Western Europe Vigilant as Russian Ships Transit English Channel

One of three Russian ships, an Ivan Gren class large landing ship the "Pyotr Morgunov" sails through the Bosphorus Strait en route to the Black Sea past the city Istanbul on February 9, 2022. (Photo by Ozan KOSE / AFP) (Photo by OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images)
One of three Russian ships, an Ivan Gren class large landing ship the "Pyotr Morgunov" sails through the Bosphorus Strait en route to the Black Sea past the city Istanbul on February 9, 2022. (Photo by Ozan KOSE / AFP) (Photo by OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images)

February 10, 2022

Western Europe is cautious as Russian naval vessels continue to demonstrate off the British and Irish coastlines. 

“As part of a unified response with our allies, the Royal Navy is monitoring the presence of Russian ships as they transit through the English Channel,” a Royal Navy spokesperson told American Pigeon on Feb. 10.

Ireland Observed as a Possible Russian Vantage Point

Demonstrations have been reportedly been intended off the coast of Europe and the Middle East as early as late January. Irish fishermen aimed to disrupt the exercise by carrying out business as usual, according to the BBC. Patrick Murphy, the chief executive of Irish South and West Fish Producers Organization, noted that his group was “letting (Russian forces) know” that Irish fishing would continue operations in its traditional locations. 

The Irish Navy reportedly told the Russian Navy that a series of “live fire” exercises off its southeastern coastline were “not welcome,” according to BBC News and Naval News. The Russian navy had planned a series of live-fire naval exercises within the waterways of the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone. 

The Irish Aviation Authority reportedly raised its concerns with the Russian government regarding the planned exercise. The exercise, scheduled for the first week of February, was planned in conjunction with increasing political tensions between Russia and the allied Western states. Speculation was that Ireland was chosen as a place of demonstration because Ireland is not an official member of NATO. 

Meanwhile, Ireland’s local news, citing the Irish Defense Ministry, reports that the Irish navy continues to monitor the passage of Russian, United States, United Kingdom, and French vessels through their waterways. 

As political tensions continue to flare, speculators commented on Ireland as a possible strategic position point for Russia’s increased demonstration within the area of European sovereignty. Recent reports from the USNI Agency, highlight the presence of Russian amphibious naval craft in Black Sea waters, as of February 9. USNI Agency is a publication of the U.S. Naval Institute

NATO Pledges Response 

Western allies have been on alert as Russia-Ukraine crisis relations escalated in recent weeks. Media reports noted on Feb. 10, that the United States and Germany continue to caution Russia against its maneuvers, saying “we want peace,” in public speeches. 

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg met with the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Feb. 10. The two leaders addressed the hostile escalations between Russia and Ukraine. Stoltenberg called it a “dangerous moment for European security,” as per NATO press release.

“Renewed Russian aggression will lead to more NATO presence and not less,” said Stoltenberg. The Secretary-General, however, stressed that the alliance would continue to seek a political response to growing tensions. 

NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg was also scheduled to meet with the Netherlands and Spain on Feb. 10. It was not publicly stated if Mr. Stoltenberg was set to address the Ukraine crisis with these allies at the time of the scheduled events. The Secretary-General is also scheduled to meet with the Romanian Defense Minister on Friday, Feb. 11.

USNI writes that the Russian naval activities have moved Ropucha-class amphibious naval craft to the Ukraine region. These crafts are approximately 4,000 tons and can land around 10 main battle tanks. 

USNI repeated reports from the Russian state-funded news agency TASS that Russian naval crafts had pulled into a Syrian naval base, as part of scheduled naval drills. 

U.S. officials have told the Associated Press that Russia had mobilized “70 percent” of the military craft it wished to have in place in the region to give Putin an advantage for any hostilities it intends to launch in Ukraine as of Feb. 5. 

Russian Naval Demonstrations Built over the Last Year 

Recent Russian naval demonstrations outside the region of tensions with Ukraine have been observed for several months. In October 2021, Iceland’s local news reported that the Russian navy had demonstrated in its sovereign waters “without explanation.” 

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