Russians mount ‘large-scale’ maneuvers over Europe, attack White House computers

Moscow apparently hopes that you haven’t forgotten that they intend to pose a threat to Western stability. If you have, the Russians are making sure that they present the most menacing face to the West they possibly can in order to refresh your memory.

The White House confirmed this week that a sophisticated cyber-attack targeting unclassified computer networks in the home of the president was likely the work of Russia hackers. While officials say that the attack will not have any lasting effects, administration officials confirmed that the attack did compromise some elements of the White House’s unclassified network.

From The Washington Post: “Recent reports by security firms have identified cyber-¬espionage campaigns by Russian hackers thought to be working for the government. Targets have included NATO, the Ukrainian government and U.S. defense contractors. Russia is regarded by U.S. officials as being in the top tier of states with cyber-capabilities.”

In recent weeks, White House officials have said that computer systems have been down, and e-mail has been slow. On Oct. 19, the White House e-mailed one statement through an alternate route, saying it was “due to system delays.”

Earnest said the situation has ted some “inconveniences,” but did not affect the work of the White House staff.

Unsatisfied with merely presenting American officials with a nuisance, the Russian air force is reportedly behaving in an unnervingly aggressive manner.

“NATO detected and monitored four groups of Russian military aircraft conducting significant military manoeuvers in European airspace over the Baltic Sea, North Sea/Atlantic Ocean, and Black Sea on 28 and 29 October 2014,” read a report on NATO’s website. “These sizable Russian flights represent an unusual level of air activity over European airspace.”

In the last 24 hours, NATO aircraft intercepted Russian fighters over the Norwegian Sea, the Black Sea near Turkish airspace, the Baltic Sea near the former Soviet Republics, and over the Gulf of Finland.

NATO jets were on standby throughout the duration of both Russian flights and Russian aircraft were continually tracked using Allied assets on the ground and in the air. NATO has conducted over 100 intercepts of Russian aircraft in 2014 to date, which is about three times more than were conducted in 2013.

Scrambles and intercepts are standard procedure when an unknown aircraft approaches NATO airspace. However, such flights pose a potential risk to civil aviation given that the Russian military often do not file flight plans, or use their on-board transponders. This means civilian air traffic control cannot detect these aircraft nor ensure there is no interference with civilian air traffic.

On Monday, Russian defense official Dmitry Rogozin sparked a diplomatic firestorm when he publicly insisted that France had agreed to deliver to Russia a long-delayed Vladivostok helicopter carrier warship. The ship’s delivery had been postponed indefinitely in the wake of the outbreak of hostilities in Ukraine between pro-Russian militias and the Russian army and forces loyal to Kiev. Paris immediately denied reports that it had consented to the release of that ship.

Russia’s aggressive posture may be due, in part, to Moscow’s signaled willingness to recognize the results of a proposed separatist vote in the self-declared republics of Donetsk and Lugansk in eastern Ukraine. “US Secretary of State John Kerry has warned Russia that it will break international agreements if it recognises an election planned by separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine,” the BBC reported.

Regardless of the Russians’ motives, it is clear Moscow wants Americans to again devote some attention to the crisis in Europe. It would be prudent for Washington to oblige them.