Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed that Russia is preparing for war after firing nearly 50 senior officers for refusing to confront NATO ships and warning that the world is “being pulled in an irreversible direction.”
The Baltic Fleet’s Commander, Vice Admiral Viktor Kravchuk, and his chief-of-staff, Rear Admiral Sergey Popov, were among the nearly 50 officers sacked by Putin over reportedly failing to aggressively confront NATO vessels in the Baltic Sea; last month, Kravchuk and Popov were suspended by Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu for “serious shortcomings in organizing combat training, daily activities of their units, poor care of their subordinates as well as misrepresenting the real situation in their reports.”
“Some hint that the ‘buzzing’ of USS Donald Cook by Russian Su-24 fighter-bombers on April 14, 2016 was meant to be part of a broader series of Russian confrontations against Western ships in the Baltic,” said international affairs analyst Peter Coates, “but the Russian Baltic Fleet in April, however, refused to follow such dangerous orders — hence Putin’s retaliation against his own naval officers.”
Speaking with journalists following the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum, and amid growing NATO troop deployments in countries along the Russian border, Putin admonished the Western media for reporting “tall tales” when covering U.S. and NATO actions in Europe and ignoring the chance they will lead to nuclear war.
“We know year by year what’s going to happen, and they know that we know. It’s only you that they tell tall tales to, and you buy it, and spread it to the citizens of your countries. You people in turn do not feel a sense of the impending danger – this is what worries me. How do you not understand that the world is being pulled in an irreversible direction? While they pretend that nothing is going on. I don’t know how to get through to you anymore,” he said.
The Baltic Fleet, comprised of over 50 warships, including corvettes, destroyers, frigates, landing craft and submarines, is based in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave situated between NATO members Lithuania and Poland. In response to growing tensions, as well NATO military exercises like BALTOPS 2016 simulating an amphibious assault, Putin has fortified Kaliningrad and stationed advanced nuclear-capable Iskander missiles in the enclave.
While not as well equipped as the Black Sea or Northern Fleets, the Baltic Fleet has taken on greater significance as NATO continues to expand its presence in Poland and the Baltic States, having recently committed to deploy four battalions totaling 3,000 to 4,000 troops into those countries on a rotating basis.
Russia’s on-going preparations for war with the Unite States and NATO are nothing new.
A Russian Balzam-class intelligence-gathering vessel was spotted off the coast of Hawaii earlier this month, reportedly to monitor the annual RIMPAC naval exercise.
The Russian government recently reached an agreement with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega to build an electronic intelligence-gathering facility in the country in exchange for the sale of 5o T-72 tanks.