According to media reports combat vehicles and military equipment are now around 100 kilometers from Russian territory.
Amid ongoing tensions due to a number of sensitive geopolitical issues, the U.S. has reported moved combat vehicles closer to the Russian border. Negotiations between the two nations are underway regarding mediation efforts in Syria, but the prospect of war continues to increase, according to Sputnik News. Russia also recently announced plans for a number of military bases in the Arctic.
Military exercises in eastern Europe mean U.S. forces extremely close to Russia
A fresh round of military exercises will take place in Estonia, in which four Abrams battle tanks and ten Bradely armored personnel carriers will take part. The vehicles are stationed at the Tapa military base, according to a representative of the Estonian military.
Tapa is around 100 kilometers from Russia, and residents are increasingly worried about the threat of Russian expansionism given what happened in Ukraine. The annexation of the Crimean peninsula and Russian support for separatists rebels provoked fears that the Kremlin may also be planning to destabilize other eastern European nations.
Lithuania, which also shares a border with Russia, is planning to receive U.S. troops and heavy military equipment. It is thought that the presence of U.S. forces will discourage Russia from attacking.
Negotiations ongoing over response to Syrian conflict
Despite ongoing tensions in eastern Europe, Russia and the U.S. again discussed the Syrian conflict on Monday. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his US colleague John Kerry spoke by phone, discussing plans to involve other regional governments in the search for a peaceful solution to the ongoing conflict in Syria.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a visit to Moscow last week as attempts to find a political solution intensified. Last Friday Kerry and Lavrov met with officials from Saudi Arabia and Turkey in Vienna with the aim of finding a solution to the conflict.
In the aftermath of the meeting Lavrov called on Assad to prepare for parliamentary and presidential elections. Russia has stepped into the conflict in Syria, bombing anti-government rebels and providing weapons and intelligence to forces loyal to al-Assad.
Moscow has sent troops and heavy equipment to the Latakia airbase in Syria, which has become a forward base for its operations inside the country. At the same time a U.S.-led coalition has been undertaking bombing raids of its own aimed at halting the advance of Islamic State rebels.
Accidental engagement could cause World War III
The fact that Russia decided to start its own bombing campaign did not sit well with the U.S., and has raised fears that an accidental engagement between Russian and U.S. forces could spark a conflict between the two powers. In order to reduce the likelihood of such an event, the two sides have met to discuss a code of conduct and an appropriate response to the ongoing conflict.
At the same time increasingly frequent military exercises in Europe present the same risks. NATO launched its “Sea Breeze” exercise in the Black Sea this Monday, involving 2,500 personnel from 11 different countries, the latest in a string of exercises that have raised fears of conflict.
British think tank ELN recently published a report claiming that huge NATO and Russian military exercises could lead to the outbreak of war. The report claims that the exercises suggest that both sides are preparing for war.
“Russia is preparing for a conflict with NATO, and NATO is preparing for a possible confrontation with Russia,” the publication wrote.
Potential for multi-front conflict with Russia
In addition to increasing activity in eastern Europe and the Middle East, Russia has indicated its intentions to open up a new theater of operations in the Arctic. A series of new military bases will allow Russia to project its military power into the Arctic circle, and close to the U.S. mainland.
Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to assert himself on the international stage, and Western politicians have so far failed to figure out a way of managing him. For all of the controversy that he generates abroad, Putin is hugely popular at home and enjoys approval ratings that are consistently above 80%.
Both NATO and Russia must shoulder the blame for increased tensions in eastern Europe, with NATO troop movements and military bases adding to a sense of encirclement within Russia. In the Middle East it must be hoped that a political solution can be found to a conflict that has dragged on for far too long and caused a huge humanitarian crisis.
If the U.S. and Russia negotiate a joint response in Syria it could set a precedent for further cooperation which could reduce tensions between the two powers.