Russia-NATO: Russia recalled its chief military envoy to NATO. Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said, "The policy of artificially fanning tensions is not our choice. Nevertheless, we can see no way to continue our military cooperation with NATO as usual. We have decided to recall the Russian chief military envoy to NATO, Colonel General Valery Yevnevich, to Moscow for consultations."
Antonov said NATO's suspension of civilian and military cooperation with Russia "nullifies the results of joint work over the past several years."
Russia also wants NATO to explain its plans to reinforce its military presence in Eastern Europe. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, "We not only expect answers, but answers... based fully on respect for the rules we agreed on."
Comment: NATO has finally reacted to Russian activism in the language that the Russians understand: military action. Poland, the Baltics, Romania and the US have announced plans for exercises with Ukrainian forces. Poland announced it wants 10,000 more NATO armored soldiers stationed in Poland. NATO air forces have also reinforced the NATO air mission in Lithuania. The US has sent another surface combatant into the Black Sea.
Ukraine has sent a team of officers to participate in a NATO exercise in Bulgaria. The Ukrainian parliament unanimously approved two exercises with the US in Ukraine this summer.
Open source reporting indicates most of the exercises are meant mainly to signify NATO's commitment to the defense of its members and to warn Russia against annexing more of Ukraine. Virtual training using computers will be prominent in some of the exercises.
Poland is not likely to get the extra soldiers it seeks because most NATO countries intend to reduce defenses expenditures this year. A lot depends on Russian behavior, however.
Russia's reply to sanctions was to offer talks in Paris and to showcase a visit to Crimea by Prime Minister Medvedev. Its response to the suspension of NATO cooperation was to recall its chief military envoy.
Even mostly symbolic increases in NATO military activity are enough to remind Russia's leaders that Russia and Russian forces are not strong enough to risk revitalizing NATO's military power. NATO finally has gotten Moscow's attention.
Lithuania: Lithuania said Russian fighter jets have been passing close enough to the airspace of the Baltic Republics to merit scrambling NATO jets on a weekly basis. Vaidotas Linkus, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry, said, "The number of incidents of NATO jets being scrambled to identify Russian Federation aircraft increased in January and February this year."
Comment: The key word is increased. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian fighter jets and armored units from Belarus have routinely attempted to intimidate Lithuania by training close to the border.
The intimidation tactics were the reason for the routine deployment of NATO fighters to Lithuania. Nevertheless, the intimidation is real and deliberate. The poaching along the border always worsens when NATO forces fail to react
Turkey: For the record. Turkish authorities lifted a ban on Twitter following Wednesday's constitutional court ruling, officials and media reports say.
The court directed the country's telecommunication authorities that they must lift the two-week-old ban because it was a breach of freedom of expression.
Comment: Apparently it was not needed because there was no significant backlash or inconvenience as a result of the ban.
One commentator observed that the ground swell victory by Prime Minister Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) came from its base of conservative voters, most of whom are offline all the time.
Syria: Opposition activists again accused President Bashar al-Asad's forces of using poison gas in Syria's civil war on Thursday, posting footage of an apparently unconscious man lying on a bed and being treated.
Activists from the opposition "Jobar Revo" group posted the video on YouTube. A voice off-screen said Thursday's date and that there was "a poison attack in Jobar."
Comment: A week ago, the Syrian ambassador to the UN sent a letter to the UN presenting what was described as intercepted radio communications between opposition activists about their plan to conduct a gas attack and inquiring about the availability and location of gas masks. The Jobar neighborhood of Damascus was cited in the intercept as the target. Jobar is under rebel control.
Both sides have dissembled so often that this is not a credible story. The web posting reassured viewers that no one died from the attack and no one was seriously injured.
Central African Republic(CAR)-Chad: The government of Chad said Thursday it is withdrawing more than 800 peacekeepers from a mission to stabilize neighboring Central African Republic.
"Despite the sacrifices we have made, Chad and Chadians have been targeted in a gratuitous and malicious campaign that blamed them for all the suffering in CAR," Chad's foreign ministry said in a statement. It said Chadian troops would remain in place while the practicalities of the withdrawal were confirmed.
Comment: The Chadians have made important contributions to peacemaking and peacekeeping in Sahelian Africa, including in Mali last year. In Central African Republic they have acted to protect Muslim civilians from Christian militias, sometimes with as little discipline as the militias.
On the other hand, they can be credited for protecting a vulnerablepart of the population. Most of the other 8,000 peacekeepers are conspicuous by their absence.
End of NightWatch
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