Last Tuesday, a Russian Su-24 aircraft conducted a simulated attack against a U.S. destroyer, the Donald Cook, operating in the Baltic Sea. The action violated a 1973 treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union aimed at preventing “incidents at sea.” A provision of the treaty specifically prohibits “simulating attacks.” This incident was only one of several involving the Donald Cook over a two-day period.
What’s going on here? The short answer: Russian provocation. It is part of a blatant attempt to intimidate NATO, especially the Baltic States. Vladimir Putin thinks he has President Obama’s number — and he does.
In the fall 2015 issue of Orbis, the journal I edit, I wrote that “the greatest danger to peace today is the threat of a miscalculation that triggers war. If the West has acquiesced in Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its subversion of eastern Ukraine, why not test Western resolve in the Baltics? But since the Baltic States are members of NATO, the West would be obligated to respond to Russian actions there, thus sparking war.”