The fact that Russia more than likely intends to initiate military action against Ukraine is finally being accepted. For weeks now NATO, the European Union and the United States have been operating under the premise that diplomacy would break through and alleviate the crisis before it reached the critical stage. Now that it has become apparent Vladimir Putin has always intended for it to reach this point, NATO and the US are becoming serious about the defense of the alliance’s Eastern Flank. There is a significant amount of military activity going on in Eastern Europe. USAFE (United States Air Force Europe) is moving US warplanes into Romania and Poland to reinforce NATO air forces in the east. F-16s from Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany have arrived in Romania and F-15C Eagles from the 493rd Fighter Squadron/49th Fighter Wing have deployed to Lask Air Base in Poland. Great Britain is expected to deploy RAF assets to Romania as well as 1,000 troops and the US announced today that another 3,000 paratroopers will be moved to Poland by early next week.
Western governments are also advising their citizens to leave Ukraine as quickly as possible. The US, British and Israeli governments are just three of the many now issuing warnings as it becomes clear the amount of time for them to leave Ukraine could be running out.
Author’s Note: Very short update tonight and I apologize. Work interfered this afternoon. I had intended on a longer, more detailed update but unfortunately, that will have to wait until tomorrow. –Mike
Next week, six US F-15C Eagles and around 100 airmen from the 173rd Fighter Wing (Oregon ANG) will arrive in Finland to take part in joint exercises with the Finnish Air Force. This marks the first time that US fighters are participating in exercises on Finnish soil and it comes as tension between Russia and NATO remains high. Military cooperation between the US and Finland has increased in recent years. Finland, like its neighbors, has been unnerved by Russia’s behavior in the Baltic region lately.
The US participation in the Finnish exercises is just one of many USAF rotations that have taken place in Europe lately. In April, US fighters deployed to Iceland for air-policing duties over the North Atlantic nation, and to the Netherlands for the annual Frisian Flag exercises. Later in April, three sections of F-22 Raptors arrived at RAF Lakenheath in England and continued training at other locations in Europe until May, including Romania. All of this activity comes under the auspices of Operation Atlantic Resolve.
Eastern Europe has been a beehive of military activity so far in 2016. Russia and NATO have been engaged in a prolonged series of moves and countermoves. From the forests of the Baltic States and Poland to the Baltic Sea and the skies above it, military units have been maneuvering and in some cases encountering forces from the other side. Sometimes on purpose, other times inadvertently. The perils that come with these encounters is very real and cannot be overlooked. The USS.Donald Cook encounter in the Baltic and the Russian interception of a USAF RC-135 provide perfect examples of situations where one wrong move can result in disaster and potentially lead to a shooting war.