Russian jets probing NATO airspace and supersized war drills are spilling Kremlin military secrets and scaring European nations into stiffening their armed forces.
The alliance said by late October it intercepted more than 100 Russian planes this year, more than three times the number in 2013. A report by the European Leadership Network, a London security research group, termed the incidents a highly disturbing picture of violations of national airspace, emergency scrambles and narrowly avoided mid-air collisions.
Yet there are benefits for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Clearly, every time we come into contact with Russian forces and every time we see their tactics and how they deploy, we do learn about them, U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, the 28-member NATOs top military commander, said in Tallinn on Nov. 19. They are just happening more often and occasionally, the size of the activities is larger.
A worsening standoff is pitting Europe and the U.S. against Russia over Ukraine in the biggest crisis since the Cold Wars end 25 years ago. Even German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier — a persistent proponent of dialog — said on Nov. 18 after shuttle diplomacy in Kiev and Moscow, that he sees little reason for optimism.
The rapid mobilization of 20,000 to 40,000 Russian troops at the Ukrainian border scared the hell out of NATO, Karl-Heinz Kamp, academic director at the German governments Federal Academy for Security Policy in Berlin, said by phone.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the U.S. wants not to humiliate, but to subjugate Russia, in remarks at a Nov. 18 meeting of his Peoples Front party supporters in Moscow.
We had such brilliant politicians like Nikita Khrushchev, who hammered the desk with his shoe at the United Nations, Putin said in an Oct. 24 speech. And the whole world, primarily the United States, and NATO thought: this Nikita is best left alone, he might just go and fire a missile.
Monitoring drills and Russian aircraft flying along NATO or Finnish and Swedish airspace is yielding intelligence on command and control, communications and tactics, said Lukasz Kulesa, research director of the ELN in London and former deputy head of Polands National Security Bureau that advises the Polish president. Non-NATO members Finland and Sweden upgraded their alliance ties in September.
A Russian mission that sent planes on the same day to the Baltic, the North Sea and the Black Sea tells us what Russian capabilities have become, Kulesa said by phone. It gives us a much better understanding of Russian readiness and their ability to perform more complex deployments.
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Russia's War Games Spill Secrets, Stiffen NATO Resolve