Russia is continuing to carry out large, dispersed snap military exercises, which have only increased security concerns across Eastern Europe, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday during a speech at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. Stoltenberg declared yet another “dangerous and provocative” snap drill was under way as he spoke, involving some 250 aircraft and more than 700 pieces of military equipment. Prior to the Crimea crisis, Europe built a stable system based on fewer military forces, weapons, and fewer exercises coupled with information sharing and arms control agreements, which Russia is doing its best to upend. Agreements such as the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty and Open Skies, which allow unarmed aerial inspections, were key pieces of this architecture, he said. But Russia has suspended its participation in CFE and is actively obstructing Open Skies activities, he added. As a result, Russia has launched no fewer than three separate snap exercises with over 80,000 troops, moving great distances and at “great speed,” said Stoltenberg. These events obfuscated activity, such as buildups near Ukraine’s border, and support to separatists in a conflict that has already cost more than 6,000 lives. “Russia is doing all it can to minimize the transparency of what its forces are doing,” Stoltenberg declared.
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.