Thursday, November 06, 2014

Russia encircles Europe from the Air

As tensions between Russia and NATO intensifies since the Ukraine crisis, the Russian Air Force is encircling Europe, not just from the Baltic and the Black seas, but from the North Atlantic airspace off Norway and Scotland. This implies that Russia can cut the supply lines of both eastern and western front lines of Europe. This news draws my attention, because I frequently see information that Typhoon fighters scramble against Russian bombers flying over Scotland on the official Facebook page of the Royal Air force. Particularly, Russian provocation to NATO airspace on October 29 was subsequent and outrageous. Lieutenant Colonel Jay Janzen, Spokesman for NATO’s military command in Mons, Belgium, said “The flights we’ve seen in the last 24 hours, the size of those flights and some of the flight plans are definitely unusual”(“NATO says Russian jets, bombers circle Europe in unusual incidents”; Washington Post; October 29, 2014). It was coincided with annually held Global Thunder exercise by the US Strategic Command. Richard Cliff, Reader of the Aviationist points out that Russia launched similar long range bombers that joined US exercise (“Spike in Russian Air Force activity in Europe may be a reaction to large US Strategic Command bombers exercise”; Aviationist; October 30, 2014).

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has to be more well aware of considerable tension in the air. Scotland definitely needs UK defense umbrella from Russian air intrusion, and things are beyond Trident strategic missile submarines at Faslane naval base. Russia’s encirclement line on the western front stretches further to Portugal. Scottish airspace is vital to stop it. Interestingly, western front nations like Britain and Norway face direct threat Russia as New Europe nations in the Baltic and Black Sea regions do, while Old Europe nations do not. This may be one of the reasons why Old Europe, notably Germany, is more soft liner to Russia than Britain and New Europe. When we talk of Russian threat in Europe, we tend to focus on the eastern front line, since we are accustomed to see standardized world maps like the Mercator projection. The Russian navy and air force can move aggressively into the Scottish air-sea sphere from the Murmansk area via the Barents Sea.




Historically, the air-sea sphere from Norway to Scotland has been a dispute filed of great powers. In both World Wars, Britain and Germany fought hard. During the Cold War, this area was NATO's defense line to stop the Soviet surface and undersea fleets. Today, this is a zone of the Anglo-Russian clash. I would like to argue that a Russian dominance of the Norwegian-Scottish air-sea sphere can cut off the sea lane from Asia to Europe. These days, the potential of the Northern Sea Route draws much attention among policymakers of both Asia and Europe. But even if taking the route off Canada, international trade fleets would face critical threats of Russia when they go into the great power rivaling air-sea sphere.

From this perspective, we must also pay attention to Russian naval aggressivism. US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert told that Russian submarines were increasingly active since the Ukrainian crisis while the surface fleets were aging (“CNO Greenert: Russian Navy ‘Very Busy in the Undersea Domain’”; USNI News; November 4, 2014). Nuclear attack submarines or hunter killers are one of the effective ways to counter undersea threats. The Faslane naval base also accommodates the Astute class submarines, which is one of the best hunter killers of the world. They are equipped with the most effective sonar system (“Astute Class Submarines”; BAE Systems Products), which is a vital advantage to conduct “first look, first shot, first kill” for stealthy arsenals. The air and the sea around Scotland is so strategically important to stop Russia.

Remember Russia acts similarly in East Asia. The Japanese Air Self Defense Force scrambled 533 times against Russian intrusion in the past 6 months, which is more frequently than 308 times in the same period last year (“Russian Jets Invading Japan Airspace In Record Numbers Over Past Year, Japan Wants To Know Why”; Inquisitr; October 19, 2014). Whatever President Vladimir Putin says, this is what Russia does to Japan. Our nation faces the same threat as NATO does. Nationalists and left wingers argue that Japan act self reliant and independently of the West regarding the Ukrainian issue. Definite fact tells us that is absolutely not! I wonder whether they have any proof that the Kremlin is generous to Japan deep in their heart.

Europe and Asia face common threats of Russia. Therefore, both sides need to deepen strategic coordination. Among European nations, Britain is the most willing to seek closer ties with East Asia, as indicated in the word of “re-prioritisation” (“Does Britain Matter in East Asia?”; Chatham House Research Paper; September 2014). Security conditions in the air-sea spheres around Scotland and Hokkaido are so similar.