On multiple occasions this week AlertsUSA subscribers were notified via text messages to their mobile devices regarding escalations, threats and the increasingly dangerous buildup of military forces in Eastern Europe, the totality of which is brings the region and the world dangerously close to war.
On Monday of this week, the Pentagon reported at least one Russian Su-24 Fencer fighter jet flew multiple close-range passes near the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook in the Black Sea. The USS Cook was patrolling in international waters when the Fencer attack aircraft repeatedly flew near the Navy ship.
According to Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren, the aircraft did not respond to multiple queries and warnings. Two aircraft were present though only one took part in the provocative actions. Warren went onto say that the Russian jet made a total of 12 close range passes near the USS Cook at altitudes ranging from sea level to a couple thousand feet while the wingman stayed at a considerably higher altitude. Officials later said the aircraft approached within about 1,000 yards of the ship. The entire engagement is reported to have lasted about 90 mins and while considered highly provocative, it is reported to have ended without incident.
The guided missile destroyers USS Donald Cook and the USS Truxton are in the Black Sea along with three French warships and more on the way.
The incident took place around the same time as Russia’s strategic missile force carried out a test-launch of an RS-24 Yars ICBM with multiple warheads from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome about 300 miles east of the Finnish border. The missile blasted off from a mobile launcher, flew more than 3500 miles across Russia and impacted at the Kura test range on the eastern edge of the Kamchatka Peninsula north of Japan. This is the second launch of a nuclear capable ICBM in just 6 weeks.
Following a meeting on Wed with ambassadors from all 28 NATO member nations, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced new deployments of substantial air, sea and land forces in Eastern Europe in response to the worsening crisis in Ukraine.
NATOs Maritime Command announced an initial deployment of 5 warships to the Baltic. The office of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced they were sending an initial round of 6 fighter aircraft. Dutch Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis announced the deployment of F16 fighters. All of this is over and above the deployments AlertsUSA Threat Journal has been detailing over the past several weeks, including nearly 2 dozen U.S. fighter aircraft to Poland and Lithuania, ground forces to Bulgaria and more (see this, this and this). Two weeks ago Poland requested the stationing of two heavy brigades, or about 10,000 soldiers, on their territory.
NATO's Supreme Allied Commander, U.S. Air Force General Phillip Breedlove, said the security situation in Eastern Europe represented more than a crisis, adding: "For Nato, it's bigger than that. It's a paradigm shift." While stressing the military movements were intended entirely to reassure Nato members along Russia's borders, he says he has been unable to reach the Russian chief of general staff, Valery Gerasimov, to explain the deployments.
On Wed of this week during a nationally televised question-and-answer session in Moscow, Russian President Vlaidmir Putin made very clear that Russia will respond if NATO moves closer to the Russian border.
Further stoking flames in the region, Arizona Senator John McCain visited the capital of Moldova this week during which he urged the swift integration of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia into European structures, meaning the EU and NATO. His public statement came at the same time as the predominantly pro-Russian Eastern Moldovan state of Transdinistra again appealed to Moscow to recognize the region's independence.
Despite late week diplomatic efforts in Geneva where the normal talk of frameworks and paths forward were highlighted during follow-up press conferences, this is invariably diplospeak for not having accomplishing much and it is highly unlikely Russia, NATO or the new Ukrainian government will be backing down anytime soon.
This week the U.S. government issued an updated travel warning for Ukraine within which Americans were urged to avoid all non-essential travel to the country, and in particular, to avoid the Eastern and Southern regions due to the degrading security situation and growing anti-American sentiment.
AlertsUSA continues to closely monitor the growing tensions in the region and will immediately notify service subscribers of changes in the overall threat environment, major U.S. troop movements or the outbreak of hostilities, as events warrant.