Thursday

21st Nov 2019

Russia and Nato rehearsing for war, report says

  • Nato's Allied Shield exercises involved troops in Latvia in June. (Photo: Nato)

Russian and Nato drills indicate they are “preparing for a possible confrontation”, in a political climate which risks accidental war, a British think tank warns.

The European Leadership Network (ELN), a London-based NGO, profiled a massive Russian exercise in March and a smaller Nato drill, called Allied Shield, in June.

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

The Russian manoeuvres saw soldiers wake up on 16 March to orders which eventually drew in 80,000 servicemen.

Russian airborne troops simulated an invasion of Latvia supported by attack helicopters and artillery, while its Baltic Sea fleet carried out search and destroy missions and air defence operations.

Its Northern Fleet, based in the Barents Sea, conducted similar exercises, supported by strategic bombers and fighter jets.

Its Black Sea Fleet carried out anti-submarine sweeps. Russian troops were also mobilised in Arctic regions and in the Far East Sakhalin and Kuril islands.

On the Nato side, four separate drills involved 15,000 troops from 19 member states.

One drill practiced amphibious landings in Nato member Poland and in Nato ally Sweden and simulated operations against the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

A second one rehearsed tank battles with close air support in the Baltic States and in Poland.

A third one saw the first-ever deployment of Nato’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, a new unit designed to deter Russian aggression, in Poland.

With both Russia and Nato using live fire, and with attempts to monitor what the other side is doing leading to “close military encounters” between Russian jets and Nato naval assets, the ELN warns the activities risk making “war in Europe more likely”.

“We do not suggest that the leadership of either side has made a decision to go to war … but the changed profile of these exercises is a fact and plays a role in sustaining the current climate of fear and tension in Europe”, the NGO’s director, Ian Kearns, said.

Russia did not comment on the ELN report, but its previous line is that it is responding to Nato expansion.

Carmen Romero, a Nato spokeswoman, said the ELN study “misleadingly puts Nato and Russian exercises on par”.

She noted that the Russian drills simulate offensive operations and involve nuclear assets, while the Nato exercises are defensive and conventional in nature.

She said Russia has violated international commitments, under the so-called OSCE Vienna Document, on pre-notifying Nato of its actions.

She also said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its war propaganda puts its behaviour in a different light.

“These exercises are part of a more aggressive Russian military doctrine, dangerous political rhetoric, increased military deployments, and the annexation of Crimea. This is the new strategic reality in Europe”.

’Red hot’

The ELN survey comes amid fresh worries of escalation in east Ukraine.

Ukrainian authorities on Tuesday said Russian proxy forces, on Monday, launched a tank, artillery, and Grad rocket-backed assault on Starohnativka, a Ukrainian-controlled town.

International monitors, from the Vienna-based OSCE, described it as “a significant increase in ceasefire violations”.

The EU foreign service, in a statement, also complained about “attacks on several government-controlled areas”.

The British defence minister, Michael Fallon, who was in Kiev on Tuesday, added: “This must not be allowed to be [called] a frozen conflict … it seems to me pretty red hot”.

Russia, which denies playing any role in the conflict, blamed the flare-up on Ukrainian aggression.

Local spokesmen for the Russian-occupied parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in east Ukraine said Ukrainian forces shelled themselves as a pretext for new hostilities.

MH17

Russian state media, on Wednesday, also reacted to a report by Dutch investigators into the MH17 disaster last summer.

The Dutch Safety Board, leading the enquiry, said it found “possible Buk missile parts” at the crash site, which are “of particular interest”.

The prevailing theory is that Russian proxies shot down the passenger plane with a Russian-supplied Buk system because they thought it was a Ukrainian military plane.

The Dutch statement noted that “at present” the conclusion “cannot be drawn that there is a causal connection between the discovered parts and the crash of flight MH17”.

Russia’s flagship broadcaster, RT, said, in its headline, this means there is “no proof” of Russia’s guilt.

Investigation

French eyes for a Russian tiger

Russian tanks are using French technology in Ukraine. But will Russia's new "star" tank, the T-14, also rely on EU-made kit?

News in Brief

  1. Berlusconi wants Europe to be a military global power
  2. Orban ordered to apologise over 'misleading' Soros survey
  3. EPP to decide on expelling Fidesz by end of January
  4. Rowdy anti-corruption protest in Malta
  5. Ambassador: Trump ordered Ukraine election meddling
  6. EU links Libyan government to human trafficking
  7. Greek PM on migration: 'Greece has reached its limits'
  8. Luxembourg: EU ought to recognise Palestine

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

Latest News

  1. EPP wants to re-open accession talks with Balkans
  2. New EU financial instruments needed
  3. Binding measures to expand gender balance
  4. Watershed moment for rule of law in Hong Kong
  5. EU Africa envoy: Europe needs to look beyond migration
  6. New calls for Muscat to resign over journalist's murder
  7. Tusk pledges 'fight' for EU values as new EPP president
  8. Don't lead Europe by triggering its fears

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