North-west Europe, the Baltic Sea and the coastal Scandinavian Arctic are becoming a zone of active large-scale maneuvers of NATO countries, as well as states participating in the program of the Partnership for Peace alliance. The main episodes of NATO exercises are held near the borders of the Russian Federation.
The other day NATO Baltops sea maneuvers were launched on the Baltic Sea, involving more than 40 warships from 14 alliance countries. At the same time, the largest exercises of the Kevadtorm alliance ("Spring storm"), involving almost 9,000 NATO troops, are continuing in Estonia at the training grounds located just a few dozen kilometers from St. Petersburg.
And the Russian Northern Fleet is developing important combat training tasks related to the creation of "highly effective air defense of a detachment of warships at sea crossing." These tasks, as it turns out, are not abstract. And, apparently, the training tasks are related to the beginning of the largest aviation military exercises Arctic Challenge Exercise (ACE-2017) this week, in which more than 100 military aircraft from Finland, Norway, Sweden, Holland, Belgium, Great Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Switzerland and the United States. According to the Swedish Ministry of Defense, they will work out training and combat tasks on interaction, overcoming the air defense area of the probable enemy, conduct aerial reconnaissance, and carry out other exercises related to actions in the so-called conflict zone. According to the official version, these maneuvers do not pass under the aegis of NATO, but are Scandinavian initiative and are held for the third time. Finland is now responsible for their conduct. However, as the official website of the Swedish Armed Forces notes, "the main point for the exercise is the Norwegian airbase Bude." And Norway, as everyone know, is a member of NATO. Exactly NATO aviation will make the main group up on the maneuvers of the ACE-2017. In addition to the Norwegian multifunctional fighters of the fourth generation F-16 Fighting Falcon, similar aircraft from Belgium, all-weather F-15 fighters from the United States, modernized fighter-bombers GR4 from Britain, multipurpose fighters of the fourth generation Mirage 2000 and Dassault Rafale from France participate in the "Arctic Challenge". It is especially alarming that apart from them, an American multifunctional, long-range, subsonic, jet-powered strategic bomber Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, as well as AWACS long-range radar detectors, tankers and various helicopters, including rescue helicopters, are planned to be used in the aviation group ACE-2017.
On the website of the Armed Forces of Norway, these maneuvers are called one of the largest in Europe. And "the scenario of exercises is an international peacekeeping operation of management in accordance with the UN mandate". True, it is not very clear why US strategic aviation, fighter-bombers, participate in the "peacekeeping operation", and the objectives of the operation are related to "tactics and procedures for aviation operations in real conditions of the enemy's air defense threat".
As Russian military expert Lieutenant-General Yuri Netkachev believes, "here is an explicit plan for a combat operation, not a peacekeeping operation." According to the expert, "this is a provocation against Russia. Apparently, it is no coincidence that in May 2015 the Arctic Challenge Exercise was held for the first time, Vladimir Putin organized a sudden military check of the units and formations of the Air Force and Air Defense, which were transferred to the northwestern borders of the Russian Federation. Since then, Russia has strengthened its defense in the north-west and in the Arctic. But the countries of Scandinavia and NATO for some reason organized a massive air training in the north of Europe for the third time. "
There are disputed territories on which large hydrocarbon deposits are located in the Arctic. Many of them consider Russia their own, which runs counter to the interests of other countries, including some Scandinavian states, the United States and Canada. So, there was a need to organize military exercises on the new theater. And, interestingly, for these purposes, not only the countries of the alliance, but also other countries unite against the Russian Federation under peacekeeping slogans. This is a dead-end road. Such matters should be solved diplomatically and politically.