• U.S. caught moving men, materiel to Russian border.
By Richard Walker —
While the mainstream media in the United States fixated on a war of words between Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and a female news reporter, sparks that could ignite a real war appears to be taking shape along Russia’s borders and in the air over Eastern Europe.
Over the past few weeks, the Pentagon has been quietly moving soldiers and heavy weaponry into several countries that line the western and southern portions of Russia. In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his military to initiate training maneuvers in these areas to keep a close eye on the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
On the ground in Europe, too, all the signs are that both sides are preparing for war. Armed conflict could begin in response to as little as an unintended collision between heavily armed units on the borders between Russia and NATO’s Baltic partners such as Estonia, Lithuania or Latvia, a collision in the air over Europe, or a stand-off between naval forces in the Baltic or Black seas.
With tensions at their highest in decades, it might not take much to set off a chain of events that could quickly convince one side or both that war had begun.
There is now stark evidence that there have been at least 40 close encounters of a very dangerous kind between the two sides since Crimea voted to join Russia in March 2014. According to the London-based European Leadership Network (ELN) think tank, whose board of directors includes General Vyascheslav Trubnikov, a former head of Russia’s foreign intelligence service, large war games could lead to an all-out conflict.
On May 14, for example, a U.S. surveillance plane was chased out of Russian airspace by Russian jet fighters into Swedish airspace. A month later, Russian strategic bombers held a drill in the Labrador Sea close to Canada to practice for the day they might have to fire nuclear cruise missiles at American targets.
A Pentagon decision to place extra U.S. troops, heavy artillery and 250 Abrams main battle tanks in the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, as well as in Bulgaria, Poland and Romania, drew condemnation from Moscow.
Russia responded by moving more military assets and troops to the borders of the Baltic states.
The U.S. has also increased its surveillance capabilities in Europe, especially the numbers of drones in NATO’s arsenal. In addition, it has upped the number of high-altitude spy plane flights over Russia and expanded satellite coverage of Russia’s borders.
One of the intriguing features of the march to war is that the NATO states most hawkish in demanding increased NATO assets are those sharing borders with Russia, as well as Poland and Bulgaria, who were once under Moscow’s rule, with Poland playing a more prominent role in NATO’s military strategies.
The jitters are not limited to Central and Eastern Europe.
On April 10, 2015, “the defense ministers of Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Iceland said northern Europe must prepare for possible crises or incidents because of Russia.” Sweden and Finland are not in the trans-Atlantic Alliance, and Russia was clearly concerned by their rapprochement to NATO, whose foreign ministry released a statement.
“Unlike in previous years, the Nordic defense cooperation positions itself as a foe with respect to Russia, with the potential of undermining the positive constructive relations established over the last decades,” it read.
For an assessment of why this shift within NATO is happening, and what its consequences are likely to be, this newspaper turned for advice to a former British adviser to NATO, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“There has been a discernible shift within NATO,” he told AMERICAN FREE PRESS,” and time will tell if it is for the better. Poland and the Baltic States are more bullish about the Russia issue than the traditional NATO players like Germany, Britain, and France. Poland has long hoped for a military alliance between it and the Baltics. These countries, and Bulgaria, are the ones within NATO fully in line with the U.S. Congressional view that Russia must be confronted. There is of course a danger in all of this and the question of how much NATO should respond to their demands. All it takes is a spark to set things off, and I would hope NATO has the correct protocols in place to prevent anyone jumping the gun, as it were.”
Missing from mass media and military reports is the threat to civilian air traffic in many parts of Europe, and in the Atlantic, as military aircraft from both sides play their games of chicken across air corridors reserved for passenger traffic. Although the matter has been discussed at the very highest political levels, governments have chosen not to publicize it for fear of frightening the public and exposing their own role in it.
Should war come between the U.S. and Russia, it is likely that each power would launch nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles across the Arctic aimed toward major cities. Do not forget that, during World War II, the U.S. destroyed whole cities in Japan and Europe, including Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden and Hamburg, heedless of civilian casualties.
Richard Walker is the pen name of a former N.Y. news producer.