Intelligence activity of the United States at the borders of Russia

The number of reconnaissance flights of NATO aircraft, primarily the United States, near the Russian borders in the past two or three years has grown significantly. Often, such activities lead to possibility of air incidents, escorting or even interception of targets. The recent «scandal» involving the interception of the US reconnaissance aircraft by the Russian SU-27 is just one example of many.

Here’s what Defence Minister of Russia Sergei Shoigu said on December 22, 2016, taking part in Expanded meeting of the Defence Ministry Board:

«NATO’s intelligence activity along Russian borders has intensified. In the last ten years, the number of surveillance flights near Russia has almost tripled and even increased eight times in southwestern Russia. For comparison, we recorded 107 flights in the 1990s, 298 in the 2000s, and 852 this year alone (i.e. in 2016 — ALAFF). This has forced us to increase the number of fighter flights by 61 percent in order to prevent violation of Russian air space in the Baltic, on the Black Sea and in the Arctic.

Maritime reconnaissance near Russian territorial waters has intensified by 50 percent. We carefully monitor this activity and resolutely stop any attempts to violate Russia’s sea borders. NATO has doubled military training activity that is primarily directed against Russia. For example, the British Armed Forces began using Russian produced tanks and Russian military uniforms for its designated enemy at the Salisbury Plain Training Area. The last time this method was used was by Nazi Germany during the Great Patriotic War«.

Well, here is a small report on US aerial reconnaissance at the borders of Russia:

  • January 1, 2018 — The US Navy patrol anti-submarine aircraft P-8A Poseidon with the onboard number 168436 carried out a multi-hour reconnaissance flight near Sevastopol (Crimea). This very day, the US Air Force strategic UAV RQ-4A Global Hawk carried out a multi-hour reconnaissance flight in the Donbass. Taking into account the possibility of reconnaissance to a depth of up to 300 km, the RQ-4A Global Hawk drone could observe the entire territory of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, as well as the border regions of Russia — Belgorod and Voronezh regions.
  • January 4, 2018 — The US Air Force strategic reconnaissance aircraft RC-135W with the onboard number 62-4134 flew at the land border of the Kaliningrad region of Russia, being in the airspace of Poland and its coast.
  • January 5, 2018 — The US Air Force strategic reconnaissance aircraft RC-135W with the onboard number 62-4134 made a regular long flight at the borders of the Kaliningrad region of Russia (near the coast of the Kaliningrad region in the Baltic Sea).
  • January 7, 2018 — The reconnaissance aircraft Boeing P-8A Poseidon (source) and the strategic UAV RQ-4 Global Hawk (source) of the US Navy were seen in the airspace over the Black Sea water area. They spent several hours flying independently along the coast of the Crimea.
  • January 9, 2018 — The US Navy patrol anti-submarine aircraft P-8A Poseidon with the onboard number 168438 carried out a reconnaissance flights off the coast of the Crimea and the Krasnodar Territory of the Russian Federation.
  • January 15, 2018 — The US Navy patrol anti-submarine aircraft P-8A Poseidon with the onboard number 168432 carried out a multi-hour reconnaissance flight off the coast of the Crimea and the Krasnodar Territory of Russia. Since the beginning of the year, it is already at least the sixth flight of American reconnaissance aircraft near the Russian borders on the Black Sea.
  • January 19, 2018 — The Ministry of Defense of Russia reported that in a week (~ January 12-19) twelve aircraft carried out aerial reconnaissance along the country’s borders. The air defense forces of Russia made six sorties for interception.
  • January 24, 2018 — The strategic UAV of the US Air Forces RQ-4B with the onboard number 10-2043 carried out a multi-hour reconnaissance flight along the line of demarcation in Donbass. Since the beginning of this year, at least six reconnaissance operations have been recorded at the line of demarcation in the Donbass, including 1, 7, 9, 15, 20 and 24 January.
  • January 25, 2018 — The US Air Force strategic reconnaissance aircraft RC-135W with the onboard number 62-4134 carried out reconnaissance practically on all perimetre of the Kaliningrad region of Russia.
  • January 29, 2018 — The Su-27 fighter intercepted the United States Navy radio-electronic reconnaissance aircraft EP-3E Aries II over the Black Sea.
  • January 30, 2018 — The US Air Force strategic reconnaissance aircraft RC-135W with the onboard number 62-4134 made another long flight near the borders of the Kaliningrad region of Russia (source).
  • January 31, 2018 — The US Navy patrol anti-submarine aircraft P-8A Poseidon with the onboard number 168432 carried out a regular reconnaissance flight near the maritime borders of the Kaliningrad region of Russia (source).
  • February 2, 2018 — Two American reconnaissance planes headed toward the Russian border in the Baltic States. The operation involved the Boeing RC-135W US Air Force and patrol anti-submarine aircraft P-8A Poseidon (source).
  • February 5, 2018 — Two US military aircraft (the US Navy patrol anti-submarine aircraft P-8A Poseidon with the onboard number 169011, strategic UAV of the US Air Forces RQ-4B with the onboard number 11-2048) carried out hours of reconnaissance flights off the coast of the Crimea and the Krasnodar Territory of the Russian Federation (source).
  • February 7, 2018 — US Air Force aircraft conducted reconnaissance flights at the borders of the Kaliningrad Region, the Crimea and the Krasnodar Territory of the Russian Federation. A strategic reconnaissance aircraft of the US Air Force RC-135W with the onboard number 62-4134 for several hours cruised along the southern border of the Kaliningrad region. The strategic UAV of the US Air Forces RQ-4B with the onboard number 11-2048 approached the south-west coast of Crimea. In addition, the British Royal Air Forces Sentinel R.1 aircraft with the onboard number ZJ690 conducted reconnaissance at the border of the Kaliningrad region with Poland.
  • February 8, 2018 — American (strategic air reconnaissance aircraft of the US Air Forces RC-135W with the onboard number 62-4134) and British (strategic reconnaissance aircraft of the British Royal Air Force RC-135W with the onboard number ZZ665) military aircraft conducted reconnaissance at the borders of the Leningrad, Pskov and Kaliningrad regions of the Russian Federation.
  • February 9, 2018 — Mil Radar source reports that the US Navy patrol anti-submarine aircraft P-8A Poseidon with the onboard number 168438 carried out reconnaissance mission on the southern perimeter of the Crimea.
  • February 12, 2018 — An American reconnaissance aircraft was seen at Russian borders. Boeing RC-135W with the onboard number 62-4134 carried out a mission in the Baltics. The US Air Force aircraft flew along the borders of the Kaliningrad region, without leaving the airspace of Lithuania and Poland (source).
  • February 13, 2018 — The US Air Force strategic reconnaissance aircraft RC-135W made a long flight near the borders of the Kaliningrad, Leningrad and Pskov regions of the Russian Federation. Meanwhile, a Swedish reconnaissance aircraft Gulfstream 4 with the onboard number 102002 made a long flight off the coast of the Kaliningrad region.
  • February 15, 2018 — Two reconnaissance aircraft of the British Royal Air Force conducted an active reconnaissance on the perimeter of the borders of the Kaliningrad region of Russia. The RC-135W radio-electronic reconnaissance aircraft with the ZZ666 onboard number and the aerial reconnaissance and attack control aircraft Sentinel R.1 with the ZJ690 onboard number within a few hours circled the region, traveling in the airspace of Poland and Lithuania, and over the Baltic Sea near the Russian coast.
  • February 20, 2018 — A strategic reconnaissance aircraft of the US Air Force RC-135W made a long flight near the borders of the Kaliningrad, Leningrad and Pskov regions of Russia.
  • February 21, 2018 — The air reconnaissance and attack control aircraft Sentinel R1 of the British Royal Air Forces with the onboard number ZJ690 carried out a multi-hour flight along the perimeter of the borders of the Kaliningrad region of the Russian Federation (source).
  • February 22, 2018 — Two US military aircraft (heavy American UAV RQ-4A Global Hawk with the onboard number 10-2043, the US Air Forces strategic reconnaissance aircraft RC-135W with the onboard number 62-4134) carried out reconnaissance flights along the perimeter of the borders of the Kaliningrad region of Russia (source).
  • February 23, 2018 — Three US military aircraft (the US Air Forces RC-135W strategic reconnaissance aircraft with the onboard number 62-4134, the US Navy long-range radio-electronic reconnaissance aircraft EP-3E Aries II with the onboard number 157326, the US Navy patrol anti-submarine aircraft P-8A Poseidon with the onboard number 168998) carried out reconnaissance flights near Russian borders in the Baltic (the Kaliningrad Region of Russia) and Black Sea (Crimea).
  • February 24, 2018 — A heavy US drone RQ-4A Global Hawk with the onboard number 10-2043 carried out another multi-hour reconnaissance along the line of demarcation in the Donbass. In addition, Mil Radar source reports that on this day the US Navy patrol anti-submarine aircraft P-8A Poseidon with the onboard number 168438 carried out reconnaissance in the area of the Krasnodar region of Russia and along the southern coast of the Crimea.
  • February 26, 2018 —  The reconnaissance aircraft of the US Navy EP-3E Aries II with the onboard number 157326 was seen near Russian borders on the Black Sea (coast of Crimea and Krasnodar Territory). In addition, the US Navy patrol anti-submarine aircraft P-8A Poseidon with the onboard number 168437 was also recorded near the Russian border in the Black Sea. Strategic US Air Force UAV RQ-4B Global Hawk with the onboard number 10-2043 conducted a multi-hour reconnaissance flight along the coast of the Crimea and the Krasnodar Territory.
  • February 27, 2018 —  Two American (the US Air Force RC-135W strategic reconnaissance aircraft with the onboard number 62-4134, the US Navy patrol anti-submarine aircraft P-8A Poseidon with the onboard number 168438) and one German (naval reconnaissance aircraft of the German Navy P-3C Orion with the onboard number 60+05) reconnaissance aircraft made long flights near the sea and land borders of Russia in the south of the Baltic.
  • February 28, 2018 — The US Navy patrol anti-submarine aircraft P-8A Poseidon with the onboard number 169003 carried out a long reconnaissance flight off the southern coast of the Crimea (source).
  • March 2, 2018 — Three US military aircraft (the US Navy long-range reconnaissance aircraft EP-3E Aries II with the onboard number 157326, the US Air Force strategic UAV RQ-4B with the onboard number 10-2043, the US Air Force strategic reconnaissance aircraft RC-135W with the onboard number 62-4134) carried out reconnaissance flights near the borders of the Kaliningrad region, off the coast of the Crimea, the Krasnodar Territory, as well as Russian regions bordering the Donbas. In addition, the flights of French (the French Air Force long-range radar detection and control aircraft E3 Sentry AWACS) and Swedish (reconnaissance aircraft GLF4 with the onboard number 102002) Air Force reconnaissance aircraft were recorded near the Kaliningrad region of Russia. On this day the Russian Defense Ministry reported that during a week (~ February 24 — March 2) twenty two aircraft conducted aerial reconnaissance along the country’s borders.
  • March 4, 2018 — Two US Air Force aircraft conducted reconnaissance flights near the borders of the Leningrad, Pskov and Kaliningrad regions of Russia, as well as Russian regions bordering the Donbas. The US Air Force strategic reconnaissance aircraft RC-135W with the onboard number 62-4134 flew along the borders of the Leningrad and Pskov regions, being in the airspace of Estonia, as well as along the southern border of the Kaliningrad region in the sky over Poland (source). The US Air Forces strategic UAV RQ-4A Global Hawk with the onboard number 10−2043 conducted a long reconnaissance flight along the line of demarcation in Donbass. Taking into account the possibilities of reconnaissance to depth, RQ-4A could observe the whole territory of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, as well as a large part of the territory of the border regions of Russia. In addition, it was also recorded a flight of the NATO long-range radar detection and control aircraft E-3A Sentry AWACS with the onboard number LX-N90459, which was heading toward the Russian borders in the north in the sky over Norway.
  • March 5, 2018 — The US Navy long-range radio-electronic reconnaissance aircraft EP-3E Aries II with the onboard number 157326 carried out a regular multi-hour flight off the coast of the Crimea and the Krasnodar Territory of Russia (source).
  • March 6, 2018 — Aircraft of the USA (the US Air Force strategic reconnaissance aircraft RC-135W with the onboard number 62-4134) and Sweden (reconnaissance aircraft Gulfstream 4 with the onboard number 102002) Air Forces, as well as aircraft of NATO command (long-range radar detection and control aircraft E-3A Sentry AWACS with onboard number LX-N904581), carried out reconnaissance flights at the borders of Russia in the Baltic region. In addition, an American drone (long-range reconnaissance UAV RQ-4B Global Hawk with the onboard number 10-2043) conducted reconnaissance near the Crimea, the Krasnodar Territory and the Russian regions bordering the Donbas. Two more British reconnaissance aircraft (reconnaissance aircraft RC-135W with the onboard number ZZ665, air reconnaissance and attack control aircraft Sentinel R.1 with the onboard number ZJ690) flew to Russian borders in the Barents Sea area.
  • March 7, 2018 — The US Air Force strategic reconnaissance aircraft RC-135W with the onboard number 62-4134 made a multi-hour flight near the borders of the Kaliningrad, Leningrad and Pskov regions of Russia.
  • March 8, 2018 — Mil Radar source reports that UK Royal Air Force reconnaissance aircraft RC-135W with the onboard number ZZ665 carried out a Southern Baltic mission. It can be seen in the picture that the aircraft flew along the coast of the Kaliningrad region of Russia.
  • March 9, 2018 — Mil Radar source reports that the US Air Force strategic reconnaissance aircraft RC-135W with the onboard number 62-4134 carried out reconnaissance along the southern borders and coast of the Kaliningrad region of Russia.

 

This is certainly not a full list. This compilation is just to demostrate the scale of intelligence activity of the United States at the borders of Russia. Practically, this is daily reconnaissance flights. Though this is just the beginning of the year, two months — January and February. With such a frequency of flights, we can imagine how many it will be by the end of the year. The aerial reconnaissance in the previous periods (2017, 2016…) was no less active.

In principle, this kind of activity — such a frequency — in fact could mean preparing for war. But in this case such a frequency of reconnaissance flights caused mainly by two reasons:

1) The deployment of «Iskander» complexes in the Kaliningrad region — Russia’s response to the next expansion of US/NATO to the East by establishing its bases in Romania (NATO member since March 29, 2004), Bulgaria (NATO member since March 29, 2004) and Poland (NATO member since March 12, 1999).

2) Transformation of Crimea by Russia into an impregnable fortress and the deployment of many serious protective equipment there, including S-400 and «Pantsir» complexes, launchers «Bal» and «Bastion«, as well as aircraft, ships, submarines and other stuff (including for the suppression of threats from NATO’ bases in Bulgaria and Romania).

nato

It’s important to note that in most cases, American (and other foreign) aircraft fly to the borders of Russia with the transponders deliberately turned off, which makes it impossible to identify them at a distance, so this forces Russian aircraft to rise in the air to intercept and identify strangers.

«When a foreign object appears in dangerous proximity to the Russian coast, its movement begins to be tracked by various defensive means: radars of warships, air defense and anti-missile systems, devices for detection and tracking of coastal missile systems etc. Regarding the Crimea, Americans are primarily interested in what frequencies the S-400, «Bal» and «Bastion» complexes operate on. If the US pilots will manage to obtain such data, it means that the Pentagon generals will be able to think about ways of radio electronic suppression of these complexes, their disabling even before launching missiles. That’s why American reconnaissance planes almost every week appear near the Crimean coasts, and our interceptors have to literally drive out spies from the borders of airspace of the Russian Federation» — source.

 

Well, this was just an aerial reconnaissance. No less characteristic is the activity of foreign intelligence agencies inside Russia. The Russian president annually announces the number of neutralized foreign intelligence agents. So here are some statistics (~ over the past seven years):

  • March 5, 2018, Vladimir Putin took part in an expanded meeting of the Federal Security Service Board:
    «As you know, in recent years foreign intelligence services have stepped up their activities. They are working very closely on Russia, using the most advanced methods of clandestine and technical intelligence. Last year alone we stopped 72 employees and 397 agents working with foreign secret services.

    I am asking you to continue working in this crucial area in a most organised and effective manner, and to prevent any attempts of foreign intelligence services to obtain political, economic, technical and military information«.

  • February 16, 2017, Vladimir Putin took part in an annual expanded meeting of the Federal Security Service (FSB) Board to discuss the FSB’s results for 2016 and the priority tasks for ensuring Russia’s national security:

    «Counterintelligence services also face greater demands today. Operational data show that foreign intelligence services’ activity in Russia has not decreased. Last year, our counterintelligence services put a stop to the work of 53 foreign intelligence officers and 386 agents. It is important to neutralise foreign intelligence services’ efforts to gain access to confidential information, particularly information concerning our military-technical capabilities«.

  • February 26, 2016, Vladimir Putin took part in a meeting of the Federal Security Service (FSB) board to review the results of the Service’s work in 2015 and set its priority tasks for 2016:

    «Over this time, we put a stop to the activity of more than 400 foreign intelligence officers and agents, with criminal charges brought against 23 of these people«.

  • March 26, 2015, Vladimir Putin took part in a Federal Security Service board meeting:

    «Counter-intelligence agencies worked efficiently and steadily last year. Their special operations resulted in the suspension of activity of 52 officers and 290 agents of foreign special services«.

  • April 7, 2014, Vladimir Putin took part in an expanded meeting of the Federal Security Service board:

    «Colleagues, counterintelligence has always been one of the FSB’s main areas of work. This is indeed an important part of your responsibilities. Last year alone, the security services put an end to the activities of 46 employees of foreign intelligence services and 258 of their agents«.

  • February 14, 2013, Vladimir Putin spoke at an expanded FSB board meeting on the results of its activities in 2012:

    «Colleagues, another crucial FSB activity is counterintelligence. Last year counterintelligence operations allowed us to identify and stop espionage being carried out by 34 officers and 181 agents of foreign secret services, 12 of whom were caught red-handed«.

  • February 7, 2012, Dmitry Medvedev addressed an expanded meeting of the Federal Security Service board:

    «In 2011, the activities of 41 employees of foreign intelligence services were stopped and 158 agents of foreign intelligence services were identified, including a number of Russian citizens«.

 

Summarizing the result, we get that Federal Security Service of Russia (FSB) revealed and neutralized (year — result):

  • 201141 employees and 158 agents of foreign intelligence services.
  • 2012 — 34 officers and 181 agents of foreign secret services.
  • 2013 — 46 employees of foreign intelligence services and 258 of their agents.
  • 2014 — 52 officers and 290 agents of foreign special services.
  • 2015 — more than 400 foreign intelligence officers and agents.
  • 2016 — 53 foreign intelligence officers and 386 agents.
  • 2017 — 72 employees and 397 agents working with foreign secret services.

 

This statistics shows that since 2011, the number of neutralized foreign intelligence officers has almost doubled (41 in 2011 — 72 in 2017) and the number of neutralized foreign intelligence agents has grown more than 2.5 times (158 in 2011 — 397 in 2017).

Speaking about reconnaissance, it’s quite intersting to note the uniqueness of operation of Russian forces to start a Syrian campaign — mean transfer of all technique & equipment to Syria in complete secrecy. That’s what Anatoliy Tsyganok, the author of the book «The war in Syria and its consequences for the Middle East, Caucasus and Central Asia: the Russian view» said on this point:

«We can assert that the Russian military leadership managed to repeat Operation «Anadyr» of the General Staff of the USSR Armed Forces to send Soviet missile systems to Cuba. At that, in more difficult conditions — active hindrances, powerful space-, air- and radioreconnaissance, direction-finding of the United States, NATO and Israel. It does honor to the command of our Aerospace Forces and the General Staff. About 60 combat vehicles — aircraft and helicopters, were secretly transferred to the Syrian province of Latakia, to the already famous military airbase Khmeymim. Their regrouping from Russia to Syria was conducted for several months in the conditions of radio silence. The action was a complete surprise not only for ISIS and other militants, but also for intelligence services and analysts of the West. US space reconnaissance, aerial reconnaissance of NATO, Israel and Turkey, UAV observation — no one has detected the regrouping of our Aerospace Forces. Only two days before the official announcement, Israeli intelligence identified some of the aircraft already at the aerodrome«.

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