While Russian opposition claims that the Kremlin prepares its society for a war against the West, there are concerning indications that a war might begin as a result of an incident of airspace violation.
It would take just one incident to unleash an all-out war between world powers amid tensions between the West from one side and Russia and China from the other. What is particularly concerning is that world powers are reporting a skyrocketing number of airspace violations.
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NATO aircraft had to carry out over 500 scrambles in Europe in 2014, which is four times more than in 2013, according to data provided by NATO to The Guardian. About 85 percent of the incidents included interception of Russian aircraft, which makes it the highest and most concerning numbers since the end of the Cold War.
In 2014, there were 10 breaches of Russian aircraft into airspace of NATO members, including eight of these over islands belonging to Estonia with six of them over a small remote Vaindloo alone. The other breaches were into Norwegian and Polish airspace in March and April respectively. Both of the incidents lasted only a couple of seconds.
As for 2015, there have already been over 300 scrambles, however there have been no airspace breaches in 2015 yet.
NATO clearly sees a steady growth of intensity of Russian aircraft provocations at the Alliance’s borders and airspace.
NATO intercepted 22 Russian aircraft
Just one week alone, NATO air police mission’s fighter jets intercepted 22 Russian aircraft near the airspace of the Baltic states, according to The Financial Times citing anonymous sources from the Alliance.
Overall, according to NATO’s data, there have been 250 Russian warplanes intercepted during the past six months of this year.
“In the last year, Russia’s air activity close to NATO borders has increased in quantity and complexity,” an alliance official said, as reported by The Financial Times. “Russian aircraft often fly without their transponders switched on, without filing flights plans and without communicating with air traffic authorities.”
Nearly a half of these interceptions were conducted by the Baltic air-policing mission of NATO.
Meanwhile, Japan has been struggling with record numbers of scrambling Chinese aircraft. It must be noted that even though most of these interventions are described as ‘routine’ and ordinary, as history shows, there is always a risk of escalation as a result of a routine, and as it might seem, ‘meaningless’ and intervention. What is especially concerning is the number of such incidents.
However, despite the growing number in foreign aircraft interceptions, NATO is set to reduce the number of its aircraft in the Baltic air-policing mission by two times this year.
Russia accuses NATO of flying near its borders
Meanwhile, Russia claims that NATO’s ‘air trips’ near Russian borders doubled in 2014. NATO, for its part, dismissed the claim and called it “deliberately vague.”
Back in March, Russian deputy minister of defense Anatoliy Antonov claimed that there were 404 military bases and objects belonging to the U.S. and NATO members around Russia, while strategic reconnaissance aircraft are being detected near Russian borders ‘daily’.
Last week, Latvian air forces were deployed because of suspicious activity to intercept 12 Russian warplanes near its borders.
“Air policing jets on 29 July in international airspace above the Baltic Sea near Latvian border identified aircraft of Russian Armed Forces: three AN-26, one IL-76, four MiG-31, four Su-24,” the National Armed Forces of Latvia tweeted.
However, the Russian aircraft did not breach the country’s airspace.
Is Latvia the first state after Ukraine to get invaded by Putin?
Another incident took place last week, in which fighter jets of the Baltic air-policing mission, stationed in Lithuania, had to be lifted into the air in order to identify and follow Russian warplanes flying over the Baltic Sea.
“We had three flights,” Captain Donatas Suchockis, public relations officer at the Lithuanian army’s Joint Staff, told BNS.
According to Suchockis, the fighter jets were lifted into the air to identify Russian military transport airplanes Il-76 and An-26 in the international airspace bound to Kaliningrad region.
The airplanes followed their course and communicated with flight operations officers. The An-26 was flying with switched off transponder, while the Il-76 was flying according to all aerial rules.
It was also reported last week that Russian warships were spotted at the borders with Latvia. Latvian ministry of defense reported that in its Twitter account.
“LVA Armed Forces on 2 AUG in LVA EEZ 5nm from terit. waters spotted RU Navy’s tug Viktor Konieckiy towing minelayer Aleksandr Obuhnov,” the message read.
Russia wants to prove that NATO is slow and weak
Russia poses a ‘serious’ geopolitical threat and might draw NATO into a global conflict by attacking the Baltic or Scandinavian states, according to a report published by the principal of the Swedish military academy, Johan Wiktorin, and the head of defense institute, Benjamin Stahl, as reported by DELFI.
The report considers scenarios, which Russia might follow to draw the Alliance into a global conflict as a result of attacking the Baltic and Scandinavian states in order to prove the world that NATO is slow and weak.
The report also notes that Russia might unleash a conflict in the Baltic states in order to force the U.S. to withdraw its resources from the region.
According to the authors of the document, Russia can take under control any country of the Baltic states within a matter of days. But that is in case the Baltics do not receive any support from NATO.
In case NATO does counter Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin would have a big interest toward Scandinavia, which is why Finland and Sweden will not be able to avoid getting into the conflict.