US, Russia should establish a link for air operations over the Black Sea – now – Break Defense Breaking Defense

Romania’s F-16 combat falcons fly in formation with an American F-15E Strike Eagle over the Black Sea during exercise 2021. (Romanian Air Force / DVIDS).

With President Joe Biden warning that war between Russia and Ukraine could happen in “a few days”, the situation in Europe only seems to get more dangerous. In it, the US and other NATO allies are pushing their air power to the front lines. In a new paper, Aaron Stein of the Institute for Foreign Policy Studies and Becca Wasser of the Center for a New American Security argue that both the US and Russia benefit from their Syria-based communications. .

Russia’s threat to invade Ukraine is disturbing the balance of forces in Europe, with the United States and NATO members deploying forces and equipment to fortify the eastern flank in response to a military buildup. of Russia. While all eyes are on Ukraine, there are secondary challenges that could emerge in other parts of Europe and could increase the risk of accidental escalation.

The airspace over the Black Sea is an area where dangerous interactions can heighten tensions, as the US and Russian air forces could be in close contact in the skies during the outbreak of the crisis. The good news is that both Washington and Moscow are interested in managing these interactions and installing guard rails for air operations in congested environments. There is even a model to follow: the two countries should exploit the lessons learned from air operations in Syria and establish decoupling mechanisms to ensure that actions in the Black Sea do not get out of hand.

The similarities are clear: like Syria, the Black Sea will represent a crowded space prone to air-to-air interactions with Russian warplanes, along with the threat of missiles. earth-to-air fire remains intact. An unprecedented number of Russian, American and NATO naval vessels with organic assets are currently operating in the Mediterranean and Black Seas. Further, in the Eastern Mediterranean, Russia has demonstrated that it is ready to take positive action in the air against U.S. assets, even during this time of heightened tension.

Read more about the Ukraine crisis here

Russia has yet to invade Ukraine, so an engagement policy costs the West little, and potentially provides a disruptive incentive to continue engaging with Moscow. Given the range of US and European sanctions expected, and the political costs seen as appeasing Moscow, once an invasion begins, it is nearly impossible to implement a concept like so. Given this negative trajectory, it is urgent to find mechanisms for communication now to manage risk and increase transparency.

A narrow, military-to-military mechanism for disassociating air operations is one such option. Deconfliction requires sharing of information and establishing geographic boundaries for activities. As is currently the case in Syria, the US and Russia could agree to notify the other of air activities and where they will take place.

The decryption mechanism will not restrict US or Russian air activities, but instead provides information to both parties about the intentions and planned flights, minimizing potential risks to all aircraft and limit dangerous interactions between the Russian air force and NATO. This approach could serve as a template for managing future NATO air operations in the Black Sea, and as an ancillary benefit, could actually increase the frequency with which the United States flies over the region. this.

How? Without this transparency, it would be reasonable to assume that Russia’s active air defenses can and will monitor US movements – an implied threat that will have to be taken seriously in the future. period of war, if there is no line disconnect. Such tracking could see the US adopting a risk-avoidance strategy that actually reduces the frequency of flights over the Black Sea. Defending NATO airspace would then require the deployment of additional US ground-based air defense systems, which are already over-expanded and in high demand globally.

Without professionalism and care, accidents in the skies over Syria could turn into a larger conflict. Tensions in Ukraine will likely exceed those in Syria, and accidents still happen. Forces affiliated with Russia, operating in eastern Ukraine, shoot down a commercial plane in July 2017, the Syrian army accidentally shot down a Russian plane in 2018, and even US forces operate the Patriot missile defense system during the 2003 invasion of Iraq accidentally shot down an allied plane.

RELATED: Russian Military Construction Near Ukraine Is Also Going On At Sea

Admittedly, this requires two sides and so far Russia has shown little interest in talking. In the face of Russia’s demands to the United States and NATO, the administration outlined its commitment [PDF] use existing military delivery channels to promote predictability and transparency between the two sides and manage the interaction between planned US deployments in Eastern Europe and with Russian forces currently stationed on the border of Ukraine, Crimea and occupied Donbas.

The Russian side did not respond favorably to these demands, continuing to build and use ambiguity to its advantage in negotiations with the parade of Western leaders visiting Moscow to looking for a way out of the crisis. Still, it’s worth it for the Biden administration to work with the millions of channels and see if some sort of link can be established. After all, the last thing the Russian leadership wants is an accident that kills Americans — and risks sending American forces into a Ukraine conflict.

The current confrontation with Ukraine poses a serious challenge to US interests in Europe and to the formulation of US global national security interests. This new reality will change the thinking of Western Americans about the role of the air force in the management of Western-Russian relations and how future air operations may play out in the future. congested environmentvulnerable to frequent challenges from the Russian Aerospace Forces, and the presence of larger numbers of surface-to-air missiles in US patrolled areas.

The United States has an incentive to manage future force interactions, especially in the Black Sea, and should consider formalizing an alignment mechanism with Moscow to increase transparency about its activities. air force over the Black Sea. This approach would reduce the risk for forward-deployed US forces in Eastern Europe and create a template for NATO allies to follow if and when they take over Black Sea air patrols.

Aaron Stein is research director at the Institute for Foreign Policy Studies and author of America’s War Against ISIS: How America and Its Allies Defeat the Caliphate. Becca Wasser is a member of the defense program and co-leader of the Game Lab at the Center for a New American Security, and the lead author of The air war against the Islamic State. US, Russia should establish a link for air operations over the Black Sea – now – Break Defense Breaking Defense

Jake Nichol

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