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US Military Bases in Europe on High Alert Amid Rising Russian Sabotage Threats

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US military bases across Europe have been placed on high alert due to intelligence reports of potential Russian sabotage. This marks the first such alert in a decade, reflecting growing concerns over Russia's covert operations.

US military bases across Europe have been placed on high alert following intelligence reports suggesting potential sabotage attacks by Russian actors. This is the first time in a decade that such a heightened alert level has been implemented, reflecting the growing concerns over Russia’s covert operations.

During the NATO summit, while discussions were centered around President Joe Biden's age and Ukraine's accession, US troops in Europe faced the immediate threat of sabotage. Several bases declared the second-highest alert level, 'Charlie,' indicating a likely terrorist action or attack on personnel or facilities.

Experts have long warned of a sharp increase in Russian acts of sabotage across Europe. Finland's President Alexander Stubb highlighted that Russia is waging both a conventional war in Ukraine and a hybrid war against Europe and the West, involving military provocations, cyber attacks, and misinformation.

The last six months have seen an 'unprecedented escalation and spread of Russia's hybrid warfare,' according to a high-ranking NATO official. This includes physical sabotage of NATO arms deliveries destined for Ukraine. Instances of arson in warehouses containing weapons and surveillance cameras at NATO training locations have been reported.

In April, two German-Russians were arrested for planning bomb and arson attacks on US military facilities on behalf of Russia. Conspicuous arson attacks and explosions in cities like London, Riga, Prague, and Paris have been linked to Russian sabotage.

The Swedish Navy has noted the presence of Russian 'shadow tankers' sailing through the Baltic Sea without transponder signals, posing risks of accidents or oil spills. These tankers are equipped with communication equipment unnecessary for normal merchant ships, suggesting espionage activities.

In October 2023, underwater pipelines between Finland, Sweden, and Estonia suffered damage attributed to Russian sabotage. Other incidents, such as the fire at the German company Diehl and the interruption of Deutsche Bahn’s communication cables, remain under investigation with potential links to Russian involvement.

NATO has significantly increased its intelligence sharing around Russia's covert sabotage activities, which have become more aggressive in recent months. The alliance is working to better coordinate its response to these threats, which aim to undermine public support for Ukraine and create unrest throughout Europe.

  • US European Command has not commented directly on the causes of the force protection change but mentioned that the increased surveillance is due to a combination of factors affecting the security of US forces in Europe.
  • Poland is investigating an arson attack that destroyed Warsaw's largest shopping center in May, with nine people arrested in connection to acts of sabotage linked to Russia. French authorities recently detained a Russian-Ukrainian man allegedly making bombs as part of a sabotage campaign.
  • By outsourcing attacks to local actors, Russia likely believes it can wage a hybrid war that falls below the threshold of armed conflict. However, NATO officials note that the sabotage campaign has become more concerted and aggressive, marking a significant shift from previous Cold War tactics.
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