PRAYER ALERT: Since March, when Russia annexed Crimea, it has played a dangerous game of military provocations. The European Leadership Network (ELN) has identified 39 incidents of close encounters between Russian and NATO forces in the past eight months. These Russian war games include three high-risk incidents.
–On March 3 a Russian spy plane was flying over the Baltic Sea. It had its transponders turned off, making it almost impossible to be traced by civilian air traffic controllers. A jet with 132 passengers taking off from Copenhagen almost crashed into the Russian spy plane mid-air. Only the alertness of the pilots, who saw the plane through their window, prevented a tragedy.
–On September 5 Russian agents abducted Eston Kohver, a security service official, from a border post in Estonia. They used smoke grenades and communications jamming to hide their tracks. Kohver was taken to Moscow and accused of espionage. This happened right after US President Obama visited the region and made security assurances to the Baltic states.
–On October 17-27 Sweden conducted a major submarine hunt after activity was detected in its territorial waters. Sweden prepared to use armed force, but it never found the vessel. Russian war games were suspected. Moscow denied it and scoffed at Swedish concerns.
Other alleged Russian war games include more violations of national airspace and near mid-air collisions. ELN reports that Russia has simulated attack runs, made close overflights over warships, conducted mock bombing raids, and harassed reconnaissance planes. In September two Russian fighter jets and two Russian long-range bombers were intercepted 55 miles from Alaska before they looped away. The two bombers were intercepted again 40 miles from Canada a few hours later.
Are these Russian war games signs that we are entering into “a new Cold War”? That’s what former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev called it on November 9, the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Gorbachev blamed the tensions largely on US “triumphalism” after the Soviet bloc dissolved. Russian influence in the region has waned as 12 central European states have joined US-led NATO. Russians want to prevent Ukraine and Georgia from joining too.
Ukraine is especially close to their hearts. Much of Russian history and identity is wrapped up in Kiev and Ukraine. Putin’s persistent moves to arm eastern Ukraine’s separatists are highly popular with Russians. So are his efforts to hold other former Soviet republics in the Russian economic orbit.
This popularity makes it easier for Putin to flex his military muscle in Russian war games. They enable him to negotiate with neighboring countries from a position of strength, if not intimidation.
Russia’s top ally in the Middle East, Iran, is suspected of taking the opposite tack. Iran appears to be feigning nuclear incapacity so that it can launch sudden unexpected nuclear attacks. Israel, the US and the West are the oft-stated targets of Iran’s ruling mullahs. That is what makes the current talks with Iran so tricky…
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Russian war games reminiscent of Cold War.