Experts believe a war between NATO and Russia almost broke out 66 times in the past year as tensions continue to escalate after Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea. Russian diplomats only made matters worse with threats against former Soviet Union republics and current NATO members.
“The situation is ripe with potential for either dangerous miscalculation or an accident that could trigger a worsening of the crisis or even a direct military confrontation,” stated the European Leadership Network.
This group of 14 people, which include “former Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov, ex-German defense minister Volker Ruehe and colleagues from Britain, France, Spain and Turkey,” are pushing for a NATO-Russia meeting to subdue tensions before an actual war breaks out. They insist the two sides need to “set rules for communication at sea and in the air.”
The think tank’s research claims that Russia and NATO perform military drills “with war plans in mind.” NATO only planned 280 exercises in 2015, but Russia announced 4,000 exercises. Even though they plan on more drills, the Russian Foreign Ministry lashed out at NATO:
But in a statement, Russia’s foreign ministry claimed the drills are “a clear demonstration of NATO’s provocative policy to unequivocally support the policies of current Kiev authorities in eastern Ukraine.”
It said: “Not only is NATO not ready to recognise the wrongness and possible explosive consequences of holding such drills but it is considerably increasing their scope.
“These actions … may threaten to disrupt the visible progress in the peace process concerning the deep internal crisis in Ukraine.”
NATO intercepted hundreds of Russian jets over NATO airspace in 2014. NATO said these Russian planes do not use on-board transponders utilized for surveillance. The organization said the plans “pose a potential risk to civil aviation as civilian air traffic control cannot detect these aircraft or ensure there is no interference with civilian air traffic.” Portugal, a member of the European Union and a founding member of NATO, chased a Russian ship out of their waters on November 6. Russia claims the ship conducted “marine research,” but Portugal intervened when the ship floated almost fourteen miles from the coast.
NATO will probably break that record in 2015. In June, Russian jets encroached Estonian airspace, which forced the “RAF Typhoon fighters, based in Estonia to identify and escort them away.” NATO troops were “practicing sea landings, air lifts and assaults” in the area. The Russian government claimed these drills were “reviving the ghost of the Cold War.” On August 25, reports stated the U.S. is planning “to send Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-22 fighter jets to Europe.”
The Baltic states are most concerned about Russia. Only weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine, a Russian diplomat expressed fear over alleged mistreatment of Russian speakers in Estonia. The Russian ambassador to Latvia told a radio station that Russia will grant citizenship to ethnic Russians in the country. Then the Kremlin decided to reopen criminal cases against Lithuanians who refused to serve in the Soviet Army in 1990-1991. Lithuania warned everyone on the list not to travel to non-EU and non-NATO countries. International law experts believe the lawsuit will not be upheld.