U.S. bases in Europe raise alert level due to Russian threats

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Over the weekend, American defense officials increased the security alert level at military bases in Europe in response to vague threats from the Kremlin regarding Ukraine’s use of long-range weapons on Russian soil, according to U.S. and Western officials.

Officials noted that no specific information has been gathered about potential Russian attacks on U.S. bases. However, any such attack by Russia, whether overt or covert, would signify a significant escalation in its war in Ukraine.

Russia has intensified its sabotage efforts in Europe, aiming to disrupt the flow of materials to Ukraine. So far, no U.S. bases have been targeted in these attacks, but U.S. officials believe that raising the alert level will help ensure that service members remain vigilant.

Throughout the war, U.S. officials have assessed that President Vladimir V. Putin is reluctant to extend the conflict beyond Ukraine’s borders. Yet, the increase in aid from the United States and Europe, and the easing of restrictions on how this aid is used, has caused concern in Moscow, according to American officials. Recent Russian statements have made some American and European officials uneasy.

Ukraine has utilized American long-range missiles known as ATACMS to strike deep into occupied Crimea. The United States has also allowed Ukraine to use these missiles in cross-border strikes against Russian military targets.

The attacks in Crimea prompted Russia to summon Lynne M. Tracy, the U.S. ambassador, to the Foreign Ministry. On June 24, a Kremlin spokesman stated that any direct U.S. involvement in the war that resulted in Russian casualties “must have consequences.”

The U.S. decision to supply long-range weapons and ease restrictions on their use followed Britain’s decision to provide Storm Shadow cruise missiles to Ukraine. Kyiv had used those weapons to strike military targets in Crimea.

Attacks using Western weapons, particularly in Crimea, have proven effective, damaging Russian military logistics centers and further weakening Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. However, the success of these attacks has led Moscow to seek ways to deter further strikes.

In recent months, Russia has stepped up a series of sabotage attacks across Europe. This campaign, led by Russian military intelligence, has sometimes appeared clumsy, such as a fire at an Ikea store. Nonetheless, NATO has repeatedly warned about these incidents, and Britain expelled Russia’s defense attaché following a fire at a London warehouse.

Military bases, which provide training, intelligence, and other support to Ukraine, could be a logical next target, although there is no specific information indicating that Russia is considering such a strike.

Safeguarding military bases and the people who live and work there is part of what the Pentagon typically calls force protection. Beyond simple fences or guards protecting base gates, it consists of a series of increasingly restrictive security measures that can be implemented in proportion to a given threat.

Most U.S. military facilities around the world are at the second-lowest level of this type, called force protection condition “alpha,” which includes measures such as requiring officers to test their communications equipment and increased random checks of vehicles and personnel entering bases.

At the other end of the spectrum is the “delta” condition, set when an attack is imminent or in progress. That level shuts down non-essential functions like primary schools, directs all vehicles to be searched at entry gates, adds more guards, and severely restricts the movement of nearly everyone on a given basis.

Currently, U.S. military bases in Europe are in “Charlie” readiness status, the second highest level and the highest level of readiness that can be reasonably maintained for an extended period of time.

Over the weekend, Commander Daniel Day, a spokesman for U.S. European Command, said the military was asking personnel to “remain alert and vigilant at all times.”

In a statement released Monday, European Command said officials would not describe the measures it has taken to protect its operational security.

“Our increased vigilance is not related to a single threat,” the command said in the statement, “but rather an excess of caution due to a combination of factors that potentially impact the safety and security of U.S. service members in the European theater.”

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