Brussels (5/4- 16.67). Reports by the Europe Sun said that Russia sent six groups of military aircraft along NATO borders, requiring NATO to scramble fighter jets to intercept them. The tensions in the Baltics and Ukraine after reports emerged the Russians reinforced Kaliningrad (formerly Konigsberg) and the Ukraine with 4,000 troops not having left after exercises.
The new division, which usually consists of 10,000 to 20,000 soldiers, will be part of the 11th Army Corps stationed in Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave wedged between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic coast.
In February 2020, Lithuanian military intelligence reported that Russia planned to establish a new motorized infantry division in Kaliningrad and deploy additional missile-carrying ships to the Baltic Sea.
The Russian jets were intercepted above the North Atlantic, North Sea, Black Sea and Baltic Sea, earlier this week, officials said. “Six interceptions in six hours is certainly a new level of tensions”.
This in itself does not represent a direct threat but the combination of the Ukrainian build up, the reinforcing of 10-20,000 men and weaponry, reports of S-300 batteries moving to the border line and other regional development raised concerns in European and NATO national security circles. So is the tracking system used by the Russian army according to a report.
Experts warned of similar moves by the Russians before the invasion of Georgia and the Ukraine claiming the force build up “were just exercises”. Beyond the saber rattling the Russian are misjudging the changed political climate with the Europeans aligned with renewed U.S.-EU cooperation.
Experts point out by May 2021 the ground will have dried up making large maneuver warfare possible. The potential for hostilities exist, but all experts agree that no one wants a hot war. However the U.S.-Russia and EU-Russia relationship is at zero.
The vitriol has increased. Washington experts argue the Russian propaganda deflect from the falling popularity of president Putin. “The falling popularity of Putin is over estimated by the western experts”, said a retired diplomat. “The recalling of the Russian ambassador to Washington never happened before not even during the cold war”.
The language is interesting with Moscow calling the action to recall the ambassador “for consultations on its ties with Washington but stressed it wanted to prevent an “irreversible deterioration” in relations”.
This new division’s formation is likely still underway. The Russian Ministry of Defense is still renovating barracks for new elements of the 11th Army Corps as of January 2021.
“Deployment of additional tanks to the neighboring Kaliningrad Region has been observed for several years already. Newly created motor-rifle division is being developed and the Baltic Fleet is receiving new ships armed with Kalibr missiles.”
The report identifies Belarus’ unstable regime is another risk.
In an effort to stay in power, Alexander Lukashenko last year accused Lithuania and several other Western countries of interfering in Belarus’ internal affairs and “publicly announced an order to reinforce the state border security, deploy more military units towards the West, and conduct a number of demonstrative military exercises”, according to the report.
“Intercepting multiple groups of Russian aircraft demonstrates NATO forces’ readiness and capability to guard Allied skies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year,” Brigadier General Andrew Hansen, Deputy Chief of Staff Operations at Allied Air Command, Ramstein, Germany, said.
In under six hours, pilots from Norway, Turkey, Britain, Belgium, Italy, Romania, and Bulgaria participated in turning back the Russians.
According to NATO, the Russian aircraft never entered alliance airspace.
Russian aircraft were intercepted flying near Norway’s coast, near Belgium and British borders, as well as near Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria.
Last week, officials reported that two Russian Tu-160 heavy bombers flew into an area where NATO was conducting Bomber Task Force exercises with the U.S. Air Force.
Observers not the saber rattling has increased the tensions in Europe but many feel Vladimir Putin and his proxies are testing the European and American resolve. “It without doubt is a test for the new U.S. administration”, said an official in Brussel.
“What the U.S. administration signals are is considered by the Russians and its allies a weak response. But in line with the Primakov doctrine to restrict and prevent NATO to unify and expand its influence.”, a retired diplomat said.
“Western observers fail to understand that the old Soviet style way of doing things is back. U.S. administrations, particularly Democrat lead administrations are poorly perceived by the Russians.
“Rubbing the various human rights agendas, civil societies and democracy issues have neither be successful in dealing with the Russians neither taken in account the strategic issues for Russia”, he added. “The only thing it does it pisses Moscow off.”
Moscow said that it aimed to deescalate military tension between Russia and NATO, but its subsequent aggressive maneuvers near NATO borders proved that this rhetoric “only served as an ostensible act of goodwill”.
The General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces announced plans to withdraw Kavkaz-2020 activities from the western border. However, the strategic military exercise “had already been planned to take place in the Southern Military District (SMD) – further away from the western borders with NATO,” according to the report.
Russian cargo tracking system as tool to influence
A new unified digital cargo tracking system developed by Russia may be used as a tool to exert influence, the report also said. The new cargo tracking system is based on GLONASS, the only navigation system allowed to be used by the Russian Armed Forces.
GLONASS was originally created for the Russian military and is managed by Roskosmos, another Russian state corporation.
“It is highly likely that one of the main reasons for developing such a system was Russia’s intention to gain control over all cargo transported between Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, China and the EU,” the report said.
Data on cargo movement is provided to Russia’s Federal Customs Service and the federal transport supervision service Rostransnadzor.
The system is operated by Digital Platforms Development Centre, a subsidiary of RT-Invest Transport Systems, a company associated with the Rotenberg family that is close to President Vladimir Putin, according to the report.
“Russia may exploit data from the tracking system as economic tool against businesses and states – for instance, in tailoring sanctions or advancing Russian business interests,” the intelligence agencies said.
There is also a risk that the tracking system developed by the Russian military industry “will be used for data collection to meet the demands of the Russian Armed Forces”, they warned.