In early July Russian President Putin began an ‘unprecedented’ purge of senior Russian officials in the Baltic officials — baffling western analysts — and some analysts now report they may have been fired for not harassing U.S. ships in the Baltic Sea.
“Some hint that the ‘buzzing’ of USS Donald Cook by Russian Su-24 fighter-bombers on April 14, 2016 was meant to be part of a broader series of Russian confrontations against Western ships in the Baltic,” international affairs analyst Peter Coates told Australian News. “The Russian Baltic Fleet in April, however, refused to follow such dangerous orders — hence Putin’s retaliation against his own naval officers,” he said.
Russia has undergone a repeated campaign of U.S. harassment since the Ukrainian crisis in 2014. In April 2016 Russia repeatedly buzzed a U.S. destroyer conducting exercises in the Baltic sea. The Russian maneuvers were meant to simulate a bombing run on the U.S. ships in the event of war. In the wake of the incident U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, “under the rules of engagement that could have been a shoot-down.”
Russian aggression on the high seas is not a new phenomenon. On June 30 Russian Frigate Yaroslav Mudry repeatedly passed within unsafe distances of USS Gravely in the Eastern Mediterranean, at one point risking a collision.
Russian harassment is not limited to the sea, since the imposition of crippling U.S. sanctions Russian spies have been hounding U.S diplomats across Europe. In one incident a Russian spy killed an American diplomats dog, in another a spy defecated on a diplomats living room carpet.
The Baltic Sea is now a flashpoint of tension between Russia and NATO, after relative quiet in the inter-cold war period. NATO recently announced a deployment of four battalions to the Baltic States, in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine and Georgia. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called the decision “the biggest reinforcement of collective defense since the end of the Cold War.”
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