Sorties of combat aircraft send a message. They send a message of provocation, a reminder that the potential of these actions leading to a confrontation can quickly accelerate into war.
Yesterday’s headline “German Typhoons have intercepted 7 Russian Air Force combat planes over the Baltic Sea today” states that there has been a recent increase in provocative actions and numbers by Russia’s Air Force, resulting in increasing launches of the Quick Reaction Alert from NATO aircraft. Increasing tensions, increasing angst that Russia is not in control of its own momentum.
Russia clearly understands this dangerous game. Russian diplomats are speaking more provocatively, refusing to back down. Their language feels like words leading to a hostile actions. Once again, this information war may lead to conventional actions.
Russian actions are not limited to the air, however. “Estonia: Russian border incidents signal new divide” indicates increased air incursions resulted in the Russian ambassador to Estonia being summoned, which means a diplomatic chewing out. A warning of sorts. Stop it. The incidents do not stop there, however.
• Russian military aircraft have buzzed NATO territory over the Baltic Sea and the airspace of Norway, Canada and Alaska, prompting intercepts by those countries’ air forces.
• Sweden on Friday called off a week-long search for a suspected Russian submarine it said sent out a distress signal Oct. 17 from Swedish waters before disappearing. Russia denied any of its ships were in distress or in the Swedish archipelago. Sweden is not a member of NATO but agreed in September to perform exercises with the alliance and to call on its help in emergencies.
• Russia seized Estonian intelligence official Eston Kohver on Sept. 5 and is holding him in Moscow. Estonia says Russia took Kohver in a cross-border raid while he waited to meet with an informant in the southeastern town of Miikse. Moscow says he was detained in Russia.
• Russia reopened criminal cases against 1,500 Lithuanians who refused to sign up for compulsory service in the Soviet military in 1990 and 1991. At the time, the Soviet Union was in a state of collapse, and Lithuania had declared its independence.Lithuania refuses to hand the people over, warning them to avoid non-EU and non-NATO countries.
• Latvian media reported the Russian Embassy in Riga was recruiting ethnic Russians to fight with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukrainian. Russia dismissed the allegations.
Russia is clearly flexing their muscles, sending a message. Their intended message is probably “We are Russia, we are free to do things, so back off”.
One Surface to Air missile, however, would change everything. This is a truly dangerous game. So stop it, Russia.