Just days ago we noted that the the United States is now treating Ukraine as if it were a NATO member as on September 27th Washington donated to Ukraine two warships for use against Russia. And now in a move that's sure to be seen by Russia as a major and intolerable provocation Ukraine has announced the start of joint military exercises involving NATO countries.
What's been dubbed the Clear Sky 2018 operation in the west of Ukraine kicked off on Monday and will center on air defense operations in order to "protect the airspace" from Russia. The war games will include the participation of the US military and several other NATO nations, including bordering nations Poland and Romania, as well as Britain and the Netherlands.
The U.S. Embassy in Ukraine described the event as a "multinational military exercise focusing on promoting peace and security" — however, we highly doubt that it's peace that will be the lasting result of this.
Some 700 troops are expected to take part, with at least half of them composed of non-Ukrainian NATO member forces, in the operation set to last until October 19.
The US Air Force will have a heavy advisory role with F-15C Eagle fighter planes and C-130J Super Hercules military transport planes and drones involved in guided training exercises leading about 30 Ukrainian aircraft, according to an official government ministry statement.
And further according to a Ukrainian air force official Polish and Romanian aircraft will participate for "the first time" in a joint show "to protect the airspace," according to military spokesman Yuriy Ignat said.
Meanwhile a US Air Force statement said the aim of the exercise is "to enhance regional capabilities to secure air sovereignty and promote peace and security through cooperation."
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry was further keen on signalling Russia that Kiev is feeling emboldened to have American military hardware patrolling the skies: "The personnel and the aircrafts of the Ukrainian Air Force were redeployed to the Starokonstantinov airfield. A significant event was the arrival of the F-15 aircrafts of the 144th Fighter Wing of the California Air National Guard," a statement said.
Since fighting between pro-Russian and pro-Western forces erupted in 2014, over 10,000 Ukrainians have been killed. Kiev officials have since the Russian annexation of Crimea constantly hyped the treat of an imminent Russian military invasion and even suggested the possibility of a World War 3 scenario between the West and Russia centered over Ukrainian territory.
Though a series of both Russian and NATO exercises have occurred without a serious incident between the rival powers of late, aerial exercises involving NATO planes above Ukraine will be the most contentious show of force yet.