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    By Natasha Bertrand | CNN Russia has been using Belarus as a springboard for many of its air operations in Ukraine, according to intelligence collected by NATO surveillance planes flying over the Polish-Ukrainian border and radar seen by CNN. CNN accompanied NATO’s Flying Squadron 2 on one such surveillance mission on Thursday. Within two hours of taking off at 8 a.m. CET, the radar on board the NATO AWACS plane — short for Airborne Warning and Control System — picked up about a dozen Russian-made planes idling in Belarus just north of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, NATO tactical director Denis Guillaume told CNN. Hours later, at least nine Russian-made planes were spotted entering Ukrainian airspace from Belarus, appearing to head toward Kyiv, the radar showed. The “vast majority” of the Russian-made fighter jets that NATO forces have seen entering Ukrainian airspace since Russia’s invasion began have originated in Belarus, the NATO mission’s technical director told CNN on board Thursday’s flight. On one particularly “active” day last week, NATO forces saw about 20 Russian jets heading to Kyiv from Belarus,...
    ABOARD A NATO SURVEILLANCE PLANE ABOVE THE POLISH-UKRAINIAN BORDER (CNN)Russia has been using Belarus as a springboard for many of its air operations in Ukraine, according to intelligence collected by NATO surveillance planes flying over the Polish-Ukrainian border and radar seen by CNN. CNN accompanied NATO's Flying Squadron 2 on one such surveillance mission on Thursday. Within two hours of taking off at 8 a.m. CET, the radar on board the NATO AWACS plane -- short for Airborne Warning and Control System -- picked up about a dozen Russian-made planes idling in Belarus just north of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, NATO tactical director Denis Guillaume told CNN. Hours later, at least nine Russian-made planes were spotted entering Ukrainian airspace from Belarus, appearing to head toward Kyiv, the radar showed. The "vast majority" of the Russian-made fighter jets that NATO forces have seen entering Ukrainian airspace since Russia's invasion began have originated in Belarus, the NATO mission's technical director told CNN on board Thursday's flight. On one particularly "active" day last week, NATO forces saw about 20 Russian jets heading...
    Allied Western nations have provided military and humanitarian aide to Ukraine in response to the Russian invasion and have also issued sweeping sanctions that effectively cripple and isolate the Russian financial system. Shortly after Russia launched its invasion, leaders from the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. issued a statement expressing their intentions to remove Russian banks from the SWIFT telecommunication network. The statement said, “We stand with the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people in their heroic efforts to resist Russia’s invasion. Russia’s war represents an assault on fundamental international rules and norms that have prevailed since the Second World WAR, which we are committed to defending. We will hold Russia to account and collectively ensure that this war is a strategic failure for Putin.” Since the West locked arms in support of Ukraine, the Russian economy has been rapidly deteriorating. Private financial institutions like Visa and Mastercard suspended their operations in Russia, further isolating Russians from participating in the global economy, and the Western energy company British Petroleum announced that it...
    Former Trump White House chief of staff John Kelly said Thursday on CNN’s “The Lead” that he does not understand the praise on the right for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Anchor Jake Tapper said, “We’ve heard a lot of prominent Republicans, both in politics and in conservative media, praising Vladimir Putin, even calling him a genius. What’s your response when you hear that?” Kelly said, “Disbelief. He’s a tyrant. He is a murderer. He has attacked an innocent country whose only crime is that they want to be free and democratic, and they’re working in that direction and have been working in that direction. They have been a cooperative country. They gave up, on our word, they gave up the nuclear weapons that the old Soviet Union left behind. They participated with other U.S./NATO allies. They participated in operations — peacekeeping operations in Africa and Afghanistan, places like that. They were part of the partnership for peace, although not members of NATO, they worked alongside NATO in these various good operations.” Kelly added, “You know, is Putin smart? Yes. Tyrants are smart....
    On CNN Thursday, John Kelly, the retired Marine General who served as former President Donald Trump's Secretary of Homeland Security and White House chief of staff, reacted with shock to his former boss' lavish praise for Vladimir Putin for his violent invasion of Ukraine. "We've heard a lot of prominent Republicans, both in politics and in conservative media, praising Vladimir Putin, even calling him a 'genius,'" said anchor Jake Tapper. "What's your response when you hear that?" "Disbelief," said Kelly. "He's a tyrant. He's a murderer. He has attacked an innocent country whose only crime is that they want to be free and democratic and they're working in that direction and have been working in that direction. They have been a cooperative country. They gave up, on our word, the nuclear weapons that the old Soviet Union left behind. They participated with other U.S./NATO allies. They participated in operations — peacekeeping operations in Africa and Afghanistan, places like that. They were part of the partnership for peace, although not members of NATO, they worked alongside NATO in these various good...
    BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO defense ministers are weighing Thursday what lessons to draw from the almost two-decade-long military mission in Afghanistan, including whether the world’s biggest security organization should even undertake major operations outside Europe and North America. Ahead of Thursday’s meeting at the U.S.-led military alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the way the organization’s biggest-ever operation ended shows that the challenges of such endeavours should not be underestimated. “It highlights the challenges and the risks to engage in big missions and operations outside NATO territory,” Stoltenberg told reporters. At the same time, he said, “the lesson cannot be that we will never engage.” “We should not draw the wrong conclusion on Afghanistan and think that NATO allies and NATO should never again engage in military operations to fight extremism, or terrorism,” he said. NATO took the lead on international security efforts in Afghanistan in 2003 but ended combat operations in 2014 to focus on training local security forces. It helped build up an Afghan army of some 300,000 troops, but that force withered in just...
    BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO foreign ministers committed Friday to focus on ensuring the safe evacuation from Afghanistan of their citizens and of Afghans deemed at risk after the Taliban takeover, centering on improving operations at Kabul airport first. Faced with continuing chaos in the capital and the exit roads, many of the 30 allied nations raised “the need to work harder on how we can get more people … into the airport, then processed and then onto the planes,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said. He called that “the big, big, big challenge.” All too often over the past hours and days, planes from NATO nations have been able to get to Kabul, only to be forced to leave empty or near-empty. Belgium, for example, sent two big C-130 planes into Kabul, but of some 500 people who had been called up to board, only “some 20 were lucky enough” to get on the first plane, foreign minister Sophie Wilmes said. A second plane had to return to neighboring Pakistan empty, since designated passengers could not enter...
    August 17, 2021 0 NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday criticized “the failure of the Afghan authorities” against the Taliban and the speed with which the rebels occupied Kabul, while defending the role of the Atlantic Alliance. NATO forces “fought bravely” in Afghanistan “but failed to control the country” as “ultimately, the Afghan political authorities failed in their attempt to oppose the Taliban and reach a peaceful solution,” he said. Stoltenberg. UN Secretary General called for suppression of the threat in Afghanistan “It is the failure of the Afghan authorities that led to what we are currently seeing,” he said at a press conference. NATO is currently striving to “guarantee the security” of its civilian personnel and its Afghan employees present in Kabul, and “works tirelessly to maintain its operations at the Kabul airport,” said the organization’s secretary general. Another high-ranking Cuban soldier dies in strange circumstances “Some 800 civilians who work for NATO have stayed to guarantee key operations, under very difficult circumstances, including air traffic, fuel supply and communications,” he said. . 0
    HALIFAX, CANADA - Almost 65 years after then-Canadian Prime Minister Lester Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize for initiating the first U.N. peacekeeping mission, his country – which long prided itself on its role in subsequent missions -- has only a few dozen remaining peacekeepers deployed around the world. That is down from a record 3,300 Canadian troops deployed in peacekeeping missions in the early 1990s, part of a wider trend that Canadian military experts attribute to the changing nature of conflict in a post-Cold War world. U.N. peacekeeping is “falling out of fashion,” says Major Tim Dunne, a retired public affairs officer in the Canadian Armed Forces who deployed in numerous peacekeeping missions beginning in the 1970s and is currently a research fellow with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. Until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Dunne tells VOA, most global conflicts were driven by competition between the United States and the Soviet Union, creating the need for an impartial army to stand between them. But, he says, most modern conflicts – whether in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Rwanda...
    Twitter announced on Tuesday it has banned 373 accounts linked to the governments of Russia, Iran, and Armenia for allegedly violating various policies and “undermining faith in the NATO alliance and its stability.” Twitter said the banned accounts were part of four organized “state-linked information operations,” one of which was already known to be operating from Iran. Almost two thirds of the banned accounts were Iranian. Twitter said 130 of them were removed “based on intel provided by the FBI” concerning their attempts to “disrupt the public conversation during the first 2020 U.S. presidential debate.” Two of the networks uncovered by Twitter were linked to the Russian state. Of these fake accounts, 69 “can be reliably tied to Russian state actors” and were involved in operations to boost “narratives that were aligned with the Russian government” and to undermine “faith in the NATO alliance and its stability.” Another 31 accounts linked to previously identified Russian propaganda operations targeting the U.S. and European Union were removed.  Twitter also identified 35 accounts linked to the government of Armenia “created in order to...
    BRUSSELS (AP) — Donald Trump is no longer around as president to berate U.S. allies in Europe and Canada for failing to spend enough on their defense budgets. But the debate about military spending appears likely to continue to rage at NATO, even under President Joe Biden. So, in an effort to improve “burden sharing” — the way the 30 member countries contribute cash, military hardware and troops to operations run by the world’s biggest security organization — Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is proposing that allies jointly fund more of NATO’s work. Stoltenberg said he will urge defense ministers, at a two-day videoconference starting Wednesday, “to increase NATO’s funding for our core deterrence and defense activities.” The plan would mean jointly funding battlegroups of troops on standby in member countries bordering Russia, aerial policing operations, the deployment of warships on permanent maritime duties or military exercises. It would not be used for active military operations outside NATO territory. At the moment, Stoltenberg told reporters ahead of the meeting, “the country that provides the capabilities also provides the funding. So, if you...
    BRUSSELS (AP) — Donald Trump is no longer around as president to berate U.S. allies in Europe and Canada for failing to spend enough on their defense budgets. But the debate about military spending appears likely to continue to rage at NATO, even under President Joe Biden. So, in an effort to improve “burden sharing” — the way the 30 member countries contribute cash, military hardware and troops to operations run by the world’s biggest security organization — Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is proposing that allies jointly fund more of NATO’s work. Stoltenberg said he will urge defense ministers, at a two-day videoconference starting Wednesday, “to increase NATO’s funding for our core deterrence and defense activities.” The plan would mean jointly funding battlegroups of troops on standby in member countries bordering Russia, aerial policing operations, the deployment of warships on permanent maritime duties or military exercises. It would not be used for active military operations outside NATO territory. At the moment, Stoltenberg told reporters ahead of the meeting, “the country that provides the capabilities also provides the funding. So, if you...
    KESTER, Belgium — To a few of the locals, the top-secret, fenced-off installation on the hill is known as “the radar station.” Some folks claim to have seen mysterious Russians in the area. Over the years, rumors have swirled that it might be a base for U.S. nuclear warheads. It’s easy to see how the rumors start. The site is visually striking. Four huge white Kevlar balls sit like giant spherical spacecraft in a compound in the middle of open farm country 16 miles west of Belgium’s capital, Brussels. But the Kester Satellite Ground Station is both safer and more sophisticated than local lore might suggest. It’s central to space communications at NATO — the biggest and most modern of four such stations the military alliance runs. Around 2,000 satellites orbit the earth, over half operated by NATO countries, ensuring everything from mobile phone and banking services to weather forecasts. NATO commanders in places like Afghanistan or Kosovo rely on some of them to navigate, communicate, share intelligence and detect missile launches. This week, the site at Kester is...
    By LORNE COOK, Associated Press KESTER, Belgium (AP) — To a few of the locals, the top-secret, fenced-off installation on the hill is known as “the radar station.” Some folks claim to have seen mysterious Russians in the area. Over the years, rumors have swirled that it might be a base for U.S. nuclear warheads. It’s easy to see how the rumors start. The site is visually striking. Four huge white Kevlar balls sit like giant spherical spacecraft in a compound in the middle of open farm country 25 kilometers (16 miles) west of Belgium's capital, Brussels. But the Kester Satellite Ground Station is both safer and more sophisticated than local lore might suggest. It’s central to space communications at NATO — the biggest and most modern of four such stations the military alliance runs. Around 2,000 satellites orbit the earth, over half operated by NATO countries, ensuring everything from mobile phone and banking services to weather forecasts. NATO commanders in places like Afghanistan or Kosovo rely on some of them to navigate, communicate, share intelligence and detect missile launches....
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