On October 28th and 29th of this year, several convoys of Russian aircraft made flights over the North Sea, Atlantic Ocean, Baltic Sea, and Black Sea that led to NATO monitoring, intercepting, and standby readiness. In 2014, the number of Russian aircraft intercepted by NATO planes has tripled to more than 100 in all.
These incursions were often into the airspace of (non-Russian) Europe. The U.K., Portugal, Norway, Turkey, Germany, and other NATO nations have scrambled jets numerous times in response. Even non-NATO Sweden and Finland sent planes to guard against the intruders. These developments show the organization of NATO’s air defense is up to snuff, but also tell of a bolder, more aggressive Russia that is desirous to test NATO’s resolve.
The recent weakness displayed by the West in the Crimea and eastern Ukraine is likely a factor. Earlier weakness of the U.S. was perceived in the back-down from the threat to bomb Russian-allied Syria. That led to Putin’s gamble in Crimea, and his success there has only emboldened him further.
According to NATO spokesman Broda, these air space tests are not new and do not indicate we are on the brink of war with Russia, but one does sense a little muscle flexing by Putin here. Russia’s ally Iran is nearing nuclear status, Assad is hanging on in Syria, Ukraine is being systematically dismembered, and now we chase daring Russian pilots through Western air space. These are not the days of Ronald Reagan.