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Europe on Fire

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Photo: Russians are aimed at testing the strength of the common security system of European states. Source: Collage The Gaze.
Photo: Russians are aimed at testing the strength of the common security system of European states. Source: Collage The Gaze.

In early September, Russian UAVs violated Romanian airspace. Romanian President Klaus Iohannis emphasized that "the discovery by the Romanian authorities of new drone fragments on Romanian territory near the border with Ukraine... indicates an unacceptable violation of the airspace of Romania, a NATO member state, with real risks to the safety of Romanian citizens in the area." For its part, the Romanian Foreign Ministry urgently summoned the head of the Russian diplomatic mission because of the wreckage of Russian drones on Romanian territory and protested to the Russian side over the violation of the country's airspace. 

This fact is not unique, as since the beginning of the first wave of Russian aggression against Ukraine in 2014, the level of escalation of threats and the scale of Russian subversive activities on the territory of both mainland and island Europe have only increased. The second wave of Russian aggression has only added a number of new manifestations of hostile actions by Russia against all European countries. And such actions of the Russians are aimed at testing the strength of the common security system of European states and studying its strengths and weaknesses.

Escalation of threats

The fact that Russia was preparing for war with Ukraine in advance is confirmed, albeit indirectly, by sabotage and terrorist acts in other countries that could help Ukraine with weapons and ammunition. 

For example, Bulgaria found a Russian trace in four explosions at its ammunition depots in 2011-2020. This was stated by the spokesperson for the Chief Prosecutor of Bulgaria, Sika Mileva. The first explosion occurred in November 2011 at a warehouse that stored a large amount of ammunition and explosives. They were intended for export to Georgia and belonged to the companies of businessman Omelyan Gebrev, who was later poisoned twice by the Russians with Novichok. Bellingcat later proved that this was done by the same unit that carried out the attack on Skripal in the UK. The next two cases occurred in 2015 at the same warehouse, and the last explosion took place in 2020 at the Arsenal plant in Kazanlyk.

Since mid-2014, after the annexation of Crimea and the seizure of parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Russians have struck for the first time against European civilians. On July 17, 2014, a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777, which was operating a scheduled flight MH17 from Amsterdam (Netherlands) to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), was shot down in Donetsk region. All passengers and crew were killed, a total of 298 citizens of different countries, mostly from the EU. In terms of the number of victims, the Boeing 777 crash was the largest in the history of Ukraine. However, there was no unequivocal condemnation of the Russian Federation's actions by Western countries. Therefore, Russia resorted to new terrorist attacks. 

On October 16, 2014, an explosion occurred at an arms depot in the eastern part of the Czech Republic, causing numerous destructions and the deaths of two local residents. Only 6.5 years later, the investigation found out the cause of those events, namely, on April 17, 2021, at an urgently called press conference, the Czech government officially accused Russia of organizing this sabotage. The 2014 explosions at ammunition depots in the Czech Republic were part of a long-term GRU operation aimed at reducing Ukraine's defense capabilities.

On March 4, 2018, an attempt was made to assassinate former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal, a British citizen, and his daughter Yulia Skripal, a citizen of the Russian Federation, in Salisbury, United Kingdom. This attempt was the first use of a nerve agent on the territory of a NATO member state since the Alliance's founding and in Europe since World War II, and led to a sharp deterioration in relations between Russia and the West. 

Drone attacks 

The second wave of Russian aggression against Ukraine, which began on February 24, 2022, has somewhat changed the nature of Russia's actions that threaten the collective security of the EU and NATO countries. Most of the reported cases of hostile activity at this time were violations of Western airspace by Russian VKS military aircraft and Russian strike and reconnaissance UAVs. Russian missiles and drones were also recorded falling on the territory of Ukraine's neighboring states.

In early October 2022, the Italian Air Force reported that Italian Eurofighter jets were scrambled to intercept 4 Russian fighters in Polish airspace after they first violated the airspace of Poland and then Sweden "before returning to Kaliningrad." 

Russian cruise missiles violated Moldova's airspace several times. Thus, on October 10, 2022, during a massive missile attack on Ukraine, at least three missiles flew over its territory. And on October 31, a Russian cruise missile, apparently one of those that attacked the Dniester hydroelectric power plant, fell in the town of Naslavcea in northern Moldova.

On November 16, 2022, Poland officially confirmed that a Russian missile had fallen on its territory (Hrubieszów County, Lubelskie Voivodeship). Russian Ambassador Sergei Andreev was summoned to the Polish Foreign Ministry in this regard. The Polish president also had telephone conversations with the NATO Secretary General, the presidents of Ukraine and the United States. Relevant consultations were held at the level of heads of government and defense ministers of NATO countries. In addition, Poland decided to increase the combat readiness of some military units and other security forces, as well as to hold consultations on the possibility of launching a procedure under Article 5 of the NATO Treaty. 

A month later, on December 16, 2022, another Russian missile warhead was found near the city of Bydgoszcz in central Poland. The head of the Polish presidential administration, Pawel Szrota, told RMF FM radio that the warhead was made of concrete and did not contain explosives. That is, the missile was a decoy target used by Russian troops to overload Ukrainian air defense.

In early February 2023, Dutch F-35 fighter jets intercepted a group of three Russian military aircraft in Polish airspace and escorted them to the borders of the Kaliningrad region of the Russian Federation.

In April 2023, German and British fighters intercepted Russian Su-27 and Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft flying over the Baltic Sea without transponder signals.

Realizing that the level of escalation would only increase, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia agreed to increase defense spending and offered NATO to implement a rotational air defense model by providing their own capabilities. 

***

All of the above indicates that Russia not only violates international law, but also endangers the safety and lives of citizens of other countries. This behavior of the Russian Federation requires a more decisive response from the international community.

NATO member states and other countries should continue to strengthen their defense capabilities and cooperate within the framework of collective security. It is also important to ensure effective airspace control to prevent hostile aircraft and drones from intruding into European Union airspace.

In general, the security of Europe is the most important issue for all countries on the continent. Therefore, the international community must act together to ensure sustainable peace and stability in the region.

Ukraine, which is experiencing unprecedented aggression from Russia, needs international support and protection. Russian aggression is a challenge to all civilized countries. It must be stopped. To do so, the Armed Forces of Ukraine need more international assistance, including modern weapons and training for soldiers and officers on how to use them. 

It is also necessary to continue the policy of political and economic sanctions pressure on Russia, which slowly but steadily reduces its military potential.

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