Yesterday three Western supplied drone boats attacked a Russian ship guarding the Turkstream pipeline. Russia claims all were destroyed but there is video that suggests one hit the Russian ship. This attack is the latest in a series of events over the last three weeks where Ukraine is hitting targets in Russia with U.S. and British supplied weapons. In addition to this maritime drone attack Ukraine has carried out the following:
- A cross border incursion in the Belgorod region with U.S. supplied vehicles and weapons. The attack was repulsed with heavy losses on the Ukrainian side.
- Sporadically launching artillery and himars attacks on Russian civilians towns along the border
- A drone attack on the Kremlin.
- The use of British Storm Shadow cruise missiles to hit targets in Russia.
None of these attacks are “game changers” in terms of the strategic picture, they are fueling a rising tide of anger in Russia that is likely to ratchet up pressure for a stronger military response. The maritime attack on the Russian ship guarding the Turkstream pipeline is especially puzzling because it is indirectly an attack on a member of NATO (i.e., Turkiye). Just what NATO needs, alienating the NATO member with the second largest army in NATO.
The media is discounting the possibility that was sanctioned by the U.S. or the U.K. and suggesting it was carried out by Ukraine without consulting its NATO partners. However, my new friend, Steve Bryen, has an excellent piece posted at the Asia Times on the Turkstream pipeline incident that explains why this was not a unilateral Ukrainian operation:
There are a number of disturbing facts about this operation.
The first is that the Ukrainians were preparing to attack the Turkstream pipeline and needed to knock out the Russian ship helping to guard it. Turkstream moves natural gas at an annual capacity of 31.5 billion cubic meters and consists of two 930-kilometer offshore lines and two separate onshore lines that are 142 kilometers (88.2 miles) and 70 kilometers long.
One of the customers for Russian gas from this pipeline is Hungary. It would deal a substantial blow to Hungary if Turkstream were destroyed, and that could lead to a government upheaval in that country. Hungary, under Viktor Orbán, is regarded by Washington as pro-Russian. . . .
The Ukrainians carried out this operation in the Bosporus, around 80 miles from the Turkish mainland. It is reasonable to say that this attack wasn’t just on the Russians, but it was the first part of an attack on a NATO ally, Turkey and other gas consumers, especially Hungary – also a NATO ally.
The long distance from Ukraine proper suggests that Ukraine would have needed real-time intelligence to locate the Russian ship and target it.
Here comes the disturbing part. Reportedly there was a US RQ-4 remotely piloted surveillance aircraft in the vicinity of this incident. The RQ-4 could have provided real-time targeting information and also could have relayed the same information to the Ukrainian unmanned naval drone. While there is no hard evidence that the RQ-4 played any role, how else could Ukraine have managed this operation?
While the United States and the rest of NATO are feigning ignorance about the attack, the key fact is that Ukraine needed targeting data that only NATO intelligence sources could provide. This means that the United States played a direct role in this attack. When you add this incident to the cross-border incursion in the Belgorod region where U.S.-supplied vehicles carried out the attack, Russia can only conclude that the United States in becoming more involved in the war against Russia.
This marks a dangerous escalation in the war and Russia is unlikely to shrug it off as insignificant. Besides the maritime drone attack, two U.S. B-1 bombers in the Baltic flew close to Russian air space and were intercepted by Russian fighter planes. Add to this the recent Biden reversal giving the green light to send F-16 fighter aircraft to Ukraine and the deployment in late 2022 of elements of the 101s and 82nd airborne units in Poland and Romania respectively. Those troops are still there.
Russia also is carefully watching the upcoming NATO exercise, Air Defender 23:
Air Defender 23 will be the most significant military exercise ever carried out over the European skies. The event will take place from June 12th until June 23rd, involving the air forces of 25 nations.
More specifically, Air Defender 23 will represent the most extensive deployment exercise of air forces in the history of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, commonly known as NATO. The unprecedented event will involve up to 10,000 exercise participants who will train their flying skills with approximately 220 aircraft. The military exercise will take place in European airspace and under the command of the German Air Force, or Luftwaffe.
While NATO can pretend that this is just a routine exercise, a “training” operation of this size and scale against the backdrop of heightened tensions in the region is akin to lighting a match in a gasoline storage tank. It increases the possibility of the war in Ukraine expanding to a full blown conflict with NATO.
It appears that the United States is prepared to take more desperate, ill-advised actions in the wake of the Ukrainian defeat at Bakhmut. There are no gestures of conciliation emanating from Washington. Just the opposite — more bellicose rhetoric and actions.
Russia, for its part, is not sitting on its hands. In the early hours of Friday, Ukrainian TG-channels reported on Geraniums UAV and aerial bomber attacks in Sumy, Chernigov and Zapozhye regions, as well as in Dnepropetrovsk region. Explosions also are reported in Kupyanskiy district of Kharkov region tonight. Yesterday, Russia hit he dam at the Karlovskoye reservoir, which is 40 km north-west of Donetsk and is a critical supply route for Ukrainian Armed Forces in the Donetsk region. This makes it more difficult for Ukraine to supply its forces on the East side of the Volcha river and creates more obstacles Ukraine must surmount if it hopes to launch a successful counter-offensive.
It appears that Russia’s three week long bombing campaign — using strategic bombers — is taking a toll on the forces Ukraine has been assembling for their long awaited counter offensive. Ukrainian losses are making it difficult to assemble the the man power and fire power required to launch and sustain an offensive operation beyond a few days. We will know for certain within the coming weeks.
I will put it simply — we are living in the most dangerous time in World history since the start of World War II. The United States is showing no sign of backing down from its effort to keep the war going in Ukraine in the futile hope of weakening Russia. And Russia is intensifying its operations to decimate Ukraine’s military capabilities. This appears to be a toxic recipe for a horrendous collision. I hope I am wrong.