NATO Calls on US to Launch U-2 Jets for Spying on Russia

NATO Calls on US to Launch U-2 Jets for Spying on Russia
Tue Mar 29, 2016 13:39:48

A senior NATO commander has reportedly called on the United States to return to service high-flying U-2 reconnaissance planes, which are iconic of the Cold War era, for spying missions against Russia.

General Philip Breedlove, head of US forces in Europe and NATO’s supreme allied commander, said U-2 spy jets were among “additional intelligence collection platforms” needed to deal with what he called threats posed by Russia, The Independent reported.

Lockheed-made U-2 spy planes, nicknamed “Dragon Lady,” were a component of US surveillance of Soviet territory during much of the Cold War in 1947–91.

The jet, operated by the US air force, is capable of gathering intelligence at a very high altitude during daylight and overnight in all weather conditions. The upgraded model, U-2S, has been used in post-Cold War conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and supported several NATO operations.

Breedlove further said the United States’ Europe command (EUCOM) needs U-2 along with another surveillance aircraft, known as RC-135 “Rivet Joint,” in European skies to boost its intelligence-gathering capabilities.

“EUCOM finds itself in a shifted paradigm where the strategic threat presented by [President Vladimir] Putin’s Russia requires we… provide a credible assurance against what remains the only nation capable of strategic warfare against the homeland,” Breedlove claimed.

However, military experts suggest that the U-2 jets are unlikely to overfly the Russian soil if they are sent to Europe, and they will remain in NATO airspace to carry out high-altitude surveillance missions on Russian border areas.

In 1960, Moscow embarrassed the US military after it shot down a U-2 by a Soviet surface-to-air missile in central Russia. The shooting forced the US jet’s pilot, a CIA operative, to stage a perilous parachute jump to safety and captivity, subsequently.

The US government later admitted to espionage following a failed cover-up. The downing made ties between the two sides hit a new low at the time.

The possible return of U-2 to European skies could spark fresh tensions between Russia and NATO, whose relations have sharply soured since the outbreak of crisis in Ukraine in early 2014.

In recent months, NATO -- largely made up of Western European nations and the US – has been strengthening its military presence in Eastern Europe, where its activities have irritated Russia, the regional power.

The Pentagon has not made any comment on the report, which came weeks after Washington announced a fourfold increase in funding for its European Reassurance Initiative (ERI) aimed at rebuilding US military presence in the continent.

In response to NATO buildup at its doorstep, Russia has also adopted several measures to reinforce its military forces amid increased threats by NATO members states.

Observers say increasing rivalries between Russia and the Western military alliance resemble another Cold War in the modern time.

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