It follows a decision by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for his forces to adopt their most aggressive military stance since the Cold War. British military sources noted last night that a spike in Russian activity coincided with pro-democracy protests in Belarus, raising concerns that Putin was attempting to distract the alliance before offering military support to besieged ally Alexander Lukashenko. after his re-election.
In the past six weeks, British and other NATO forces have been harassed in the Baltic, with a marked increase in cyberattacks in Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, where 14 NATO nations operate to defend Europe’s eastern borders.
Last month a joint counter-cyber operation by the UK, the US, Sweden and Finland was able to block a Russian attack on strategic equipment for the first time.
A planned military exercise involving Russian, Iranian and Chinese troops next week will further increase tensions.
But Russia began expanding its overseas operations in November when it deployed an unprecedented number of submarines from its northern fleet. These include sea trials of its brand new Yasen-class submarine, the Kazen, a 1
And British and NATO submarines are still engaged in dangerous cat-and-mouse operations with Russian counterparts in the northern approaches – the Northern North Sea and the Norwegian Sea.
Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russia’s northern fleet is so overextended that Moscow has sent its oldest Typhoon-class submarine, Dmitry Donskoy, to Norway, according to recent satellite images. Hunt for Red October’s 35,000-ton ship, at least 40 years old, rarely lines up beyond the Barents Sea, where it served as a training ship.
The Russian Pacific Fleet recently underwent the largest naval exercise since the Cold War, with alarm bells ringing at the detection of the Omsk guided missile submarine in the Bering Sea off Alaska – a sign of the continued Arctic ambitions Russia.
The RAF’s ninth rapid reaction warning since January was triggered last week by Russian planes flying close to British airspace – a figure not seen since 2011.
Moscow also continued to deploy strike planes across the Black Sea and into Ukraine on a daily basis to remind Kiev and the Western forces assisting government troops of their capabilities.
And next week, Operation Caucus 2020 will see 80,000 primarily Russian troops holding 4,800 drills and more than 9,000 hands-on combat training drills in what Defense Minister General Sergei Shoigu described as “the most important event in training at combat of the Russian armed forces “.
NATO responded with a series of coordinated counter-operations. Britain sent a Royal Navy Type 23 frigate to the Arctic Circle with US warships for exercises in the Barents Sea in May, the first time the Navy has ventured there since the Cold War.
This is repeating itself with HMS Sutherland leading a NATO task force of US and Norwegian warships that sailed the Arctic waters of the Barents Sea last week.
The air surveillance flights of NATO spy planes increased by 30%, with 120 sorties on the Black Sea and Ukraine in August alone, compared to 80 last year.
These include 20 astonishing RAF Sentinel spy plane missions, as well as separate flights of RAF Typhoon flights, sending a clear message to Moscow that NATO is watching.
Last night, a senior source at the permanent headquarters, Britain’s secret military headquarters in Middlesex, said: “The decision has been made, to put it simply, to keep the Russian forces as busy as they care.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko
“What we have seen is a significant increase in Russian activity, based on an already aggressive attitude, which coincided with the internal unrest in Belarus.
“In recent weeks they have accelerated their march and appear to be trying to intimidate Western forces across the air, land and sea domains from the North Sea to the Baltic states and Ukraine.
“There are fears that Russia is organizing disinformation operations and otherwise keeping us busy as a form of distraction, drawing our attention and resources in one direction as they prepare to move to Belarus.”
Lukashenko recently ordered half of the country’s army to come in for combat readiness and met with Putin for a mini-summit in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
While publicly stating that he hoped the unrest in Belarus would be resolved internally, Putin offered Russian troops to prevent the country from “getting out of control”.
But the Russian Defense Ministry admitted that 300 Pskov Guard paratroopers belonging to the 76th Russian Assault and Assault Division arrived for training in the Belarusian city of Brest “to participate in the joint Belarusian tactical exercise. Russian Slavic Brotherhood-2020 “.
Serbia, which should have taken part, withdrew, Russia citing EU pressure for the decision.