A Scandinavian passenger jet heading for Rome lifts off from Copenhagen with 132 passengers on board. Only the alertness of its crew prevents a midair collision with a Russian surveillance plane that had not transmitted its position.
In the waters of the Stockholm archipelago, a Swedish commander threatens to use armed force in response to the unauthorized presence of at least one underwater vessel, provoking “the biggest antisubmarine operation in Sweden since the Cold War.” Mockingly, Russia denies involvement.
The episodes were chronicled on Monday in a report by a British nonprofit research organization, the European Leadership Network, which recorded almost 40 incidents in the past eight months involving Russian forces in a “volatile standoff” with the West that “could prove catastrophic at worst.”
The incidents were all said to have taken place since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March.
“These events,” the report said, “add up to a highly disturbing picture of violations of national airspace, emergency scrambles, narrowly avoided midair collisions, close encounters at sea, simulated attack runs and other dangerous actions happening on a regular basis over a very wide geographical area.”
The findings seemed to add weight to remarks last weekend by Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, at an event in Berlin for the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
“Bloodshed in Europe and the Middle East against the backdrop of a breakdown in dialogue between the major powers is of enormous concern,” Mr. Gorbachev said at the Brandenburg Gate in the German capital where President Ronald Reagan once urged him to “tear down this wall.”
“The world is on the brink of a new Cold War,” Mr. Gorbachev said. “Some are even saying that it’s already begun.”
While it does not use quite the same language, the report on Monday said that “to perpetuate a volatile standoff between a nuclear armed state and a nuclear armed alliance and its partners in the circumstances described in this paper is risky at best.”
“It could prove catastrophic at worst,” it said.
The report traced a turning point in the number and gravity of incidents involving Russian forces to March. By October, it said, NATO officials had already reported three times as many intercepts of Russian aircraft as in all of 2013.
Those included a close encounter on June 17, when warplanes of the British Royal Air Force were scrambled in response to the presence of “multiple Russian aircraft in international airspace.”