NATO-Russia Incidents Came Close to Conflict, Says Think-Tank

RAF Typhoon intercepts Russian Tu-95 Bear bomberDozens of sensitive military incursions have occurred between Russia and Nato states over the past year, some coming close to triggering hostilities, according to a new report. . . .

According to the European Leadership Network – the body which compiled the report – three incidents in the past year could have escalated into actual conflict, with the possibility of relations between Russia and Nato worsening. . . .

The ELN report stresses the need for an emergency diplomatic channel between Russia and Nato states to diffuse tense situations in the event of unforeseen hostilities. The current pattern of near-misses “could prove catastrophic“, it warns.

In March, an SAS civilian airliner taking off from Copenhagen narrowly avoided collision with a Russian spy plane 50km south of the Swedish city of Malmo. The Russian aircraft had turned off its transponders, making it hard for civilian air traffic controllers to track. The airliner, which was carrying 132 passengers, avoided the military jet only because its pilots spotted it in time through the window.

ELN – a body made up of dozens of former senior European military leaders and politicians – also said the abduction of the Estonian security service operative Eston Kohver in September and the alleged invasion of Swedish territorial waters in October by a Russian submarine had the potential to have triggered far more serious rifts with Russia than they did.

“The increased number and gravity of incidents described points to a disturbing dynamic,” the ELN said. “The mix of beefed-up military postures along the Nato-Russia border, more aggressive Russian activities and the readiness of western forces to show resolve in the face of the challenge is ripe with potential for escalation.”

Image: RAF Typhoon intercepts Russian Tu-95 Bear bomber (photo: UK Ministry of Defense)