07 Mar 16. As followers of the ELN’s work will know, we have been conducting research into close military-military and military-civilian encounters between NATO countries and partners and Russia over the last two years. (1) Between March 2014 and March 2015 alone, we logged over 60 dangerous incidents in the Euro-Atlantic area. We are pleased that this work is profiled in the newly released Munich Security Conference Report 2016, (2) because our contention has been and remains that, against the backdrop of wider mistrust and tension in the NATO-Russia relationship, the ongoing incidents have the potential to trigger a major crisis between a nuclear armed state and a nuclear armed alliance. More specifically, if additional crisis avoidance mechanisms are not put in place, more recent assertive Russian military activities, coupled with reassurance measures adopted by NATO in response, will increase the risks to stability in Europe. Anyone who doubts the potential consequences should reflect on the wider diplomatic and economic ramifications of the Turkey-Russia shoot-down near the Turkey-Syria border in November 2015.
That there is a gap that needs to be filled should be beyond doubt. There is today no agreement between NATO and Russia on how to manage close military encounters. Instead, an incomplete patchwork of bi-lateral Cold War era agreements exists between some NATO countries and Russia but not others.