On November 18-December 3, 2021, a NATO maritime exercise was organized by the French Navy (Marine nationale) off the Mediterranean coast and along France’s Atlantic seafront.
Code-named POLARIS 21, the large-scale simulation aimed to “mobilize all components of the French Navy, including its latest-generation assets, land and air assets from the French Army and Air Force, as well as combat ships and aircraft from France’s partner nations: the United States, Spain, Greece, Italy and the United Kingdom.”…with an eye to serve as “laboratory” for tomorrow’s warfare thanks to the integration and synchronization of effects in several fields and environments of conflict. POLARIS 21 will be conducted around high spectrum actions, corresponding to the future missions of the French Navy in a hardened strategic context. It thus completes the preparation of the naval air group before its next operational deployment, which will begin in February 2022. » (1)
The technical file goes a long way in describing a fictitious geopolitical environment which describes “Mercure” (the Russian Federation) as the main threat in this war-game simulation.
“Mercure is a huge country straddling North Asia and Europe that forms a federation of 16 autonomous regions with no direct access to the Mediterranean. The legislative power is represented by a parliament of 400 deputies elected by direct universal suffrage for 5 years. There are several political parties all represented in parliament. The executive branch headed by the head of government appointed by the president. The president elected for 6 years. Current president Virgo Medvetine has managed to stay in power for 20 years and has silenced his main opponents. He advocates a strong Mercure and exacerbates the nationalist feeling of the Catharist people…
… Mercure’s foreign policy is expansionist. Leader Mercure seeks to reaffirm his country as a major player on the world stage, after years of self-effacement from the US superpower. Moskulova (capital of Mercure) is today essential in the resolution of the crisis of Mercmania, which could lead to a civil war at any time. The President of Mercure does not hesitate to challenge the Western countries to which he blames the overthrow of the VIOLETA regime in 2011 and the support for OTSOE against the independence of MERCMANIAA in 2015. Moskulova could intervene militarily to support the independence of this separatist territory. The ambition of President Virgo Medvetine is to restore the unity of the “Catharist world”” (2)
The file goes on to describe MERCMANIA (Crimea) as
“almost autonomous and the government of Otsoe (UKRAINE) does not really care because there is hardly any exchange with the rest ofthe country because of the Catharist community. The latter, completely infiltrated, by the mafias who take advantage of its geographical location outside the direct control of Mercure. The secret services of Mercure also use the enclave to settle a few miscellaneous cases outside of any jurisdiction. During the 2015 Mercania crisis, Otsoe sought diplomatic and military support from Akitania, but with no real success. It was ultimately from the UN and the threat of action by a few members of the Security Council that restrained the ardor of Mercure, which obtained a status quo. It is now an autonomous enclave recognized only by Mercure since 2015. The Septime inhabitants driven out of almost the entire enclave and kept around the edges with Otsoe. As early as 2013, Catharist militias appeared, demanded autonomy, and refused to recognize Otsoe as an official language. The young Catharists refuse their incorporation into the army and join the self-defense forces set up by Mercure’s military secret service. In 2014, the Otsoe government attempted to negotiate a rapprochement with the Catharist majority. The self-appointed parliament of Montluqon (capital of Mercmania) refuses any discussion and officially calls for its attachment to Mercure. In 2015, Mercure paramilitary troops sent by 12 NATO UNCLASS RELEASABLE TO EXERCISE POLARIS 21 plane to Mercmania and established barbed wire borders. Europe is sending observers who stationed in a sort of buffer zone near Saint-Yorre. Under international pressure, Mercure returns half of its troops and maintains a contingent of 500 men. Mercmania is the cradle oft he Catharist royalty ofthe 9th century and of the orthodox Catharist religion. » (Ibid)
At this point, it is of interest for the reader to recall three notable elements:
The first involves the western refusal to ever recognize the result of the referendum held in Crimea in 2014 which saw the local population vote overwhelmingly in favor of rejoining Russia.
The second deals with a naval agreement entered into between Ukraine and the UK in on June 21st 2021 which calls for the United Kingdom « to sell two refurbished Sandown-class mine-hunters to Ukraine and produce eight small missile warships for the country. The Agreement also calls United Kingdom to construct a new naval base on the Black Sea as the primary fleet base for the Ukrainian Navy and a base on the Sea of Azov. The agreement also provided for the sale of missiles to Ukraine, and for training and support for these.» (3) (4) (5)
The last is an incident involving UK warship “HMS Defender” in the Black Sea on June 23rd, 2021 (2 days after the signing of the above-mentioned naval agreement).
Wikipedia recalls the incident as follows:
In an account partially contradicted by the UK government, the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation and border guards said they fired warning shots from coast guard patrol ships and dropped bombs from a Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft in the path of Defender after, according to the Russian Defense Ministry, it had allegedly strayed for about 20 minutes as far as 3 km (2 miles) into waters off the coast of Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014 in a move mostly unrecognized internationally. The UK military denied any warning shots were fired and said the ship was in innocent passage in Ukraine’s territorial sea, later clarifying that heavy guns were fired three miles astern and could not be considered to be warning shots.
On 27 June, secret documents relating to the passage of HMS Defender through Ukraine’s territorial waters were discovered at a bus stop in Kent. These documents revealed that the Royal Navy considered different hypothetical reactions from Russia in response to the ship’s passage and was prepared for the possibility that Russia may respond in an aggressive manner. » (7)
What are the implications of these events when viewed through the prism of the Russian Federation’s initiating of the Special Military Operation?
The West never recognized the reattachment of Crimea to Russia. It was therefore likely that not unlike what is transpiring on a regular basis off the western coast of Syria, American Poseidon reconnaissance flights would have gained in frequency in order to probe the coast off the peninsula and supervise the movements of ships based in Sevastopol.
The naval agreement between Ukraine and the United Kingdom was to act as a tripwire. These “Ukrainian” naval bases in the Black and Azov Seas were likely going to be used as hubs for NATO ships to prepare an amphibious assault on the port cities of ODESSA and MARIUPOL while Kiev was massing ground troops on the western front lines of these regions.
Had Moscow ignored the quickly-developing situation, it would have been forced to confront a situation which would have impeded its ability to not only prevent a genocide on its doorstep but also to preserve its own territorial integrity. With NATO warships allowed to roam in the area, time was of the essence and Moscow could not afford not to act under penalty to find itself on the defensive.
The POLARIS 21 simulation under these circumstances was likely designed to prepare to engage the Russian fleet before it got the chance (as it did in Syria) to create a buffer zone in order to confront the incoming NATO fleet and thwart its amphibious operation.
This could help explain POLARIS 21’s stated goal of “winning the war before the war.” (8)
Arnaud Develay is an international lawyer. He participated to the defense of former President Saddam Hussein along with Former US Attorney General Ramsey CLARK; he has documented the illegal sanction regime imposed on Syria while living in Damascus in the wake of the Caesar Act and is now based in Moscow.