Relations between Russia and Nato are ‘at their lowest since the end of the Cold War’, while there is a ‘growing risk’ of military conflict, it has today been warned.
Former Russian and western diplomats have warned that treaties between the two military powers that have ‘safeguarded us for 30 years’ are ‘gone or fraying’.
The group, of 145 ex-ministers, ambassadors and generals from Russia, the United States and Europe, have called on the two sides to re-engage in dialogue.
In a letter to the Times today, the European Leadership Network (ELN) said: ‘Although we differ over the causes of the crisis, we are united by concern about the growing risk that our countries could inadvertently find themselves in a military conflict that no one wants, through accident or miscalculation.’
The warning comes as the last remaining strategic nuclear treaty between the United States and Russia is set to end.
The warning comes as the last remaining strategic nuclear treaty between the United States and Russia is set to end. Pictured: Russian President Vladimir Putin
The treaty is due to end in February, a week into the start of the new Joe Biden administration.
The outgoing Donald Trump administration has often not prioritised arms control and mutual surveillance treaties over the last four years.
The warning comes after years of growing tension between Russia and the west.
Tensions have continued to build since Russia’s annexing of the Crimea in 2014 – which sparked wide-spread condemnation from western powers.
Other flash-points include the 2018 Novichock poisoning of Sergei and Julia Skripel in Salisbury.
The treaty is due to end in February, a week into the start of the new Joe Biden (pictured) administration
Accusations of Russian interference in western elections and accusations of a Russian-backed coup in Montenegro in 2017 have also sparked friction.
Earlier this month it was announced Russia is building a nuclear command post where Vladimir Putin could control the country’s doomsday weapons in the event of World War III.
Putin said the ‘absolutely secure facility’ is ‘nearing completion’ and would keep the Kremlin in control of its atomic weapons ‘even in the event of a nuclear strike’.
The Russian president told his defence chiefs to keep upgrading their control systems ‘no matter how modern and advanced they may be today’.
Moscow has an estimated stockpile of 6,375 nuclear warheads, compared to 5,800 for the US, and Putin has called for a ‘new security equation’ amid fears of a new arms race with Washington.
Putin told a meeting of senior defence officials that ‘the nuclear triad remains the primary, key guarantee of Russia’s military security’.
The triad is made up of land-based launch systems, nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, as well as older nuclear bomber aircraft.
With relations strained between Russia and the West, one report earlier this year by the International Institute for Strategic Studies warned that Russia’s overhauled military was at its strongest since the fall of the Soviet Union.
The USSR had around 40,000 warheads at its peak but fears of a new arms race have grown after the US backed out of a Cold War-era treaty last year.
The Trump administration quit the pact after accusing Russia of violating the agreement signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987.
The USSR had around 40,000 warheads at its peak but fears of a new arms race have grown after the US backed out of a Cold War-era treaty last year. The Trump (pictured) administration quit the pact after accusing Russia of violating the agreement signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987
Russia responded by ordering a ground-launched version of the Kalibr cruise missile to be built, adapting a weapon previously launched from warships and submarines.
Such weapons had previously been banned by the so-called INF treaty which prohibited short-and intermediate-range missiles launched from the ground.
Putin also wants to give the Russian navy an underwater drone or ‘torpedo’ armed with nuclear strike weapons and carried by submarines.
US president-elect Joe Biden has promised to ‘pursue an extension of the New START treaty’, which expires in February 2021.
Biden called the treaty ‘an anchor of strategic stability between the United States and Russia’, while also vowing to ‘fight back against Russia’s attacks on Western democracies’ following alleged state-sponsored meddling.
RAF scrambles Typhoon jets to intercept two Russian Bear aircraft spotted near UK airspace in the North Sea
By Darren Boyle for MailOnline
The RAF intercepted two Russian anti-submarine aircraft over the North Sea skirting around the edge of UK airspace last month.
The Typhoon fast jets were scrambled from RAF Lossiemouth to track down the Russian Tu-142 Bear F aircraft.
Often, Russian military aircraft switch off electronic equipment which allows passenger jets and air traffic controllers to see them, causing major disruption to international airspace.
Two Russian Tu-142 Bear F aircraft were intercepted by RAF Typhoons over the North Sea shortly after 9am
The Bears are designed for maritime surveillance and anti-submarine operations. They were skirting around the edge of UK airspace for several hours
The RAF QRA Typhoon is equipped with the Meteor missile which is capable of intercepting a target Beyond Visual Range. It also has a ramjet which is capable of propelling the missile to more than Mach 4
The Typhoons were part of the RAF’s Quick Reaction Force which is on standby 24-hours a day and seven days a week.
An RAF Voyager based at Brize Norton was also scrambled to provide fuel for the two fast jets as they shadowed the pair of Russian maritime aircraft.
The RAF aircraft were also supported by other NATO aircraft.
According to the MoD, the RAF jets were scrambled shortly before 8am on November 28 when the two Russian aircraft were detected. The interception was coordinated by military air traffic controllers based at RAF Scampton.
The MoD said: ‘Russian military aircraft operating within the UK Flight Information Region, in this busy airspace over the North Sea, can act as a hazard to other air users.
‘Often these aircraft do not squawk, which involves transmitting a code to identify the aircraft’s intentions, position, and altitude.
An RAF spokesman said the Russian aircraft often switch off electronic identifying equipment which allows civilian passenger jets and air traffic controllers to monitor the military aircraft’s position and stay out of its way
Two Russian Tupolev Tu-142 Bear F aircraft operating in international airspace near the UK
‘They rarely talk to UK air traffic controllers, causing other civilian airliners in the area to be re-routed to prevent aircraft from flying too close.’
Controllers at Scampton liaised with NATO partners at the Combined Air Operations Centre in Uedem, Germany.
The Voyager aircraft remained in the area to allow the Typhoons to remain on their targets for longer and be in position to intercept any other Russian aircraft that may have arrived in support.
An RAF spokesman said: ‘The QRA crew did a fantastic job, locating aircraft that were not easy to detect very quickly.
‘Again, the RAF has scrambled to defend the interests of the UK and NATO. It demonstrates the efficiency and resilience of our personnel, aircraft and system.