The Russian air force has not shown any good faith toward NATO aircraft policing Baltic airspace in recent months by conducting a flurry of unsafe maneuvers and flybys, the top civilian leader of the Air Force said Monday.
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said the German air force, which oversees the mission, reported “more than 30 scrambles between the end of August and the start of November this year, intercepting Russian aircraft flying near civilian air routes with their transponders turned off.”
And through this year, the Russian air force intercepted U.S. Air Force and Navy pilots at least four times. Most notable was when a Russian Su-27 barrel-rolled over an Air Force spy plane over the Baltic Sea in April, she said.
The incidents highlight why it’s important for NATO countries, especially the “newer partners,” to continue joint training — even amid budget challenges and a fighter pilot and maintainer shortage in the U.S., James said at a talk hosted by the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C.
The secretary said NATO members should work quickly to contribute at least 2 percent of their gross domestic products on defense spending — a rule proposed by the bloc in 2014. Only five countries currently meet the standard — the U.S., United Kingdom, Poland, Greece and Estonia, according to the organization’s own information.
President-elect Donald Trump has criticized the U.S. for acting as the backbone to the NATO alliance, and left the door open on whether he would defend countries he deemed as not properly contributing. Trump beginning this summer questioned the automatic defense of NATO states and suggested the U.S. would provide aid only if they “have fulfilled their obligations to us.”
Even so, the Air Force’s obligations to the Baltic countries — which lack capable air forces — will continue in 2017 in part under the newly rebranded European Deterrence Initiative, James said, “to reflect that our presence … does more than reassure.”
Full article: Russia Keeps Provoking NATO Planes: SecAF (DefenseTech)