After more than a year of frequent and provocative incursions by Russian ships, jets, and subs all around Europe, NATO is holding a huge submarine exercise in the North Sea, adjacent to the Baltic. The alliance forces are joined by increasingly close partner Sweden (whose waters also played unwitting host to a purported Russian sub not too long ago). Reuters has more:
More than a dozen vessels from 11 countries are participating in the “Dynamic Mongoose” exercise. NATO will simulate detecting and attacking submarines in one of the most hostile seas, with rugged but shallow underwater canyons, rapid currents and unusually high sound pollution from freshwater pouring in from Norway’s fjords.
NATO’s claims that these exercises aren’t meant to respond to Russia should be taken with a grain of salt:
“Russia has a right to be at sea, just as we do,” Rear Admiral Brad Williamson, the commander of the exercise said. “But the incidents we have seen are not in line with international regulations… and that’s been the cause of concern.”
“This is not a response to that… but provides relevance to the exercise,” Williamson said on board the USS Vicksburg, the lead vessel in the exercise.
Nordic defense ministers issued a strongly worded condemnation of Russia last month, calling it the biggest threat to security, prompting Russia to say that Finland’s and Sweden’s closer ties with NATO were of “special concern”.
This fleet of submarines is a poignant reminder of just how far relations between Russia and the West have deteriorated since the annexation of Crimea. It’s not just the diplomatic fights over Putin’s Ukrainian adventure that characterize the cooldown. The submarine incursions plus the flights Russian military jets are taking without active transponders that threaten civilian airliners have really rankled some European countries, not the mention the U.S. and Japan. As Moscow continues to go down this road, the Cold War analogies will only get more frequent and more apt.