Let us say that the US Defense Secretary (Jim Mattis)’s airplane, when flying from California to Alaska, along an air corridor on the Pacific, had been intercepted by a Russian bomber fighter belonging to the Cuban Air Force. What would happen? The news would bomb the front pages, precipitating a wave of worried, political reactions. Yet no ink was spilt, when on 21 June, Sergei Shoigu, (the Russian Defense Minister)’s airplane, flying from Moscow to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, along the appropriate corridor on the Baltic Sea, had been intercepted by an US bomber fighter (F-16), that after having drawn threateningly close, was forced to retreat due to the intervention of the Russian bomber fighter SU-27.

A programmed operations that falls within Nato’s strategy aimed at growing, adding a twee bit each day, tension to Europe’s relationship with Russia.

From 1 to 16 June, the Nato drill Baltops was conducted in the Baltic Sea, going right up to the Russian border. And the official justification? To defend the region from the “Russian threat”. In this drill, more than 50 ships and 50 war planes participated from the following countries: Nato members (United States, France, Germany, Great Britain, Poland) and Nato partners, such as Sweden and Finland.

Overlapping in time, from 12 to 23 June, Drill Iron Wolf took place in Lithuania which sees engaged for the first time together, two groups of Nato battalions with “an empowered advanced presence”: the group in Lithuania is under German command, and includes Belgian, Dutch and Norwegian troops and, from 2018, will also include French, Croatian and Czech troops; the one in Poland, is under US Command and includes British and Romanian troops. Abrams armoured tanks of the US 3a Brigade, transferred to Poland last January, have entered Lithuania through the Suwalki Gap, a stretch of flat land, 100 km long between Kaliningrad and Belorussia, linking up with the Leopard tanks, part of the German battalion 122 of the mechanized infantry.

The Suwalki Gap, warns Nato, reviving the tools of propaganda applied in the old Cold War “would be a perfect gap through which the Russians could invade Europe”.

In full activity are also the other two groups of the Nato battalions: the one in Lithuania under Canadian command, including Italian, Spanish, Polish, Slovakian and Albanian troops; the one in Estonia under British command, including French troops and from 2018, also Danish troops. “Our forces are ready and positioned should it be necessary to contain Russian aggression”, assures General Curtis Scaparotti, who is Head of the US European Command and, at the same time, the Supreme Allied Command in Europe.

For not only are mobilized groups of Nato battalions “at empowered advance presence”. From 12 – 29 June, the drill, Coalition Warrior, is underway at the Nato Centre for Joint Training in Poland. The purpose of this drill is to test out the most advanced technology that will provide Nato the greatest ability to spring into action and inter-operability, in particular when confronting Russia. In this operation more than 1,000 scientists and engineers are participating from 26 countries. These include those from the Nato Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation based at La Spezia.

Moscow, clearly, is not just going to sit there. After President Trump’s forthcoming visit to Poland (6 July), Russia will organize a massive joint naval exercise with China in the Baltic Sea.

Who knows if our friends in Washington are familiar with the multiplier effect as enunciated in that an ancient Chinese proverb, “He who sows wind, will harvest a tempest”

Anoosha Boralessa
Il Manifesto (Italy)