Russia and NATO are engaged in an “action-reaction cycle” that is difficult to stop. History is full of examples of tensions that escalated into war even when neither side intended it. Something similar could happen between Russian and NATO forces. According to the European Leadership Network, a war between Russia and the West almost broke out 66 times between March 2014 and March 2015.
Russia, NATO hold military drills with war plans in mind
The London-based think tank has been keeping count since March 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea. Soon after, Russian-backed separatists declared war against Ukrainian government forces in eastern Ukraine. As tensions with the West continued to escalate, the Kremlin made thing worse by bullying the Baltic states.
The European Leadership Network is a group of 14 people including former German defense minister Volker Ruehe, and ex-Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov. The think tank said that NATO and Russia conduct military drills “with war plans in mind.” Though the Western military alliance has planned to conduct only 280 drills this year, Russia has announced 4,000 military exercises in 2015.
However, Moscow has still lashed out at NATO for its “provocative policy.” Russia Foreign Ministry recently said that NATO was not ready to recognize the “possible explosive consequences” of holding military drills. Since last year, the Western alliance has intercepted hundreds of Russian fighter jets over NATO airspace. These Russian jets fly with their transponders turned off, posing a direct threat to civil aviation.
NATO building up military presence near Russian border
NATO troops have increased their presence in eastern Europe to counter Russian aggression. They were practicing “air lifts, sea landings, and assaults” in the region. NATO is set to hold its biggest military exercise in over a decade in October. Earlier this week, the U.S. Air Force Secretary Deborah James said the Pentagon would send its Lockheed Martin F-22 fighter jets to Europe.
The European Leadership Network has called for a high-level Russia-NATO meeting. The two sides must reduce the risk of inadvertently triggering a war by agreeing common rules to handle the unexpected military encounters, the think tank added.