The London-based European Leadership Network released a report today on the “dangerous brinkmanship” between Russia and the West, one instance of which could have resulted in a passenger plane crash.
The report collates 40 incidents over the past eight months, the most alarming of which was a near-collision in March between a Russian military aircraft and a Scandinavian Airlines plane carrying 132 passengers. The Russian plane wasn’t transmitting its position at the time and a potential disaster “was apparently avoided thanks only to good visibility and the alertness of the passenger plane pilots.”
Swedish television reported two months later that the country’s authorities found reasons to forego opening an investigation — though this perhaps would not have been the case had the incident occurred after the shoot-down of MH17 over Ukraine on July 17, which killed 298 people. Either way, it seems that Russia narrowly avoided an MH17-like disaster during the opening weeks of the still-ongoing Ukraine crisis.
The report categorized two other incidents as high risk: the abduction of Estonian operative Eston Kohver from a border post, and the likely presence of a Russian submarine in Swedish territorial waters (though the hunt for the sub was inconclusive).
NATO pilots have scrambled to intercept Russian aircraft more than 100 times this year, the report cites, about three times more than in 2013. But this year has also seen a series of escalations between Russia and the west, including the annexation of Crimea, and Moscow’s assistance to pro-Russian separatists fighting in Ukraine’s still-restive east.
“This mix of beefed-up military postures along the NATO-Russia border, more aggressive Russian activities, and the readiness of Western forces to show resolve in the face of the challenge, is ripe with potential for escalation,” the report states.
Yesterday, the investigative journalism site Bellingcat also posted an article presenting additional evidence that the weapon responsible for downing the airliner may have been Russian-supplied.
The Swedish near-miss further demonstrates that the strategic and tactical recklessness which caused the Malaysian plane’s destruction was hardly an isolated phenomena.
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