Russian Air Incursions
Tit for Tat in the Skies Over the Baltic

Since Vladimir Putin seized Crimea and kicked off the international crisis over Ukraine, it’s been popular to measure how bad relations between Moscow and the West have gotten by tracking how many times Moscow has sent bombers, jets, ships, and even subs into or around opponents’ territory. By that metric, July was the worst month on record, as IHS Jane’s 360 reports:

NATO fighters intercepted record numbers of Russian combat aircraft over the Baltic region during air policing alerts in late July, the alliance announced.

Fighters from Belgium, Italy, Norway, and the UK assigned to the Baltic Air Policing Mission were scrambled to intercept 22 Russian aircraft as they transited through the region in a number of different formations over a two-week period.

In two of the largest interceptions ever seen, the UK Royal Air Force’s (RAF’s) Eurofighter Typhoons based at Amari Airbase in Estonia identified and shadowed four Sukhoi Su-34 ‘Fullback’ strike aircraft, four MiG-31 ‘Foxhound’ interceptors, and a pair of Antonov An-26 ‘Curl’ transport aircraft on 24 July, while five days later NATO fighters tailed four MiG-31s, four Sukhoi Su-24 ‘Fencer’ strike aircraft, as well as three An-26 and one Ilyushin Il-76 ‘Candid’ transport aircraft that had been flying close to Latvian airspace.

As reported in the Financial Times , NATO officials said that the alliance has launched more than 250 scrambles against Russian aircraft so far this year over Europe – more than at any time since the end of the Cold War. Of these, 120 have taken place over the Baltic region.

One incident IHS Jane’s didn’t mention is instructive. On July 4, two Russian nuclear-capable bombers flew within ten miles of the California coast and delivered a greeting over the radio to the U.S. aircraft that intercepted them: “Good morning, American pilots. We are here to greet you on your Fourth of July Independence Day.” Russia’s provocations are only getting more frequent and severe.

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