A top U.S. and NATO Military official have expressed concerned over the recent Russian naval activity in Europe. The official said that the activity exceeds levels seen during the Cold War. The NATO official was expressing concern that the distributed nature of the deployments could end up splitting and distracting the transatlantic alliance.
The head of NATO's Allied Joint Force Command in Naples, Navy Admiral Michelle Howard also commands U.S. naval forces in Europe and Africa, he said that Russia had clearly stepped up its naval actions in recent years although the size of its navy was smaller now than during the Cold War. Howard told Reuters during an interview late on Sunday that the activity being seen did not even match the Soviet Union, adding that it was precedential activity.
Howard, who was speaking at a missile defense conference cited various activities such as Russia's deployment of its Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier to the Mediterranean, increased patrols in the north Atlantic and Arctic region, submarine deployments, and submarine movement in the Black Sea. Howard emphasized that he understands that Russia is a global Navy but he also pointed out that the Russian activity has moved up in the last couple of years.
Howard’s statement comes at a time when the tensions between the United States and Russia have increased after Trump launched 59 cruise missiles against an air base in Syria in retaliation for a deadly toxic gas attack that killed Syrian citizens.
Howard also said that Russian naval activity was also matched by the increased cyber-attacks by Moscow and the fly-bys by Russian aircraft on U.S. at sea. Relations between the West and Moscow have been strained after Russia captured the Crimea region of Ukraine in 2014.
In a bid to build up a deterrent and underscore the strength of the alliance, NATO has built up physical forces in Poland and the Baltic states. However, European officials have also expressed concerned about Russia’s use of propaganda and Cyber-attacks.
Russia views NATO’s buildup of troops in Europe as a provocation. In response, Howard said members of NATO had rallied to increase their capabilities and send a clear signal about the strength and resolve of the alliance. Howard also addressed a recent agreement by Germany and Norway to build new submarines as a sign of increased cooperation.