Increased Russian military activity in Europe and what it means

NATO reports today several incidents of Russian military air activity in Europe during the last two days. Groups of military aircraft, including in total six Tupolev Tu-95 strategic bombers that are capable of performing nuclear strikes were discovered by NATO air surveillance over the Black Sea, the North Sea and the Baltic Sea in international airspace.

In all incidents NATO jets intercepted the Russian aircraft. In the Baltic Sea the air forces of non-NATO members Finland and Sweden also intercepted the Russian aircraft. While (Russian) military aircraft activity close to or in other countries’ air space has regularly occurred in the past, the number of 100 intercepts of Russian military aircraft in 2014 so far is according to NATO three times as high as in 2013.

Show of force

This circumstance brought NATO’s report also some relevance in today’s Western news articles. The increase of such incidents in tense political relationships between Russia and the West can be considered as show of force by the Russian side and reaction on increased NATO military presence in Eastern Europe as a result of Russia’s actions in Ukraine that are seen by the West as an act of aggression.

Additionally increased Western media reports on such issues can have a psychological effect on Westerners. As a large group of Europeans is not interested in any kind of conflict since it is considered as threat for the way of life of Western consumers, the effect could be a mentality of laissez-faire towards any future Russian action. Also a certain amount of people in the West support Russia and see their own governments’ and NATO’s actions critically. One theory goes that a certain level of threatening posture could increase in the West the peoples’ feel of insecurity which would result in the demand to political decision makers to rather hold the horses and let Russia kind of free hands to act as long as certain limits are not transgressed. As sanctions against Russia are seen skeptical by many in the West, also the fate of Ukraine (and other conflict areas in the world) are only interesting for people in the West as long as any involvement or reaction of their governments does not appear to threaten their life standard. By increasing military activity and messaging  the West that “we can get you if we want, we are ready to fight“, Russia can achieve this general mental condition also fueled by Western media reporting itself and by Russian media efforts. While the West is according to media reports pondering about Putin’s aims, the Russian president seems to have found Western society’s weak spot that allows him to continue slowly, but surely with actions considered as bad and unjust by the West, but acceptable as long as the Western people can continue with their way of life. One source states that this feature can be considered as a fundamental part of full-scale capitalist societies.

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