Military Bulletin 08/2015 – NATO’s Baltic Sea exercise.

Unsurprisingly, Russian warships and aircraft have been following, and approaching, the multinational warships participating in the annual exercise in the Baltic Sea. This is an extremely large NATO exercise, consisting of 49 ships from 17 NATO, and partner countries. The ‘Baltic Operations’ (‘BALTOPS’) 2015 left Gdynia, Poland, on June the 8th.

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BALTOPS 2014

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The Russian interest started with a ship shadowing the fleet as it left port, followed by a flypast by two SU-24, making two passes above the formation of ships.

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The SU-24, NATO reporting name Fencer, with shoulder-mounted variable geometry wing, is an all-weather attack aircraft. It has a maximum speed of 1,315kph and a combat radius of around 650km. It is armed with an onboard 23mm cannon and has 8 hardpoints for radio-command and laser guided missiles. It can also carry the Kh-31A anti-ship missile.

As well as the flypasts, two Russian Corvettes came up on the flank of the BALTOPS fleet. NATO command were far from concerned and actually welcomed the Russian interest. Senior commanders felt it was a good thing that the Russians knew they were there. The senior command was quoted as saying it was a good thing that NATO was broadcasting a message of unity and solidarity and a commitment to ensure the safety and security of the Baltic Sea.

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Russian Advanced Corvette, Stoikiy (Steadfast).

The Russian SU-24s later made more than a dozen passes of an Arleigh Burke-class, the USS Ross (DDG-71).

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Arleigh Burke-class, the USS Ross (DDG-71).

“USS Ross (DDG-71) (2)” by U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Michael Sandberg. – Source. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

Around 60 aircraft will also participate.  A combined landing force of 700 Swedish, Finnish, US, and UK amphibious troops will embark from four amphibious ships off the coast of Sweden to conduct a joint landing operation off the Polish Baltic coast.

The Bear continues to growl…..

Post copyrighted to Harvey Black

During 2010, I worked and lived in Poland. I took this as an opportunity to visit some of the great towns and cities of Poland, Including Wroclaw, Warsaw and Krakow. Krakow has to have been the most interesting. Not only is it a beautiful place, with a tremendous backdrop of mountains to the southwest.

But unfortunately there is a darker side to that area; 50 kilometres away is the home of the infamous concentration camp, Auschwitz.

It is not my intention to write the history of this notorious site, that has already been done, and by much better writers than me. I would just like to share some of my photography with you.

I am sure, had I visited the two sites in the middle of summer, with greenery, flowers and birds singing, the impact may have been different. But with snow on the ground and it being bitter cold, it was much easier to picture in your mind the atrocious conditions experienced by the people incarcerated there.

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Gate into the main Auschwitz camp.  Hoess’s infamous ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ sign, ‘Work will set you free.”

In his autobiography, Hoess points out that the expression meant  ‘work liberates one in a spiritual sense’, not that you will be free. To the Jews, it was later known as the ‘Death Factory”.

Auschwitz main camp, Camp I, the fences say it all.

Some of the main brick built camp buildings, an ex Polish Army Barracks.

Security was paramount.

The roof of the gas chamber at Auschwitz main camp, the crematoria chimney in the background.

Auschwitz-Birkenau, the first view of this bleak concentration camp, Camp II.

Looking into the camp through the barbed wire perimeter fence.

The Iconic picture of the entrance to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The view the guards would have had of the camp from the control tower at the top of the archway entrance.

The view the camp prisoners would have got of the entrance to Auschwitz-Birkenau, as they were ordered off the cattle trucks to a fate they probably didn’t anticipate.

The long railway sidings where the dogs would have been barking, whistles blowing, guards screaming, families separated and children crying.

The reality of it all.

The site of some of the ruins of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

They had latrines, but not quite what we may be used to.

A view of the bunk beds, although I don’t think it depicts the true horror that was experienced within.

A more realistic view.

As indicated at the beginning, my intention was just to share a few photographs with you and not do a write up on the background to the camp and the atrocities linked to it. It was a fascinating, yet horrific, time in our Worlds history and I sometimes wonder if all the lessons from it have been learnt.

HB