The possibility of US and Russian military forces engaging in direct combat against each other is the highest it has been since the supposed end of the Cold War. It's not a prospect that should be taken lightly.
But prior to that dreadful possibility, the Russian naval forces need to pass the British Isles on their way to Syria via the Mediterranean Sea. Coming within just a few miles from Britain as those forces transit the English Channel has put British military forces on alert.
Russia has begun its biggest surface deployment since the end of the Cold War as it aims to effectively end the war in Syria on the eve of the US election, Nato officials warned last night.
The Kremlin is sending the full might of its Northern Fleet and part of the Baltic Fleet to reinforce a final assault on the city of Aleppo in a fortnight, according to Western intelligence.
The final bombardment is designed to shore up the Assad regime by wiping out rebels – paving the way for a Russian exit from the civil war.
And Britain will not just watch the Russian forces go by.
Royal Navy warships are due to escort a group of eight Russian warships, including the country’s only aircraft carrier, as they sail past the UK on their way to the Mediterranean.
Senior Royal Navy officers expect the task force to sail past the UK as early as Thursday in a show of strength dismissed as “posturing” by defence sources.
While the willingness of the US to directly engage Russian forces in Syria is in doubt, the potential remains.
An intensified air campaign in eastern Aleppo, where 275,000 people are trapped, would further worsen ties between Moscow and the West, which says the Kremlin may be responsible for war crimes.
In the meantime, Britain has its own plans with respect to this Russian naval forces as it passes British shores.
The Royal Navy has deployed two warships to meet the Northern Fleet group, led by the carrier Admiral Kuznetsov.
The frigate HMS Richmond is already escorting the group off the coast of Norway, while the destroyer HMS Duncan was last night on its way.
HMS Dragon is due to sail to meet two Russian corvettes travelling towards the UK from the direction of Portugal. Photographs of the vessels, taken on Monday, were released by the Norwegian military.
There's no surprise there, and the likelihood of direct combat between British and Russian forces in the channel remains low.
Source: The Telegraph
So while elements of the British and Russian navies will be staring each other down in the English Channel, some in Britain media are just writing this all off as posturing by a ‘menacing' Russia:
Ministry of Defence chiefs are taking no chances and have pledged to keep the flotilla well within their sights.
A spokesman said: “When these ships are near our waters we will man-mark them every step of the way.
“We will be watching as part of our steadfast commitment to keep Britain safe.”
They added: “It is pretty unambiguous that they have set a course to pass through the Dover Strait.”
But former head of the Royal Navy Admiral Lord West dismissed it as “just a bit of willy waving”.
The naval hero told The Sun: “It’s Putin doing a bit of a willy waving in a sense, saying this is what I can do.
“He’s just showing that Russia is there on the world stage.”
ROYAL Navy warships will “man-mark” a menacing Russia fleet that is preparing a pincer move on the English Channel, the MoD has said.
Eight Russian vessels led by a aircraft carrier are heading down the North Sea and are expected to pass through the Dover Straits tomorrow morning.
And they are expected to link up with two more ships there, meaning TEN heavily-armed Russian ships will be operating just miles from the British coast.
The Russian Northern Fleet is being stalked by two British warships, while two corvettes heading to Britain through the Bay of Biscay are being tracked by HMS Dragon.
Not to be outdone by British dismissive comments regarding the Russian Navy, Russian media took a poke at Britain's navy.
Russian media has referred to the manoeuvres as Operation Sea Fist – just a day after mocking the ‘tiny’ British fleet.
Source: The Sun
If the English Channel is not the location where hostilities between Russian and Western forces are likely to break out, the same cannot be said for Syria. Too much posturing and too many bellicose statements have been made to write that off as just so much talk. Both the US and Russia have invested much in the Syrian conflict, and both will have trouble backing down.
It would be well to tune in again to this story in two weeks when Russian naval forces are expected to arrive off the coast of Syria.