Saturday

23rd Nov 2019

Russian military trying to intimidate Nato, report says

Russia has, in parallel with its war on Ukraine, instigated almost 40 “highly disturbing” anti-Nato incidents, a new British report says.

The survey - Dangerous Brinkmanship, by the London-based think-tank ELN, out on Monday (10 November) - notes that what happened to flight MH17 over Ukraine in July almost happened over Sweden three months earlier.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Russian actions are 'adding to an atmosphere of tension' and risk causing 'loss of life' (Photo: Defence Images)

It says that on 3 March an SAS 737 passenger jet, carrying 132 people from Copenhagen to Rome, had a near miss close to Malmo, Sweden, with a Russian reconaissance plane which had failed to transmit its position.

It adds that “major loss of life” was avoided only due to “good visibility and the alertness of the passenger pilots”.

It lists 11 other “serious incidents” which risked “escalation”.

On 12 April, a Russian fighter jet made 12 “agressive” passes over a US warship in the Black Sea, while the next day a Russian jet undertook “threatening manoeuvres” next to a US reconaissance plane over the Sea of Okhotsk.

In June, armed Russian bombers simulated an attack on the Danish island of Bornholm. On 16 July, an armed Russian jet flew within 10 metres of a Swedish surveillance plane in international airspace in the Baltic region. Two days later, Russian jets also “chased” a US reconaissance plane into Swedish airspace.

In early September, Russian strategic bombers near Canada “practiced cruise missile strikes” on the US and Russian jets “buzzed” a Canadian frigate in the Black Sea.

Later the same month, two Russian bombers entered Swedish airspace near the Oland island, while in October a Russian jet came “within metres” of crashing into a Swedish surveillance plane over the Baltic Sea.

The ELN report classifies the rest of the incidents as “near-routine” in terms of how Russia and Nato test and shadow each other’s capabilities.

But it notes that the “increased number” of events from the Russian side in the past eight months is “adding to an atmosphere of tension”.

Some of them, while “near-routine” for specialists, are also likely to cause fear in civilian onlookers.

In one almost-normal incident, on 10 April, two Russian naval ships entered Lithuania’s maritime zone during a Russian “live-fire” drill, causing “serious disruptions” to commercial shipping.

In other figures, the ELN paper says that up to October this year Nato jets carried out more than 100 “intercepts” of Russian military aircraft - three times the whole number for last year.

Nato “air-police” also carried out 68 “hot identification and interdiction” operations on the Lithuanian border alone. Latvia recorded more than 150 incidents of Russian planes approaching its airspace, while Russian aircraft violated Estonian air on six occasions.

The report notes that Russian armed forces “seem to have been authorised and encouraged” to act in a “much more aggressive” way toward Nato and to non-Nato Western allies Finland and Sweden.

It says Russia’s actions amount to “intimidation and coercion” of its neighbours, sending the message, for instance, to Finland and Sweden that there will be “more harassment” if they join the Western military alliance.

It notes Russia is trying to “undermine the confidence” of Baltic states that Nato is capable of defending them.

With the West hesitating to arm the Ukrainian military in its war with Russian regular and irregular forces, Russia is also trying to show it “has the means and the willingness to confront Nato … in the even of a conflict”.

Meanwhile, the air acrobatics are meant to serve Kremlin “propaganda” and “boost” Russian military “morale” in the face a technologically superior adversary.

The ELN authors urge Russia to cool off and urge Nato to increase military-to-military diplomacy and transparency.

They warn that if, in future, an incident leads to loss of life on either side, it could prompt “punitive military action” and “feed a spiral” of confrontation between “a nuclear-armed state and a nuclear-armed alliance” which “may be difficult for either side to fully control or stop”.

Opinion

Ukraine: Something bad in the air

Signs point to an upcoming escalation in Russia's war on Ukraine. But if it happens, what will the West do?

Merkel: Russia cannot veto EU expansion

Germany has warned that Russia might try to spread its “sphere of influence” to the Western Balkans, while seeking new ways to make peace on Ukraine.

News in Brief

  1. UK misses UN deadline to return Chagos Islands
  2. PM: Greece will 'shut door' to migrants without rights
  3. CDU leader offers to quit if party doesn't back her
  4. Serbian president confirms Russia spy video
  5. UK to repatriate 'Islamic State' orphans
  6. Man arrested over Maltese journalist murder free on bail
  7. Children with disabilities in Bulgaria isolated, report says
  8. WHO: 80 percent of adolescents don't exercise enough

Magazine

EU diplomacy 2.0

MEPs on the foreign affairs committee ought to be like second-tier EU diplomats on the Western Balkans and Russia, according to its German chairman, but foreign policy splits could bedevil its work.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us