Saturday, March 7, 2015

Question: Just How Strong Was the Soviet Navy?

Question: Just How Strong Was the Soviet Navy?

By James R. Holmes
So how strong was the Soviet Navy? The answer: there is no single answer. Chances are it was strong enough for some missions yet not strong enough for others. The navy sufficed if it could execute the ones that mattered most to the Soviet leadership. And that’s true of any armed force, isn’t it? No force is unbeatable at all places, at all times, against all comers. To qualify as adequate to its purposes, a force need only make itself master of crucial places on the map at decisive times against probable antagonists. If it wins when and where it counts, it’s strong enough.
Whether or not it rated as a world-beater, the Soviet Navy mounted a serious challenge to Western maritime supremacy by the late Cold War. Not in all spheres of combat: Western fleets never lost their edge in blue-water combat, the function for which they were built and trained. In all likelihood an open-ocean duel would have gone the U.S. and allied navies’ way. And indeed, the prospect of such an encounter hardly appeared farfetched. The Soviet Navy mounted an offensive, blue-water presence from time to time. For instance, its Mediterranean squadron outnumbered the U.S. Sixth Fleet during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war—throwing a shock into Western leaders. 
Still, Moscow mostly cared about mounting a “blue belt of defense,” enclosing and denying access to waters lapping against Soviet shores. Its instincts remained strategically defensive even as the navy constructed vessels packing an offensive punch. Commanders meant this defensive buffer to keep U.S. Navy expeditionary forces from projecting power onto Eurasian shores from the sea. Expanses thus cleared also offered safe patrol grounds where ballistic-missile submarines could execute their nuclear deterrent function in relative safety.
Nor was Soviet sea power all about fleets in these offshore preserves. Naval forces deployed in defensive fashion generally operated with reach, and under cover, of shore-based Soviet air forces. Adding that land-based component of sea power to the operational mix helped ward off Western forces that—under the 1980s U.S. Maritime Strategy—envisaged standing into Soviet home waters to sink the Soviet submarine fleet at the outbreak of war in Europe. The U.S. Navy thus faced off not just against a hostile navy but against a hostile air arm flying from airfields ashore.
Would this forerunner of “access denial” have fulfilled its goal? Maybe, maybe not. But even if not, it may have exacted a heavy price—which is why tales of Backfire bomber raids smiting U.S. Navy task forces achieved mythic status among Cold War sailors, among whom I count myself. In short, this was a foe Westerners had to take seriously, prosecuting the missions the political leadership deemed most crucial. On the whole, then, the answer to the question how strong was the Soviet Navy? may be: strong enough.
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The German army is putting one of its battalions under Polish command

poland militaryKacper Pempel/ReutersA member of Poland's 1st Mechanized Battalion of the 7th Coastal Defence Brigade looks through binoculars as he takes part in a military exercise with the U.S. 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division near Drawsko-Pomorskie November 13, 2014.The German army is to put one of its battalions under Polish command, rapidly scaling up ties with Warsaw at a time of increasing fears in eastern Europe over Russia.
General Bruno Kasdorf told Reuters a Polish battalion would also come under German control, as part of efforts by the two NATO members to boost familiarity with each other's militaries and allow greater cross-border co-operation in future.
It is not yet clear which Polish and German battalions would be affected, but it could be combat units close to the Polish-German border, taking effect by mid-2016.
Russian intervention in Ukraine has left Poland and the Baltic states, all members of the western military alliance, feeling particularly vulnerable.
"Up to now we have had close ties to our French neighbors, a good link with the Dutch and good relations with Poland ... but we want to give these a new quality," Kasdorf said.
ukraine russia mapReutersMap of Eastern Ukraine locating recent clashes between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces. Includes areas of control.
Last April NATO agreed a package of measures to reinforce its eastern borders in response to the Ukraine crisis, including more patrols and exercises.
This was followed in September by plans to create a "spearhead" rapid reaction force and pre-positioning supplies and equipment in east European countries so they can be reinforced within days.

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US nuclear forces, 2015

The MIRV U.S. Peacekeeper missile, with the re...
The MIRV U.S. Peacekeeper missile, with the re-entry vehicles highlighted in red. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
As of early 2015, the authors estimate that the US Defense Department maintains about 4,760 nuclear warheads. Of this number, they estimate that approximately 2,080 warheads are deployed while 2,680 warheads are in storage. In addition to the warheads in the Defense Department stockpile, approximately 2,340 retired but still intact warheads are in storage under the custody of the Energy Department and awaiting dismantlement, for a total US inventory of roughly 7,100 warheads. Since New START entered into force in February 2011, the United States has reported cutting a total of 158 strategic warheads and 88 launchers. It has plans to make some further reductions by 2018. Over the next decade, it also plans to spend as much as $350 billion on modernizing and maintaining its nuclear forces. - See more at:

Iraq to Syria: the Genocidal Ordeal of the Assyrians - World War I

2015-03-05 20:25 GMT

Assyrians fleeing from Urmia, Iran in 1918 to escape the genocide by Turks.
(AINA) -- The Assyrian-Chaldean community is facing dark times and a distressing situation. These criminal attacks, these innocent kidnappings (more than 250 people, young people, women and older people are taken into captivity), the forced exile of thousands of people (more than 3000 refugees in Hassake and Qamishli) those martyred (more than 10 already) are a terrible shock to a community that has endured in the past much suffering.
A new tragedy and collective extermination against the Assyrian-Chaldeans is once more unfolding before our eyes in pain and blood in Syria, since Monday February 23rd, following that of Iraq where the Nineveh province is still in mourning since its invasion by the terrorist groups of the so-called "Islamic State", one June the 10th and July the 17th of 2014.
With the destruction of historical monuments that date back more than 3000 years of history and the demolition of churches and sanctuaries by a band of nihilist obscurantists, the memory of a people and traces of a civilization, Mesopotamia, one of the cradles of humanity, that holds a tangible and intangible world heritage, is being erased.
These acts of vandalism have been vigorously denounced by the Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova.
Early on the morning of Monday February 23rd, the ISIS terror befell the Assyrian villages of Khabur, with the first persecutions having begun in September, with the summing of removal of crosses from churches.

The irony is that these new victims, these worthy son of Hakkari, their ancestral home, are precisely the children of the deported from Iraq massacres of 1933, themselves survivors of the 1915 genocide in the Ottoman Empire.
Syria was the third country of refuge
They live in the northeast of Syria, since 1933, on the 2 banks of the Khabur River in 35 villages between the towns of Hassake (which is my hometown) and Ras al-Ain. It is with joy that I spent my childhood and youth between Hassake and the Assyrian villages where I fed on the love of the Assyrian country and learned the pride of belonging to this people.
Who are the Assyrians?
The documents of the League of Nations (SDN), which is the UN between the wars, claim that the Assyrians were "driven from their mountains by Turkish forces" in 1915 and "took refuge in Urmia, Persia, that was, at the time, in the hands of Russian troops."
After 1915, a new tragedy occurred, the exodus of the Assyrian-Chaldeans of Persia to Iraq on the 31st of July 1918. This terrible exodus is described in these terms: "After traveling in the stampede 300 miles (480 km) towards the south-east, with their families, their livestock and their property, the Assyrians finally reached Hamadan, decimated by perpetual attacks of the Turks, Kurds and Persians on all sides. Burned by the heat of the summer, ravaged by typhus, dysentery, smallpox and cholera, the old and young, exhausted by fatigue and fever, were abandoned on the roadside, and the dead and dying marked the path to retreat. In the end, after losing 20,000 of them, the survivors reached Hamadan and made contact with the British troops."
Fifteen years after arriving in Iraq (1918-1933), they were again victims of massacres that were at the time largely reflected by the international press, namely French.
Yet when Iraq gained independence and was admitted to the League of Nations on October 30th 1932, commitments were made to establish the Assyrians, who originated in Hakkari, as a homogeneous ethnic unity and compact group. However, the word "unit" was in the plural, thus maintaining the dispersion of the people. At the time, three key ideas summarized their demands homogeneous institution, administrative autonomy and right to collect taxes.
All efforts to establish the Assyrian unity had failed due to the resistance of the Iraqi authorities. Therefore, it was before such a state of dispersion, disunity and sloshing that the situation was becoming more and more critical.
Massacres took place in the village of Simmele and other localities in northern Iraq in August of 1933, committed by the now independent Iraqi state.
They made state of 3000 victims killed in atrocious conditions. It was then that a number of Assyrian mountaineers once again took the road on a forced exile to Syria, where they were greeted and seated in the Khabur region by the French authorities who then had the Mandate of Syria, entrusted by the League.
Villages cited as model
They built villages and developed agricultural land that lay fallow. They were cited as a model of success and loyalty to Syria.
We can mention with pride the list of major Assyrian villages built with their labor, estimated at 35, which is a microcosm and a reproduction that reminded them of the Hakkari:
Um Gargan Arbouch Tal Tal Hormuz Damshesh Tal Tal Tal Tal Maghada, Kharita, Alkeif Um, Um Waqfa Abu Tina, Qabr Shamiyeh, Baloaa Tal Tal Goran Shamiram Tal Tal Jazirah, Talaa Tal Tal Najme, Hefian Tal Tal Nasri, Baz Tal Tal Jumaa, Maghas Tal Tal Masas, Jadaya Tal Tal Tawil, Tamer Tal Tal Kepchi, Faidat Tal Tal Ahmar Tal Ruman Tahtani Tal Ruman Fokani, Brej Tal Tal Sakra, Wardiate Tal Tal Shamyeh.
The Khabur, a miniature of the Hakkari
What is extraordinary, from an anthropological and sociological point of view, is that when they arrived in the Khabur, Assyrians reproduced the structures of tribal organization, clan, family and religion prevailing since ancient times in Hakkari.
Thus, Tal Damshesh was occupied by the people of Konak, called Qotchesnaye, a village which was until 1915 the Patriarchal Headquarter of March Shimoun , the Baznaye inTal Baz and Tal Ruman Tahtani, the Talnaye in Tal Tal, the Djeloaye in Qabr Shamiye, the Tchalnaye in Tal Brej, the Gounouknaye in Tal Sakra and Qabr Shamyeh, the Mazernaye in Tal Wardiate, the Deznaye in Tal Baloaa, the Gavarnaye in Tal Goran and Tal Maghas, the Marbouchnaye in Tal Shamiram, the Halemnaye in Tal Jumaa, the Barwarnaye in Tal Masas, the Ilynnaye in Tal Jadaya, the Tiaraye in Tal Tamer, the Akernaye in Tal Kepchi the Mazernaye in Tal Ruman Fokani ....
The defense of their identity, ethnic, cultural and religious
This story is transmitted, since, as an intangible heritage through songs, illustrated by folklore, perpetuated by many poems and literary productions.
Belonging to the Assyrian Church of the East, formerly called Nestorian, grouped around their Patriarch (who lived in exile) and their leaders (the Maleks), they built churches whose names recall their saints, those they worshiped the country, as Saint Shalita, Saint Zaya, Saint Petion, Saint Guiwarguis, Saint Sarguis, Saint Bichou ...and every village is composed mainly of the tribe and clan to which they belonged.
A knowingly planned strategy and a crime against humanity
Since the 23rd of February the situation has been extremely worrying, with several villages like Tal Tamer, Tal Shamiram, Tal Tawil and Tal Hormuz attacked by ultra radical Islamists, equipped with heavy artillery.
Misfortune has befallen this peaceful community that asks for nothing more than its share of life and the right to dignity and respect.
Fed by a political ideology of hate, this is a strategy concerted and carefully prepared for the goal of emptying the region of its Christian population, destabilizing, sowing fear and spreading terror.
Faced with these cruel and barbaric acts, it is urgent to respond by taking concrete measures to break this passivity and inconsistency in which the international community delights.
How did we reach this situation? What contempt of the human being and what decline of civilization.
This address was delivered at the event for the Assyrians Khabur (Syria), in Sarcelles, Sunday 1 March 2015.

Royal Navy heroes of World War One were underage, records reveal

Henry Allingham - World's oldest man Henry Allingham dies
Henry Allingham Photo: CATHAL MCNAUGHTON
One in three Royal Navy heroes of World War One were underage, reveal historic records. 
Analysis of more than 380,000 digitised historic naval records reveals that nearly a third of the sailors who helped Britain achieve naval supremacy in the Great War were volunteers under the legal combat age of 18. 
The Royal Navy Registers of Seaman's Services, 1900 to 1928 now available on family history website Ancestry, from original records held at The National Archives in Kew, west London detail each sailor's name, date of birth, birthplace, vessels served on, service number and other service details. 
The records also include more personal information such as remarks on appearance, conduct, promotions and reasons for discharge. 
They reveal that a large percentage of new entrants to the Navy were boys aged 14 to 17, despite a legal combat age of 18. Numbering over 100,000, the boy sailors rushed to enlist following the outbreak of war in 1914, many of them leaving home for the first time. 
At the same time hundreds of thousands of underage boys enlisted in the Army and were sent to fight in the trenches. Historians say that as many people didn't have birth certificates in the early 1900s, it was easier for boys to lie about their age, and military recruitment officers were paid for each new recruit, so would often ignore any concerns they had about age. 
The service of the young soldiers is now recognised as a great tragedy of World War One, given they made up one in 10 of the total volunteers in the army. However, the boy sailors made up a larger proportion of the senior service, with nearly a third of all recruits joining before the age of 18. 
While the young volunteers were eager to serve, many lacked the experience and training afforded to their older colleagues. Analysis of the collection shows that 'boy sailors' were 16 per cent more likely to give their lives than adult servicemen.
The collection features thousands of records for men and boys who never returned home, including the crew of HMS Cressy which was sunk by the German submarine U-9 on September 22nd, 1914. In total, 1,459 men were lost across three ships, and their records simply state 'drowned in the North Sea' as 'reason for discharge'.
The attack on HMS Cressy remains the biggest single loss of life at sea during World War One and news reports of the attack struck a chord with the public back home.

Claude Choules
Historians say the Royal Navy considered the disaster a wake-up call - placing significantly increased funding behind improvements to the British submarine fleet. 
A number of other famous ships are also included in the collection, fighting at battles including Heligoland Bight (1914), The Battle of Dogger Bank (1915) and the Battle of Jutland (1916) which saw the loss of 6,000 men and 14 ships as the Royal Navy came up against the German fleet off the coast of Denmark. 
One of the ships was the setroyer HMS Queen Mary. In May 1916 she saw action at Jutland and was hit twice by fire from the German battlecruiser Derfflinger. She sank to the bottom of the North Sea on May 31st with the loss of 1,266 men, 866 of whom are marked in the records as 'killed in action'. Only 18 survivors were rescued. 
Miriam Silverman, Ancestry's senior UK content manager, said: "It's hard to comprehend that nearly a third of these records pertain to young adolescent boys who despite not being old enough to vote were prepared to risk their lives at sea to help Britain win the war. 
"The rich detail of the records also makes this collection a fantastic resource for anybody looking to gain insight into finer details of their ancestors naval career or track the huge impact on some of WWI's most infamous battles." 







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