Twelve nations are participating in the joint military exercise being carried out currently in Bulgaria, on the east coast of the Black Sea, around 420 kilometers (260 miles) from Crimea. The exercise, called Saber Guard, is being hosted by U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR) and the Bulgarian Land Forces. Fifteen Ukrainian staff officers and several NATO representatives will also be taking part in the exercise.
The exercise, aimed at senior-level staff, includes operations for peace support and humanitarian assistance, according to U.S. Army Europe spokesman Jesse Granger. The movement of military units in operation exercises will be simulated by computers. On a broader level, Saber Guard is designed as a means to strengthen partnership, trust and interoperability between the multinational coalition. Saber Guard will involve around 700 troops from the twelve participating nations, which include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Georgia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Turkey and the U.S., in addition to Ukraine and host Bulgaria.
The exercise has been planned for about a year, according to USAREUR. The coincidental location and timing with the recent events in and around Crimea are just that–coincidence–according to Granger.
Michel Chossudovsky, Montreal-based founder of the Centre for Research on Globalisation, however, has commented that the coincidence is “timely.” In a recent interview with Press TV, Chossudovsky noted that the exercise in Bulgaria focuses not only on military operations but also on what the U.S. military calls “civil military cooperations,” which is why, Chossudovsky stated, the exercise as timely.
The current coalition government in Ukraine has begun the formation of a national guard, which is a civilian paramilitary organization, Chossudovsky explained in the interview. The national guard, which Chossudovsky said was formed by the heads of Ukraine’s neo-Nazi party and Reich sector–“the neo-Nazi component of [the] coalition government–would be responsible in turn for training civilians as well as military.
Last year’s Saber Guard exercise took place in Romania at that country’s Land Forces Training Center in Cincu, and was planned and organized by Romania’s Land Forces and U.S. Army Europe. Saber Guard 2013 was the first time Black Sea region nations (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Republic of Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, and host Romania, with participation by Serbian and Polish Land Forces) came together for joint exercise of their battlestaff and command post procedures.
The Black Sea region is important to the U.S. and other global players because of its key military positioning as well as its civilian activity–the Black Sea and Kurdish straits are a section of a busy trade route, according to Prof. Chossudovsky, who situates the current conflict in Crimea within a broader context of competing NATO and Russian objectives of militarizing the Black Sea basin.
The Black Sea basin, comprised of the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea and the land between, is currently important to international interests because of its rich oil and gas reserves. Countries in the Black Sea region include Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Iran.
The Black Sea region, particularly the western coast of the Black Sea, has been the site of several NATO exercises in previous years. In addition to ongoing training of U.S. forces at Bulgarian bases, in 2013 construction began in Romania on a U.S. military base which is expected to contribute to Europe’s ballistic missile defense system.
By Day Blakely Donaldson