photo by U.S. Army Europe Photos via Flickr
Escalating conflicts in Ukraine have NATO’s eyes fixated on Russia once again, as relations between the country and the West continue to deteriorate.
Since 2014, fighting in Ukraine has resulted in the deaths of almost 5,400 people and injured another 12,000 according to the U.N.
These numbers have only continued to escalate since the start of 2015, with 224 killed in just three weeks leading up to February.
Though Russia’s incursion into Ukraine has been the impetus for deteriorated relations between Russia and the West, they haven’t been the only driving factors.
Below are some major events contributing to the decline of Russia and the West:
A change in Russia’s nuclear strategy
Britain’s defense minister Michael Fallon has recently voiced concern over what he calls a “lowered threshold” for Russia’s nuclear weapons.
These concerns stem partly from Russia’s multi-billion dollar military program, which U.S. officials say have increased reliance on nuclear weapons.
Additionally NATO officials are concerned over a call by some of Russia’s military officials for “first strike” options which would give Russian military officers power to launch offensive nuclear attacks as opposed to only defensive.
- Russia has begun emphasizing its nuclear program and some officials in Russia’s military are calling for first strike capabilities for nuclear weapons
- Valery Gerasimov has said that Russia’s military expects to receive 50 new intercontinental nuclear missiles this year
- U.K. Minister of Defense has called to modernize their nuclear defense systems as a result of Russia’s nuclear proliferation
NATO bolsters rapid reaction force
Resulting from Russia’s military incursion into Ukraine in March of 2014, NATO’s has begun formulating a plan on creating a rapid reaction force in the Baltic region intended to deter the spread of violence.
Recent escalations in violence have fueled NATO’s talks of sending 5,000 troops to command posts all across the Baltic. This will likely only escalate tensions between the two.
- If 5,000 troops are sent to command posts in the Baltic it will be the largest amount of reinforcements mobilized by NATO since the Cold War
- Altogether 30,000 troops may be assigned to bolster NATO’s defenses
- Command posts will potentially be located in six of NATO’s member states, some of which border Russia
map from The Guardian
More close-calls and intercepts of Russian aircraft
As we’ve detailed previously, there has been a major spike in the amount of Russian incursion into foreign airspace–a trend which has continued into 2015.
According to CNN, two armed Russian bombers were recently intercepted by Royal Air Force flying just outside of U.K. borders. According to the report, the aircraft were nuclear capable and “caused disruption to civil aviation.”
- Since 2013, incursions into NATO airspace have increased by three times
- NATO has, in response, bolstered their air power in NATO member states
- Such incursions reportedly have nearly resulted in crashes in Sweden
map from CNN.com
With the U.S. considering the decision to arm Ukraine fighters, the conflict continues to inch towards major escalation.
A glimmer of hope, however, remains in peace talks between European leaders and Russia’s President Putin.