NATO jets in the Baltic countries intercepted two Russian military aircraft today as the alliance said Russian air activity has surged on its borders.
F-16 jets from NATO’s Baltic air policing mission intercepted a Russian Su-27 fighter and Eurofighter aircraft later shadowed an IL-76 military transport plane, Latvia’s army said on its Twitter account. It reported interceptions of seven Russian jets yesterday and on Oct. 28.
Amid tensions with the Kremlin over the crisis in Ukraine, North Atlantic Treaty Organization jets have tracked more than 100 Russian aircraft so far this year, more than triple the number in 2013, the alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in Athens.
“Russians are exercising and moving aircraft in the Baltic area between St. Petersburg and the Kaliningrad exclave much more than they did in the past as a result of higher military spending,” Pauli Jarvenpaa, a research fellow at the International Centre for Defence Studies in Tallinn, said by phone. “There can be potential mechanical failures, accidents. It’s a high-risk game.”
NATO warplanes monitored four groups of Russian military aircraft conducting “significant” maneuvers in European airspace over the Baltic, North and Black seas, the alliance said in a statement today.
While most interceptions don’t involve airspace incursions, Latvia’s northern neighbor Estonia and non-aligned Finland have reported repeated incidents this year where Russian aircraft violated their airspace. Sweden staged its biggest naval mobilization since the Cold War earlier this month in a week-long hunt for a suspected foreign vessel in the Stockholm archipelago.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said today she isn’t “acutely concerned about grave airspace violations,” even as she spoke of the Russian army conducting “very robust exercises” in recent months.
Russian military planes flying near Baltic airspace are “nothing extraordinary” and “don’t pose a threat to Estonia,” Baltic News Service cited Jaak Tarien, commander of the Estonian Air Force, as saying yesterday in an interview.
In a separate incident, Latvia’s military spotted a Russian navy corvette today some seven nautical miles from its territorial waters, the army said via Twitter.
Russian warplanes practiced a bombing mission against Denmark’s Baltic Sea island of Bornholm in June, the Jyllands-Posten newspaper reported, citing information from military intelligence.