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NATO couldn’t stop Russian attack on Baltics: US commander

By AFP 22 June 2016

NATO would currently be unable to protect the Baltics against a Russian attack, the commander of US ground forces in Europe, General Ben Hodges, said in a news report Wednesday.

“Russia could take over the Baltic states faster than we would be able to defend them,” Hodges was quoted as saying in a German-language article by news weekly Die Zeit.

The general said he agreed with an assessment by military analysts that says Russian forces could conquer the capitals of Baltic states Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia within 36 to 60 hours.

Hodges also said NATO forces had found numerous deficiencies during the recent “Anaconda” military exercise in Poland, according to the article from Thursday’s edition of Die Zeit released early to AFP.

Heavy military equipment could not be moved fast enough from western to eastern Europe, he said, while also voicing concern about the alliance’s communication technology.

“Neither radio communication nor email are secure,” he was quoted as saying. “I assume that everything I write on my BlackBerry is being monitored.”

The Anaconda manoeuvre included troops from more than 20 NATO member states but was officially a Polish national exercise.

Hodges told Die Zeit that “some countries, like France and Germany, thought it would be too provocative toward Russia to call it a NATO exercise”.

NATO announced last week that it would deploy four battalions to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to counter a more assertive Russia, ahead of a landmark summit in Warsaw on July 8-9.

All four countries were once ruled from Moscow and remain deeply suspicious of Russian intentions, especially after Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Russia bitterly opposes NATO’s expansion into its Soviet-era satellites and last month said it would create three new divisions in its southwest region to meet what it described as a dangerous military build-up along its borders.

fz/hmn/mt

© 1994-2016 Agence France-Presse

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