LOS ANGELES: Russia and NATO have each been staging military exercises designed to confront a threat from the other, raising the danger of an accidental collision or misunderstanding that could provoke actual war, European security analysts warn.
Russia and the Western military alliance have increased the scope and frequency of war games and conducted many in the sensitive border areas where they are seen as provocation, the London-based European Leadership Network concludes in a report made public Wednesday: “Preparing for the Worst: Are Russian and NATO Military Exercises Making War in Europe more Likely?”
The security think tank’s conclusion appears to be that the tailored exercises by the Kremlin and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are intended to send adversaries a message of resolve that also dangerously elevates the risk of instigating the confrontation for which they are designed.
“Each side is training with the other side’s capabilities and most likely war plans in mind,” warns the report written by three veteran analysts of arms control, nuclear deterrence and the security policies of Russian and Western governments.
The exercises are said to be targeted at “hypothetical opponents,” the researchers noted, but “the nature and scale of them indicate otherwise: Russia is preparing for conflict with NATO, and NATO is preparing for a possible confrontation with Russia.”
In March, Russia staged snap air and sea drills centered on its Northern Fleet that brought together 80,000 military personnel, more than 100 combat aircraft and 80 warships to the Barents Sea. An overlapping land exercise in the western and central military districts involved an additional 70,000 troops, 880 tanks and 1,200 pieces of artillery and armored transports.
NATO, during its Allied Shield exercise in June, deployed 15,000 troops from 19 member countries and three partner states along the alliance’s eastern flank — action perceived in the Kremlin as aggressive and an attempt by NATO to provoke internal unrest.
Both sides have announced intentions to stage further exercises this year with drastically increased frequency.
The report made four recommendations to defuse the mounting tension threatening conflict: better communication between NATO and Russian officials to alert the other side to impending war games; use of the monitoring services and confidence-building practices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which includes Russia and NATO member states; political evaluation of the pros and cons of intensified military activity in border areas; and work toward a new conventional arms control treaty.