Military leaders in Moscow may be feeling that potential adversaries’ efforts to probe their borders are occurring too often and, more importantly, too close for comfort. The chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces has said that his nation has observed military activity from the United States and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries just miles from the border in recent weeks, and this has included aircraft flights and the presence of naval forces in the Barents, Baltic and Black Seas.
“The United States and NATO are expanding their military activities not in the Atlantic or Caribbean regions, but at a distance of some 20-30 kilometers off the Russian borders,” Valery Gerasimov, chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces said during a briefing after the completion of the Kavkaz-2020 military drills last week according to reports from Tass. “So, NATO’s allegations about Russia’s growing aggressiveness are false.”
Gerasimov didn’t press the issue on one specific incident, but cited NATO aircraft flights as well as the presence of its naval forces in the seas that border Russia’s western regions in Europe and Asia, as well as the Arctic.
Russia had previously taken note of increased troop deployment to Poland, which is located on NATO’s eastern flank—and which plays a role similar to that of West Germany during the Cold War. Moscow has seen this build up of NATO forces as an issue to Russian security and in contrast to the NATO-Russia Founding Act of 1997, in which NATO agreed not to deploy “considerable military forces” near the contact line. That was, of course, before Russia action’s in the Ukraine or its build up of forces near Belarus.
Brinksmanship and Saber Rattling
The brinksmanship between the United States and Russia has increased, but it should be noted throughout the spring Russia was regularly deploying nuclear-capable Tu-95MS strategic bombers on patrol flights near the neutral waters near Alaska.
The United States and NATO have responded in kind, and that included the deployment of U.S. Navy and British Royal Navy warships to the Barents Sea for the first time since the Cold War, but over the summer months the patrol flights over the Baltic and Black Seas intensified. That included a late August flight that included B-52H Stratofortress strategic bombers that operated with nearly every NATO partner in an operation dubbed “Allied Sky,” in which six bombers flew across thirty NATO countries in a single-day.
Russian state media has claimed that its military has scrambled and deployed fighter aircraft in several incidents to “intercept” and “escort” the bombers and other patrol flights over the neutral waters near its border. Earlier this month three such occurrences were noted in as many days in the Barents and Baltic Seas. In another incident Russian fighters reportedly even flew within just 100 feet of American B-52 bombers—highlighting how dangerous the situation has become and how there is now little room for mistakes or even human error.
As of last week Russia had reported that it tracked more than forty-four foreign reconnaissance flights, along with an additional ten foreign drones that were engaged in reconnaissance along the borders. However, Russia also claimed its military took part in some 313 training sorties from sixty-two airfields in the same period.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.