Baltic and Arctic, “volatile” maritime areas under surveillance
Until the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, the Baltic and the Arctic remained relatively secondary areas of interest for most Western staffs. But as the shock wave of the conflict stretches out, the Far North – of which Russia is one of the main neighbors – is increasingly seen as a possible spillover region. A “volatile zone” summarizes a French officer. In particular since the start of the NATO accession process for Finland and Sweden at the end of June.
On Monday, August 15, Russia accused a British RC-135 spy plane of violating its airspace near Murmansk, where the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet is based, and dispatched a MIG-31 interceptor for the chase it away. An event called “deliberate provocation” by Moscow but denied by London.
Vigilance had already been reinforced, after the holding, on July 31, of the traditional Russian Navy Festival, as every year on the Neva, in Saint Petersburg, the birthplace of Vladimir Putin located on the shores of the Baltic. This great military parade is often the occasion for shows of force on the part of Moscow even if, this year, part of the festivities which were to take place in Sevastopol, in Crimea, headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet, have been canceled. because of the war.
While the United Kingdom was the first country, at the end of March, to announce a “new strategy” for the High North, the Royal Navy practiced following, on July 16 and 19, two Russian submarines surrendering to this parade along the Norwegian coast. A presence that she had a good time revealing when they surfaced, just opposite Bergen, very close to the main base of the Royal Norwegian Navy, the largest in the Nordic countries.
One of these buildings, a ballistic missile nuclear submarine (SNLE), the Severodvinsk, has been identified as the one who carried out a test in the Barents Sea, in the fall of 2021, of a feared new cruise missile, presented as “hypersonic” by the Russians, and baptized the Tsirkon. For the Severodvinsk and accompanying submarine, both nuclear-powered and Iassen-class, this was their first trip to the Baltic, according to the site Barents Observe.
Activities suspended at the Arctic Council
This game of cat and mouse between Russians and Westerners has been recurrent for several years in the cold waters of the Arctic and the Baltic. Many Russian planes flirt with the air identification zone of neighboring countries. Russia also carries out missile tests there without necessarily respecting the advance warning measures to avoid accidents.
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