Moscow is constantly warning that NATO provocations near the Russian borders are close to reach dangerous point, and the crisis may escalate into an armed conflict. In particular, naval forces, air and sea reconnaissance, as well as strategic aviation, of the U.S. and its NATO allies have significantly increased their activity in the Black Sea region, and are regularly approaching the state borders of Russia, increasing the risk of incidents.
“Recently, the alliance has switched to the practice of direct provocations, there is a high risk of escalating into an armed confrontation,” Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin claimed during a press briefing on December 27th.
Mr Fomin warned of the new escalation, giving an example of the incident on June 23, when the HMS DEFENDER missile destroyer of the British Royal Navy entered Russian waters in the Black Sea. The British destroyer, which was provided with a close air support of the US RC-135 strategic reconnaissance aircraft, carried out a blatant provocation, violating the Russian state borders, but was scared by the Russian Su-24m front-line bombers. (LINK, LINK)
The most recent provocation took place in the sea of Azov in early December. The Ukrainian ship ‘Donbass’ was en route from Mariupol to the Kerch Strait and did not respond to demands of the Russian security fores to change its course, posing a threat to navigation. The ship was escorted by Russian coast guards.
The incident was immediately considered a provocation by the Kremlin, while Kiev claimed that the incident was another information attack by Russia.
The official representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova, expressed her confidence that this was part of a “complex” of provocations against Moscow.
Senator from Crimea Olga Kovitidi pointed out that such incidents “are rapidly approaching the unfolding of a hot conflict in the very center of Europe.” She asked for the incident to be urgently considered by the United Nations Security Council.
The deployment of reconnaissance aircraft over the Black Sea area increased by more than 60% compared to last year, according to Russian Deputy Defense Minister. They approached the Russian border at a distance of up to 15 km from the western coast of Crimea.
In 2021, foreign combat and reconnaissance aircraft broke the record for their activity over the Russian borders. Along with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) of various types, U.S. long-range bombers have significantly increased the number of their flights near Russia.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, aircraft approaching the country’s borders were detected more than 1,200 times in 2021, including over 370 large drones. On average, they were escorted by Russian fighter jets two or three times a week.
According to the Ministry of Defense, NATO countries have made more than 1.2 thousand sorties of aircraft and more than 50 exits of warships for naval reconnaissance in the Baltic Sea zone this year.
In 2021, NATO carried out 15 exercises in the Black Sea. In 2020, there were eight of them. The largest drills were NATO Sea Breeze 2021 exercise that began on June 28 and were co-hosted by Ukraine and the U.S. with participation and support of 32 countries.
Moscow has been constantly claiming the provocative actions at its borders, including at the top officials’ level. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has recently claimed that Russia will not put up with NATO military provocations. The Russian president Vladimir Putin also said that the United States came with missiles to “the threshold of our house” and now has to ensure the Russia’s security guarantees. The Kremlin stressed that Russia has no plans and no interest in any invasion, and called the movement of troops on the territory of the country an internal matter.
Amid the Moscow’s defensive position, Washington is advancing the offensive one, accusing Russia of pulling troops to the borders of Ukraine. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, in turn, said that the US military will continue to conduct operations in the Black Sea in all cases when necessary.
Unfortunately, not all US allies stand still with their Ukrainian friends. The head of the British Defense Minister, Ben Wallace, made it clear that British servicemen are not going to fight for Ukraine and in Ukraine.
Ben Wallace recently assured that in the event of Russian aggression, “the British military contingent will be withdrawn quickly and safely.”
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