A meeting that took place behind closed doors between intelligence figures in the town of Torgau, Saxony (Germany) last month, reportedly revealed that the Russian President Vladimir Putin will view any attempt from NATO’s side to return Crimea to Ukraine or to step up its presence in the Baltics as declaration of war and threatened a “spectrum of responses from nuclear to non-military” to retain his control in the region.
According to notes seen by The Times and made by the US party at the Elbe Group meeting, Putin is also planning imminent “destabilizing actions” in the Baltic states in order to withstand NATO’s promise to defend pro-Western countries from Russian expansionism.
According to the notes, it would most likely be “destabilizing actions that would be even harder to trace back to Russia than those of eastern Ukraine,” and added that “the same conditions that existed in Ukraine and caused Russia to take action there” exist in the three Baltic states (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia), where a large percentage of people regard themselves as ethically Russian.
Such disturbances could include cyberattacks and triggering local ethnic tensions in all three countries, which was done in Crimea by the Kremlin last year. The notes also suggest Russia would avoid “injections of troops and heavy weapons in favor of other tools.”
A year after annexing the Crimea peninsula, Putin admitted in an interview aired on March 15 that he ordered the Russian troops to execute a well-planned operation to take over Crimea. Furthermore, Putin admitted that “we were ready to do this” when asked about his willingness to use Russia’s nuclear forces.
“The United States should understand it would also be at risk”
The notes also said that Russia’s security experts tend to believe that the US wants to destroy their country at any cost. “In this type of scenario, the United States should also understand it would also be at risk,” the document said.
The Kremlin also believes that “Ukraine could be a launching point” to unleash fascist and Islamic extremist groups against Russia. The “fight for resources in the Arctic” was another Russia’s concern.
It was reported just two days ago that Russia has made a number of moves in the Arctic, including ordering its troops to increase presence in the region, carrying out military drills and developing Arctic rescue robots.
The Elbe Group forum was established to improve mutual understanding between the two countries’ military and intelligence experts, and has already met six times over the past five years.
According to the Russian delegation’s leader and the former minister of the interior, Anatoly Kulikov, the party was briefed by both the Russian president and Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister.
However, both delegations agreed that there was a high possibility of an accidental conflict between Russia and the West in eastern Europe, which could ultimately lead to “unintended escalation” and destructive consequences for the world, hinting at the possibility of World War 3.
Russia: “This is the ongoing hysteria to demonize us”
However, Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary, has recently described reports that the Kremlin is threatening to use its nuclear forces as “a classic example of Russia’s demonization.”
“This is a classic example of the ongoing hysteria to demonize our country. In fact, they blow the situation out of proportion in informational terms themselves, and they are doing this not based on any particular information, and then they themselves fear what they have written,” Peskov told reporters on Thursday.
“These reports can’t be taken seriously,” he added.
“Russia has never threatened to use nuclear forces over the events in Crimea, and those who allege this have apparently failed to familiarize themselves with Putin’s remarks in the recent film titled ‘Crimea. Returning Home’”, Peskov said.
On March 9, the United States transferred over 120 heavy military equipment to the Baltic states in order to prevent Russian aggression and not let Putin advance further into Europe. And according to NATO’s Secretary-General, Russian military flights close to the Baltic states’ borders were intercepted more than 400 times last year.
On March 6, NATO forces conducted military drills in Latvia, which included training to spot enemy positions, calling in indirect fire support, battlefield first aid as well as tactic training with their Latvian partners.
NATO forces conducted around 200 military drills in 2014, with the alliance’s General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg having promised that such exercises would continue. Furthermore, a spokesman for the US Embassy in Poland, confirmed that the deployment of US troops in Poland and the Baltics has been extended through 2015.
Russian annexation of Crimea in March last year triggered the worst geopolitical conflict with the West since the Cold War. The tensions have further escalated during the Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine that’s killed over 6,000 people over the past year and counting. Despite the cease-fire agreement reached in Minsk on February 12, the Obama’s administration is still considering arming Ukrainian forces.