Close military encounters between Russia and the west ‘at cold war levels’

Report lists 40 cases of ‘brinkmanship’, including near-collision between Russian spy plane and passenger jet, in past eight months

Close military encounters between Russia and the west have jumped to cold war levels, with 40 dangerous or sensitive incidents recorded in the past eight months alone, according to a new report published on Monday.

The report, Dangerous Brinkmanship by the European Leadership Network, logs a series of “highly-disturbing” incidents since the Ukrainian crisis began earlier this year, including an alarming near-collision between a Russian reconnaissance plane and a passenger plane taking off from Denmark in March with 132 passengers on board.

What made the incident especially dangerous was that the Russian plane did not have on its transponders, the usual method of signalling its presence to other aircraft.

The encounters have taken place mainly around the Baltic Sea but also in the Black Sea and along the US and Canadian borders.

“We believe the nearly 40 incidents logged are a very serious development, not necessarily because they indicate a desire on the part of Russia to start a war but because they show a dangerous game of brinkmanship is being played, with the potential for unintended escalation in what is now the most serious security crisis in Europe since the cold war,” say the report’s authors Thomas Frear, Lukasz Kulesa and Ian Kearns.

The US, Britain and other Nato allies accuse Russia of ramping up military action, but Moscow places the blame on the US and its European allies, accusing them of provoking the crisis in the Ukraine and through the imposition of sanctions on Russia. Gorbachev, normally a critic of Vladimir Putin, took the unusual step of siding with the Russian leader and called for new mechanisms for lowering tensions.

Nato logged up to late October more than 100 intercepts of Russian aircraft, three times more than last year.

Among high-risk incidents it lists are: the abduction by Russia of an Estonian intelligence agent in September: a mock Russian bombing raid on a heavily-populated Danish island; simulated cruise missile attacks by Russian bombers on the US and Canada; Canadian warships locking radar on approaching Russian aircraft in the Black Sea; and a US plane making unauthorised entry into Swedish airspace after being chased by Russian planes.

Three close encounters

Near mid-air collision with passenger plane On 3 March this year, an SAS passenger plane taking off from Copenhagen with 132 passengers bound for Rome had a close encounter with a Russian reconnaissance plane which did not transmit its position. A collision was only avoided because of good visibility and the alertness of the SAS pilots, according to the report. The incident, which happened 50 miles south-east of Malmo, in Sweden, was before the shooting down of the MH17 passenger plane over Ukraine. Russian-backed Ukrainian separatists were blamed for the July missile attack.

Simulated cruise missile attacks on North America In early September this year, Russian strategic bombers in the Labrador Sea near Canada practised cruise missile strikes. The Russian aircraft stayed out of Canada’s airspace but it was still a provocative move in light of the Nato summit at the time, according to the report. Cruise missiles launched from the Labrador Sea would have Ottawa, New York, Washington, Chicago and America’s Norfolk naval base in range.

Black Sea encounter On 7 September, the Canadian frigate Toronto was buzzed by a Russian aircraft in the Black Sea with the plane coming within 300 metres. The Toronto locked its radar on the Russian plane but took no further action as the Russian plane was not armed. The incident coincided with larger Russian larger naval combat training activities near Sevastopol. “Such aggressive behaviour, if repeated by an armed aircraft, could have resulted in the ship commander targeting the aircraft in an act of self-defence,” the report says.

Full article: Close military encounters between Russia and the west ‘at cold war levels’ (The Guardian)

Comments are closed.