>A hot spring and a long summer for the Black Sea

>With the arrival of spring and good weather the problems in the region seem to thaw and come to life again.

NATO announced that it was going to conduct exercises Cooperative Longbow 09 – Cooperative Lancer 09 during the period 6 May to 1 June 2009 in Georgia.

Cooperative Longbow 09 will be a command post exercise that will focus on training and exercising NATO staff skills and procedures, improving interoperability between NATO and partner nations for crisis response operations at the multinational brigade level.

Cooperative Lancer 09 will be a field training exercise, which is designed to provide basic training on peace support operations at the battalion level.

Twenty nations will participate: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States.

Cooperative Longbow will involve approximately 650 personnel and Cooperative Lancer will involve approximately 450 troops.

Russia is not happy about this exercise at all and an official notification proposing that all upcoming military exercises planned in Georgia should be postponed or cancelled was already send to NATO’s general secretary Mr. Scheffer.

Fearing that their demands will not be taken seriously at NATO, Russia is starting naval maneuvers in the Black sea to emphasize their wishes. This week, Russian officials have notified Ukraine that 22 of its Black Sea Fleet vessels will leave Sevastopol for military maneuvers. According to information available on internet this exercise does not seem to have stated.

The timing of the Russian fleet deployment is interesting. Today, one of the biggest annual exercises of the Turkish Navy in Black Sea has ended. The activation of the Blackseafor, where Russia is a member of, is continuing.

The Russian tank landing ship Azov is been listed as a participant of the BlackSeafor fleet. May be the Russians are waiting for Azov to return to Sevastopol before they start with their naval exercise, which will include “three large ships able to carry navy commandos. Three similar-sized ships are currently on patrol near the Georgian coast — near the Abkhaz capital, Sukhumi — which is controlled by the Russian Navy and Abkhaz boats.” according to Radio Free Europe.

Russian Black Sea Fleet has 3 Ropucha class LST’s (Azov, Yamal, Tsesar Kunikov); 3 Alligatos class LST’s (Saratov, Nikolay Fichenkov, Orsk). If the story of RFE is to be true, and 3 them are all ready be cruising off the coast of Georgia, this leaves Russia with only two in Sevastopol.

This naval exercise will be interesting to observe. It will show the rest of the world the state of the Russian Black Sea Fleet and Russian intentions about Georgia and Caucasia.

It is going to be a long and hot summer.

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