NATO Planes Patrolling Putin’s Possible Next Targets As Ukraine War Presses On: Russian President Vladimir Putin has spent months threatening to strike new targets in Ukraine if the West continues to supply arms to the Ukrainian military – but NATO appears to be preparing for much more than just new strikes in Ukraine.
On Thursday, NATO shared a video that revealed how fighter jets and surveillance planes are patrolling the airspace of member states in Europe over fears that the Russian president could be considering launching strikes beyond NATO territory.
“NATO Allies’ surveillance planes and fighter jets are conducting round-the-clock air patrols to safeguard Allied air space,” the NATO tweet reads.
What Did Putin Threaten?
In June, Putin said that he would “strike at those targets that we have not yet been hitting” if Ukraine received long-range weapons from the United States or other NATO countries. While the warnings were not entirely ignored – as the White House initially refused to send long-range missiles that could strike Ukrainian territory – the Biden administration ultimately decided to send one dozen HIMARS rocket systems. Since that time, the U.S.-supplied missile systems have allowed Ukraine to strike Russian ammunition depots and destroy a key supply bridge over the Dnipro river.
— NATO (@NATO) August 4, 2022
The Russian president did not specify where he intends to target if NATO continues to supply arms to Ukraine, though it’s safe to assume that the Kremlin could be preparing to focus its resources on the Donetsk Oblast region as well as cities in southern Ukraine. Ukrainian forces have already recaptured 53 settlements in the Russian-occupied city of Kherson since Russia made significant days during the early days of the war, giving Putin a reason to re-focus his efforts in the region.
The Kremlin has also spent the last five months making veiled threats against the West, indicating that military strikes against NATO targets are not entirely off the cards. This week Moscow responded to comments made by a Ukrainian official about cooperation with the United States and accused the White House of being “directly involved” in the war.
“All this undeniably proves that Washington, contrary to White House and Pentagon claims, is directly involved in the conflict in Ukraine,” a statement from Russia’s Ministry of Defense reads.
NATO forces appear to be taking Russia’s threats seriously, and Russia is preparing new weapons that could take the Ukraine conflict to new heights.
Russia Preparing New Hypersonic Missiles
As well as reinforcing defenses in occupied Luhansk and Donetsk, Russian forces are expected to deploy new naval hypersonic missiles – a move that could strengthen Russia’s presence on Ukraine’s southern coast.
On Sunday, Putin announced during a Navy Day parade in St. Petersberg that the Russian Navy will be equipped with the latest and most advanced hypersonic missile ever deployed by the Russian military. The Zircon hypersonic missile could be deployed as early as September.
“State tests of the product have been completed, all documents for the adoption of the product into service have been prepared,” a Russian military source told the TASS news agency. “It is expected that in September the surface Zircon will be put into service with the fleet.”
The move could help Russian forces maintain control over key Ukrainian cities in the south and even assist with the establishment of a land bridge between the Donbas, Crimea, and Moldova to the west.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.