Recent Russian naval activity in Europe exceeds levels seen during the Cold War, a top U.S. and NATO military officer said, voicing concern that the distributed nature of the deployments could end up ”splitting and distracting” the transatlantic alliance, according to Reuters.
”We`re seeing activity that we didn`t even see when it was the Soviet Union. It`s precedential activity,” Navy Admiral Michelle Howard, who heads NATO`s Allied Joint Force Command in Naples and commands U.S. naval forces in Europe and Africa, told Reuters.
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Howard cited a wide range of activities, including Russia`s deployment of its Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier to the Mediterranean, increased patrols in the north Atlantic and Arctic region, significant out-of-area submarine deployments, and submarine movement in the Black Sea.
”They`re a global navy, I understand that. But the activity in this theater has substantially moved up in the last couple of years,” Howard said.
She said there was a danger that members of the NATO alliance would focus on the area of interest closest to them, while losing sight of Russian activities in other areas.
”When … you think about what happens when they move forces around, you look at the alliance and they end up splitting and distracting the view of the alliance,” she said.
Howard`s comments came amid a sharp escalation in tensions between Russia and the United States after Washington launched 59 cruise missiles against an air base in Syria in retaliation for a deadly toxic gas attack that killed scores of people.
Howard said the Russian naval maneuvers had been matched by increased persistent cyber attacks by Moscow, and a steady number of unprofessional ”fly bys” by Russian aircraft of U.S. and other allied vessels at sea.
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