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SUPERPOWERS
US Senate advances approval of Montenegro into NATO
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) March 27, 2017


U.K. Typhoons to deploy to Romania for air policing mission
Washington (UPI) Mar 27, 2017 - Typhoon fighter jets from Britain's Royal Air Force will soon deploy to Romania to conduct an air policing mission in the region.

The NATO operation will be conducted alongside pilots from Romania's air force. The planes will patrol the skies over the Black Sea, a move U.K. Defense Secretary Michael Fallon says underscores his country's growing support for the alliance.

"The U.K. is stepping up its support for NATO's collective defense from the north to the south of the alliance," Fallon said in a press release. "With this deployment, RAF planes will be ready to secure NATO airspace and provide reassurance to our allies in the Black Sea region."

Britain's Royal Air Force 3 Squadron will lead the air policing mission. The U.K. is the first country to supply jets for the operation.

The upcoming deployment marks the U.K.'s latest venture into Eastern Europe, and comes a week after the country announced it would be sending around 120 soldiers to boost NATO's forward presence in Estonia.

Britain's Ministry of Defense said the deployment in Estonia is intended to bolster its forces to counter Russia's military aggression in the region.

The US Senate voted overwhelmingly Monday to advance the approval of Montenegro as the newest member of NATO, in what supporters of the alliance's expansion argue would send a stern message to Russia.

The procedural step, which advanced on a 97-2 vote, sets up a final approval in the chamber in the coming days.

President Donald Trump's administration has encouraged lawmakers to back the small Balkan nation's bid.

"It is strongly in the interests of the United States that Montenegro's membership in NATO be ratified," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Senate leaders in a March 7 letter.

To date, 25 of NATO's 28 members have ratified Montenegro's accession, a country of 620,000 people seen as a geostrategic ally.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization holds its summit on May 25 in Brussels, where Trump will use the opportunity to reaffirm Washington's strong commitment to the alliance, according to the White House.

The Kremlin is opposed to Montenegro's accession, calling it a "provocation" that would reinforce the pro-Western military alliance's presence in the Balkans.

The US vote comes days after a Montenegrin special prosecutor accused "Russian state bodies" of involvement in an alleged coup plot during Montenegro's election last October.

Moscow branded the accusation "absurd."

Russia also stands accused of interfering in the US presidential election last year, when US intelligence agencies say it leaked hacked emails that damaged Democrat Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Senator John McCain, among the move's strongest backers, framed Montenegro's accession as nothing less than a "test" of resolve against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"He attempted a coup" to overthrow the freely-elected Montenegro government," McCain told the Senate Monday.

"That coup failed. But I can assure that if we turn down Montenegro, it will not remain the democracy that it is today."

Senator Marco Rubio weighed in saying the Senate is "sending a clear message to Vladimir Putin that we will not accept the establishment of Russia's sphere of influence over countries that desire to ally themselves with the free and democratic community of nations."

As with all international treaties, a two-thirds majority is required for final Senate approval. Success is highly likely.

Republicans Rand Paul and Mike Lee voted against the measure.

Paul warned Washington against spreading itself too thinly when its military is involved in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen, and said Montenegro in NATO will antagonize Russia while doing "nothing" to advance US national security.

"Most Americans can't find Montenegro on a map," Paul said in a sharply worded Senate speech. "Are you willing to send your kids there to fight?"

Besides the United States, the Netherlands and Spain have yet to ratify Montenegro's membership.

SUPERPOWERS
Japan loans Manila military planes for South China Sea
Manila (AFP) March 27, 2017
The Philippines Monday took delivery of two Japanese military surveillance aircraft to help it patrol vital sea lanes in the South China Sea, despite Manila's increasingly conciliatory stance to Beijing's claims over the disputed waters. Japan will lease a total of five surplus Beechcraft TC-90 planes to the Philippines, according to Manila's defence secretary Delfin Lorenzana. Philip ... read more

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