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Ukraine conflict is changing many issues around the world including NATO’s force stance in Europe.

An AP report said:

On Wednesday, lamenting Russia’s “brutal invasion” of Ukraine, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that Europe’s biggest land war in decades will “change our security environment” and will have “long-lasting consequences for our security, and for all NATO allies.”

In talks at NATO’s Brussels headquarters, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his counterparts are weighing what defenses to set up on the organization’s eastern flank, from Estonia in the north through Latvia, Lithuania and Poland down to Bulgaria and Romania on the Black Sea.

The aim is to deter Russia’s President Vladimir Putin from ordering an invasion any of the 30 allies; not just for the duration of this war but for the next 5-10 years. Before launching it, Putin had demanded that NATO stop expanding and withdraw its forces from the east. The opposite is happening.

“We are reinforcing our collective defense – hundreds of thousands of troops on heightened alert, 100,000 U.S. troops in Europe, and then 40,000 troops under direct NATO command, mostly in the eastern part of the alliance, supported by naval and air forces,” Stoltenberg said.

The ministers are expected to task NATO military commanders with drawing up options for stationing troops more permanently and in greater number in the east – unlike the rotating battle groups totaling around 5,000 troops that were deployed to the Baltic states and Poland in recent years.

Those options will be studied by NATO leaders at their next major summit in Madrid in June.

The opinion of U.S. President Joe Biden and his NATO counterparts, who will also meet in Brussels next week, about the state of the NATO-Russia Founding Act could not be clearer.

Pentagon Chief To Travel To Brussels, Slovakia, Bulgaria This Week

A media report said:

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will travel to Slovakia and Bulgaria to meet with “senior civilian and military leaders.”

The Pentagon had previously announced Austin’s trip to Brussels and Slovakia, but the stop in Bulgaria is new. The extra location extends Austin’s trip by another day.

Austin was previously in Europe last month traveling to Belgium, Poland and Lithuania – the latter two countries being a landing point for part of the 15,000 American troops recently placed in Europe to shore up NATO’s defenses should the conflict spill over.

Since then, Austin has ordered even more U.S. troops and military equipment to Europe, with about 100,000 personnel now stationed in the continent on either a rotational or a permanent basis.

Biden To Visit Brussels For NATO, EU Meetings On Russia

U.S. President Biden will make a high-stakes trip to Europe later this month to attend a NATO leaders summit and a European Union summit in Brussels.

Biden would attend the NATO summit on March 24 to discuss ongoing deterrence and defense efforts related to Russia’s invasion and reaffirm America’s “ironclad commitment” to the alliance.

Biden will join a previously scheduled European Council summit to discuss Ukraine, including efforts to penalize Russia and provide humanitarian support to Ukraine.

The White House announcement came as the leaders of Poland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic visited Kyiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday.

Biden has supplied hundreds of millions of dollars in security and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine in recent weeks and on Tuesday was poised to sign into law a government funding bill that includes $13.6 billion in additional Ukraine-related funding.

Nigerian Volunteer: ‘Fighting In Ukraine Is Better Than Living Here’

A BBC report said about 27-year-old Nigerian Ottah Abraham.

He was some 8,700km away from the front line, in a small apartment in Nigeria’s main city, Lagos.

The philosophy graduate is one of several hundred Africans, from countries like Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa and Algeria, who say they are willing to take up arms in the battle against Russia, partly to escape the bleak prospects faced by many young men at home.

“We know that it’s war, it’s not child’s play,” he told the BBC. “But being a soldier in Ukraine would be better than being here.

“I’ll probably be allowed to stay if the war ends, plus I’ll be a hero and fight an undeniable enemy.”

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that some 20,000 volunteers from across the world had already applied to enlist.

The Ukraine government has temporarily axed its visa requirements and offered equipment and a salary to those with a valid passport and military training. There has been no official confirmation that foreign fighters will be allowed to stay in the country after the war.

The Ukrainian embassy in Nigeria – like others in Africa – has had to back-pedal as many of the continent’s governments do not want their nationals to fight in Ukraine.

“Nigeria discourages the use of mercenaries anywhere in the world and will not tolerate the recruitment,” Nigeria’s foreign ministry wrote in a statement.

Bohdan Soltys, a Ukrainian embassy official in Nigeria, said they were not paying Africans to fight – and people would have to pay for their own flights to reach Europe.

“There’s a fine line between foreign volunteers and mercenaries,” he told the BBC.

A British paramedic was pictured crossing into Ukraine on 5 March to join the international legion

He later clarified that he had been instructed to turn away any volunteers who arrived at the embassy.

Senegal also warned its citizens against enlisting in the war and ordered the Ukrainian ambassador to take down a Facebook post that had called for Senegalese volunteers, calling the recruitment effort “illegal and punishable by law.”

The Algerian foreign ministry issued a similar order to its Ukrainian embassy.

Ukraine’s ambassador to South Africa, Mozambique and Botswana Liubov Abravitova told the BBC that hundreds of people from across southern African had volunteered to fight or work in a humanitarian capacity – but she was unable to act on their requests as she was waiting for instructions from their governments. South Africa has a strict law against mercenaries.

In fact, Ukraine’s official website for recruiting the “international legion” of volunteers, which provides the contact details of local embassies around the world, no longer includes missions in African countries.

A representative working for the website confirmed that some African countries were removed because of “regulatory restrictions”.

Algeria, Senegal and South Africa were among 17 of Africa’s 54 countries which abstained from the vote at the UN to condemn the invasion of Ukraine, as they wanted to avoid antagonising Russia.

And Russia is not without support in Africa. It has expanded its influence on the continent – especially militarily, by helping countries like the Central African Republic (CAR), Libya, Mali and Sudan fight rebels or Islamist militants.

Foreign Fighters In Ukraine Await Weapons In Chaos Of War

An AP report from Lviv, Ukraine said:

They are idealists who abandoned their jobs for the battlefields of Ukraine, looking for a cause or simply to fight.

The Ukrainian president’s call for foreign volunteers to join an international brigade to help bolster his country’s defense with a new layer of resistance to Russia’s invasion is for now a ragtag army.

Recruits say they are often waiting for weapons and training, leaving them feeling exposed.

“Pure hell: fire, shouting, panic. And a lot more bombs and missiles.”

That is how Swedish volunteer Jesper Söder described Sunday’s attack on Yavoriv, the military training base in western Ukraine pounded by Russian missiles that killed 35 people, according to Ukrainian authorities. Russia said the death toll was much higher.

Söder said he led a group of foreigners including Scandinavians, British and Americans out of the base and back across the nearby Polish border.

He told The Associated Press by phone from Krakow, Poland, that he said he didn’t know how many foreign volunteers were being trained at the base but estimated they were in the hundreds. Unlike Söder, who fought alongside Kurdish fighters in Syria against Islamic State group militants, many of the volunteers at Yavoriv had no previous military training, he said.

Foreigners — some of whom have never handled a firearm yet but are ready to die — have arrived in Ukraine from other European countries, the United States and elsewhere. They are hoping to get equipped, instructed and made battle-ready.

But some arrive to discover that there are no weapons, protective gear or proper training in a multilingual force short on organization and breeding a sense of chaos.

Threats by Russia to target what it calls foreign “mercenaries,” as it said it did at the Yavoriv base, increase the level of risk.

“It’s chaotic right now. It’s disorganized, and you can get yourself in trouble very quickly if you’re not with a sensible switched-on group of people,” said Matthew Robinson, a British man from the northern England county of Yorkshire who had been living in southern Spain.

Robinson and several other volunteer fighters were interviewed this weekend on the outskirts of Lviv, where foreign fighters are receiving training and instruction.

A recent arrival, Robinson is remaining cautious as he tries to sort things out. He said that there are “multiple legions, lots of false promises, lots of misinformation.” In addition, there is a “massive language barrier” and “a lot of people here who haven’t fired weapons.”

Russia’s threats to target what it calls “mercenaries” compounds the dangers facing foreign fighters. Russia has claimed it killed 180 “mercenaries” in Sunday’s training base attack, and Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Monday that the Russian forces will show “no mercy for mercenaries wherever they are on the territory of Ukraine.”

The Russian military is tracking foreign fighters’ movements and will strike again, he said.

Söder’s account of the attack on the training base suggested it was not an indiscriminate strike.

Söder said the bombing of the base was different from anything he had experienced.

“They knew exactly what to hit. They knew exactly where our weapons storage was. They knew exactly where the administration building was. They hit the nail on the head with all their missiles,” he told the AP.

Jericho Skye, 26, a Montana native who served in the U.S. Army military police, was relieved he based himself in Kyiv, the capital, far from the attack in the west, all the more so because he was awaiting weapons at a makeshift base. He keeps alive hope that arms soon will be distributed and his belief that Ukrainians are doing their best in a dire situation.

“We’re pretty upset that we’re in the middle of a combat zone with small arms fire on the road, bombs being dropped almost every day and we haven’t been given our weapons yet just because of bureaucracy and paperwork,” he said.

Skye spoke in a telephone call from Paris from what he described as a makeshift collection post for foreign fighters in Kyiv, which he reached last week, making his way there a day after arriving in Ukraine.

“This is my first war,” Skye said. He came to Ukraine “to help protect,” not “do logistics,” he said, motivated by images of innocent civilians being targeted. And when he “saw no other countries were going to be able to reinforce Ukrainian troops, I felt a moral obligation to join the fighting,” he added.

NATO nations have ruled out direct combat and air defense that Ukraine is pleading for, with leaders saying that could trigger a third world war.

“It’s just them against the entire Russian military,” Skye said, noting Moscow’s call for war-hardened mercenaries from Syria to beef up its own ranks.

“It’s a little disorganized. Its nobody’s fault,” he added. “They weren’t really expecting to be invaded, be thrown into a war,” he said.

But death is not on his radar. “I’m very keenly aware of the situation,” But he added, “I’m going to do my very best to come home.”

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy announced the creation of a foreign defense legion in late February, apparently surprising everyone, including embassies tasked with lending a hand.

It wasn’t clear how many people from across the globe have joined Ukraine’s international brigade. Zelenskyy said at one point that there were 16,000. The figure, which would now be outdated, couldn’t be confirmed, but based on interviews in Ukraine and in some European capitals, a motley volunteer war effort is shaping up.

Skye said volunteers from all points of the globe were with him in Kyiv, but wouldn’t give a number, calling that “sensitive information.”

En route to the Ukraine battlefields was Tristan Lombardo, a 22-year-old from Evansville, Illinois.

“I feel like it’s the right thing to do, and that’s the best way to get your passions, in life,” he said in an interview Monday at the Polish border.

“If it’s a passion, it’s a passion that I’m willing to die for,” Lombardo said, adding that he was nervous but not fearful.

There was clear evidence that at least some Ukrainian embassies were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of foreigners for Ukraine’s cause. In Paris, Ukrainian volunteers, including students, stood on the sidewalk to advise would-be fighters arriving from Bordeaux, Rouen and elsewhere in France to submit an electronic form.

A 27-year-old New York state “relatively successful” business owner and former paratrooper in the Israeli military told the AP on the Polish border that he talked directly with Ukrainian army officials. He said “they got overwhelmed,” especially by those with no previous training.

He identified himself only as Alexander, saying he hadn’t informed his parents of his plans to fight but signed up because, as a former paratrooper, he felt an “absolute responsibility” to help people of Ukraine. His “cue,” he said, was seeing rabbis drafted into the army and given AK-47s.

Saving democracy is among top motives often cited by would-be foreign fighters, and some in place. But saving Ukraine has also become an attractive cause for the far right, neo-Nazis and white supremacists, providing a chance to fight.

Recruiting chats on the encrypted Telegram messaging app are run by the Azov Regiment, popular with neo-Nazis and white supremacists, and American neo-Nazis work to recruit for Azov, the respected SITE Intelligence Group says. Azov Regiment originated as a far-right paramilitary unit and is now a subset of the Ukrainian military, according to SITE.

A Chicago police officer who quit his job to join Zelenskyy’s defense brigade has high-minded motives for what he sees as a noble cause. Harrison Jozefowicz, who spent five years in the U.S. Army, sees himself, firstly, as a “facilitator.”

“There are war crimes being committed here and refugees fleeing in the millions. And I know that I am needed here more right now” than at the Chicago Police Department, he said in an interview on the outskirts of Lviv. He conceded that his family “thought I was a little crazy.”

His Task Force Yankee Ukraine, on Facebook, seeks to get Americans into Ukraine safely. While 90% of respondents have military training, “we’re not turning anybody away right now,” he said, including mechanics or doctors with needed skills.

Still, British citizen Matthew Robinson stressed caution for foreigners eager to help the war effort on the ground.

“If any single person was thinking of coming here, organize yourself into groups and set yourself some limits” and seek information before arriving, Robinson said. “Because you can be railroaded into a legion and sent to the front line very quickly,” he said.

He added, “Even though you’ve got the best of intentions to help people, you could basically be cannon fodder.”

Senator Lindsey Graham Doubles Down On Call For Putin’s Assassination

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on Wednesday doubled down on calling for the assassination of Russian President Vladimir Putin — a suggestion that has been widely rebuked by lawmakers in both parties.

“I hope he’ll be taken out, one way or the other,” Graham said during a press conference on Capitol Hill. “I don’t care how they take him out. I don’t care if we send him to The Hague and try him. I just want him to go.

“Yes, I’m on record,” Graham continued. “If John McCain were here, he’d be saying the same thing, I think. It’s time for him to go. He’s a war criminal. I wish somebody had taken Hitler out in the ’30s. So yes, Vladimir Putin is not a legitimate leader. He is a war criminal.”

As he did on Twitter earlier this month, Graham explained that he wants the Russian people to carry out Putin’s assassination — not the United States.

“He needs to be dealt with by the Russian people,” Graham said. “I’m not asking to invade Russia to take him out. I’m not asking to send American ground forces into Ukraine to fight the Russian army. I am asking the Russian people to rise up and end this reign of terror.”

He added: “I think the world is better off without Putin, the sooner the better, and I don’t care how we do it.”

Graham first floated this idea in a tweet on March 3.

“Is there a Brutus in Russia?” asked Graham via Twitter. “Is there a more successful Colonel Stauffenberg in the Russian military? The only way this ends is for somebody in Russia to take this guy out. You would be doing your country — and the world — a great service.”

The comments received wide bipartisan pushback.

“Seriously, wtf?,” tweeted Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. “I really wish our members of Congress would cool it and regulate their remarks as the administration works to avoid WWlll.”

“This is an exceptionally bad idea,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, wrote on Twitter. “Use massive economic sanctions; BOYCOTT Russian oil & gas; and provide military aid so the Ukrainians can defend themselves. But we should not be calling for the assassination of heads of state.”

“This is irresponsible, dangerous & unhinged,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., tweeted. “We need leaders with calm minds & steady wisdom. Not blood thirsty warmongering politicians trying to tweet tough by demanding assassinations. Americans don’t want war.”

Canada And U.S. Announce Arctic Military Exercises

Canada and the US have issued a rare public notice over planned military exercises in the Arctic amid growing concern over Russian aggression.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command said on Tuesday that it would hold air defence exercises throughout the Canadian Arctic, adding that the drills were meant to test the ability to “respond to both aircraft and cruise missiles” threatening the continent.

Speaking at a defence conference before the operation, Canada’s top soldier said that while the threat of a Russian incursion into Canada’s Arctic was low at the moment, he would not rule it out in years to come.

Gen Wayne Eyre, the chief of defence staff, said it was “not inconceivable that our sovereignty may be challenged” from the Arctic region and that Canada needed to closely watch Russian action elsewhere.

Earlier this month, the Inuit-run Nasittuq Corporation was announced as the winner of a C$592m (US$464m) contract to operate the North Warning System, a 37-year-old network of dozens of remotely operated radar stations stretching more than 5,000km along the edge of the Arctic Ocean. The radar system functions as a critical set of eyes on the region’s airspace but needs significant upgrades.

But Michael Byers, a professor of political science at the University of British Columbia who focuses on Arctic issues, argued that Russia had little incentive to show aggression in the Canadian Arctic.

“[It’s] the largest country in the world and it has considerable Arctic resources of its own. There’s nothing in Canada that Russia doesn’t have,” he said. He added that Moscow knew that any military interference in the Canadian Arctic could be a “tripwire into a full-blown” conflict with NATO.

Instead, he said, Canada and allies should focus on the European Arctic, where Russia has a network of submarines capable of launching nuclear missiles.

“The idea that we need to be worried about a Russian invasion strikes me as misleading, because we know where the real concern is,” said Byers. “The real concern is in Europe, today.”


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