National Security

NATO Reducing Air Patrols Around Baltic Sea as Russian Provocations Continue

Only 8 NATO aircraft will patrol region beginning in September

NATO
NATO fighters / Wikimedia Commons

The NATO alliance will reduce by half the number of planes patrolling around the Baltic Sea beginning in September despite continuing provocations from Russian military aircraft, according to reports.

"Our military commanders assess that the posture is appropriate and adequate," stated NATO spokesperson Carmen Romero.

So far this year across Europe NATO aircraft have scrambled 250 times in response to Russian military air activity.

NATO aircraft intercepted some 150 Russian military aircraft in the Baltic in 2014.

Another NATO official stated the planned reduction in the Baltic Air Patrol Mission does not represent "a change in our signal to Russia" and claims that there has recently been a slight decrease in Russian air activity in the region, although Russian military aircraft continue to fly at a high operational tempo there as well as over other parts of Europe.

Other long-range Russian flights have been observed near the Alaskan air defense zone in April and July.

Russia’s accelerated air activity, far beyond its rates of operation since the fall of the Soviet Union, has not been without cost to the Russian military. Since June, eight aircraft, including some aging TU-95 bombers, have crashed under various circumstances.

Before the crisis in Crimea broke out in early 2014, NATO maintained regular patrols in the Baltic with only four aircraft. That number was increased last year to eight and then increased again to 16 aircraft. Typhoon and F-16 interceptors from various NATO member states have been performing most of the missions as the crisis deepened and Russia expanded in the region its use of long-range bombers such as the Tu-95 and fighters.

Under the newly announced NATO policy, the number of aircraft patrolling around the Baltic will be cut to eight aircraft.

Russian authorities have described their increased aviation activity as "training missions" conducted in the Baltic Sea as well as near the territory the United Kingdom, where the RAF has repeatedly intercepted patrolling Russian bombers.

Since its 2014 annexation of Crimea, and in addition to the use of long-range bombers and fighters to fly near the territory of NATO members, Russia has been engaged in a series of aggressive actions targeting the West, including ongoing efforts to destabilize eastern Ukraine, large military exercises in western Russia, and cyber attacks against the Baltic states.

Russian General-lieutenant Anatoly Zhikharev stated that flights near the United Kingdom will continue for the foreseeable future. "According to the plan of strategic deterrence, the flights of long-distance aviation will be continued as a part of our military training and with the same intensity," he said.