The relationship between Russia and NATO had gotten worse over the last 18 months since the Ukraine crisis erupted. This is particularly alarming since the situation has a nuclear armed state on one side and a nuclear armed alliance on the other, a Pan-European Task Force on Cooperation in Greater Europe said.
In the paper titled Avoiding War in Europe: How to reduce the Risk of A Military Encounter between Russia and NATO, the task force said the situation between Russia and NATO is “ripe with potential for either dangerous miscalculation or an accident that could trigger a further worsening of the crisis or even a direct military confrontation between Russia and the West.” The task force, which has foreign and defense ministers from the U.K., Poland, Russia, Germany, Turkey and France as members, noted that many commentators are now openly speculating about an impending new Cold War.
The dangers of a new Cold War happening is heightened by the increase in close military encounters between Russia and NATO military forces. There had also been heightened close encounters with Russian military forces and those of Sweden and Finland, the task force said in the paper.
As noted by the European Leadership Network, there had been 66 incidents of close encounters between Russia and NATO since March 2014. The network noted that 50 of these encounters are identified as “near routine” and three were classified as high risk.
The network also noted that NATO reported a greater number of intercepts. The alliance said it conducted over 400 intercepts of Russian aircraft in 2014, noting that this number is four times higher than the number of intercepts in 2013. Russia, on the other hand, reported more than 3,000 intercepts of NATO tactical aircraft near its borders in 2014.
In order to prevent the looming new Cold War, the task force suggested NATO-Russia council to meet immediately to discuss a possible Memorandum of Understanding. The memorandum shall specify the Rules of Behavior for the Safety of Air and Maritime Encounters between the two sides.
As summarized by the European Leadership Network, the agreement proposed by the task force shall do the following:
– Set out the principles and procedures of communication that should be observed during encounters between military vessels and aircraft;
– Require each side to give timely hazard warnings if military exercises and live weapons firing are to take place in a vicinity where military assets of the other side are operational;
– Commit each side to communicate in a timely fashion about the maneuvering intentions of military vessels and military aircraft.
– Avoiding simulations of attacks by aiming guns, missiles, fire control radar, torpedo tubes or other weapons in the direction of military vessels and military aircraft encountered.
– Agree the radio frequencies to be used for communication and the signals vocabulary to be used if spoken language difficulties between commanding officers or masters are encountered.
– Contain a provision for an annual assessment meeting, led by senior military officers, of any events relating to the application of the agreement in practice.