The spiral of dangerous operational incidents between Russia and NATO

Incidents between Russian and NATO aircraft and warships are intensifying in both frequency and severity. This is documented in a study by Ralph Clem and Ray Finch, who describe it in this excellent article in War on the Rocks:

Together with the Baltic Sea and the Norwegian Sea-North Atlantic zones, the Black Sea region witnessed one of the highest incident totals among the 11 strategic areas where we mapped such occurrences, and those numbers rose dramatically over the last three years. This heightened level of activity is due in part to NATO’s stated priority of increasing its military presence in the region to shore up its allies there. More concerning is the fact that several of the Black Sea events, unlike those occurring in the Baltic and Mediterranean Sea areas, involved the indirect use of ordnance by the Russian side to harass NATO warships. In addition, Russian fighters engaged in highly risky maneuvers while intercepting U.S. and NATO aircraft flying in international airspace. There have also been recent incidents where Russian civilian aircraft flying over the Black Sea have had to change course to avoid NATO aircraft, and Western flight information services have reported Global Positioning System interference from ongoing military activity that poses a serious concern to civil aviation.

Their conclusion is that we need to deescalate this dynamic. Nobody gains from a spiral of increasingly dangerous interactions, and the deterrence value is questionable. Also there may be some common ground for actually substantial negotiations because both sides should be interested in topics like safe airspace management.




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