northeastern border city of Dandong. Nippon TV showed footage of a train arriving Monday in Beijing that looked similar to one used by Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, to visit the country shortly before his death in 2011.

The unannounced visit is the latest in series of diplomatic power plays in Asia as U.S. President Donald Trump’s battle to lower the U.S.’s trade deficit becomes entangled with his effort to get Kim to give up his nuclear weapons. Chinese President Xi Jinping has found himself preparing for a trade war with Trump even after supporting progressive rounds of United Nations sanctions against the Kim regime.

It is not clear if the U.S. had advance knowledge of Kim’s visit. A State Department spokesman, Julia Mason, responded to questions about the report with a single sentence: “We’d refer you to the Chinese.”

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https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-26/north-korean-leader-kim-jong-un-is-said-to-be-visiting-china

Russia deploys at least 3x Bastion-P coastal defence missile system towards Taganrog, Rostov Oblast close to Ukraine border

A coastguard ship of the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service has arrested, in the Ukrainian waters of the Azov Sea, a fishing vessel flying the flag of the Russian Federation, with a crew of ten people on board.

“The vessel NORD was stopped 15 miles from the Obytichna spit. It was established during the inspection that it was registered in the temporarily occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. In addition, crew members violated the procedure for leaving the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine. All of them had so-called passports of Russian citizens issued in the city of Kerch,” the press office of the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service reported on Monday.

The vessel, with the crew on board, was arrested and tugged to the port of Berdiansk for further verification and procedural actions. The identity of the detainees will also be established. In addition, a trawl for fishing and five tonnes of seafood were found during the inspection of the vessel.

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http://en.interfax.com.ua/news/general/494645.html