News Briefs – June 12, 2020

Russia welcomes prospect of U.S. troop pullback from Germany

Russia’s Foreign Ministry on June 11 welcomed President Donald Trump’s reported plan to withdraw more than a quarter of U.S. troops from Germany, saying it would help bolster security in Europe.
Trump has reportedly signed off on a plan to cut the number of troops stationed in Germany from 34,500 to no more than 25,000.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that “we would welcome any steps by Washington to scale down its military presence in Europe.”
“Such steps would undoubtedly help reduce confrontational potential and ease military and political tensions in the Euro-Atlantic region,” Zakharova said at a briefing, adding that the large U.S. military presence in Germany is a “vestige of the Cold War.”
Zakharova challenged the U.S. to also take its tactical nuclear weapons home from Germany.
German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told reporters earlier this week that Berlin hadn’t yet been informed of any U.S. troops pullout. She warned that if the U.S. goes ahead the move would do more harm to NATO as a whole than to Germany’s own defense.
Relations between Russia and the West are at post-Cold War lows following the 2014 Russian annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and other issues.
Moscow has described the deployment of NATO forces near Russian borders as a top security threat.
Zakharova strongly warned Washington against redeploying some of the troops from Germany to Poland, saying it would further exacerbate tensions and undermine prospects of dialogue between Russia and NATO. AP

Russian plane violates airspace of NATO member Estonia

Estonia’s military says a civilian aircraft belonging to Russia has violated the airspace of the Baltic nation, a member of NATO.
Officials said the Tupolev Tu-204-300, a type of passenger plane regularly used by the Russian government, spent less than one minute in Estonian airspace near the Baltic Sea island of Vaindloo on June 10.
The plane’s transponder had been switched on but the crew did not present a flight plan, the Estonian military said Thursday. The aircraft also failed to keep radio contact with the Estonian Air Navigation Services, the military said.
Russia’s ambassador to Estonia, Alexander Petrov, was summoned to the Foreign Ministry, where Estonian officials presented him with a note about the incident, the military said.
The Estonian military said it was the first air violation by a Russian aircraft this year. Several identical air violations by Russian aircraft have taken place in the same location in past years.
Vaindloo, a small island that belongs to Estonia, is near a corridor where Russian planes — both civilian and military — fly from the St. Petersburg area to Russia’s Baltic Sea enclave of Kaliningrad between Poland and Lithuania. AP

Russia, NATO conduct parallel wargames over Baltic Sea

Russian combat jets have flown training missions over the Baltic Sea in parallel with NATO’s drills in the region, the military said June 10.
Russia’s Baltic Fleet said in a statement that a dozen of its Su-24, Su-27 and Su-30 aircraft practiced strikes Thursday against marine targets in the Baltic Sea.
The fleet noted that the exercise coincided with NATO’s BALTOPS 2020 maneuvers in the Baltics. It wasn’t immediately clear how close to each other the parallel drills were held.
Russia-West relations plummeted to post-Cold War lows after the 2014 Russian annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, Moscow’s support for a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine and other issues.
Moscow has repeatedly voiced concern over the deployment of NATO forces near Russian borders, describing it as a threat to its security. Russia and the alliance also have blamed each other for conducting destabilizing military exercises near the borders.
The United States and its NATO allies have repeatedly said that Russian fighter jets have performed unsafe maneuvers while shadowing their planes — accusations that the Russian military has rejected. AP

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