NATO And U.S. Boost Air Support In Baltic Region
April 2, 2014 by UPI - United Press International, Inc.
NATO and the United States are increasing air support in the Baltic region to help calm nerves among the states and send a clear message to Russia.
The Baltic states are in high alert and have increased tensions over Russian aggression in the region. NATO forces have sent air support to the region to supplement the small air force. The U.S. has sent 10 F-15s alone, and there are offers for more.
“I can’t say cold war because it is a very hot war,” said Jouzas Olekas, Lithuania’s Defense Minister. “The Russians occupied a part of Ukraine and they concentrated their forces and I think we should be ready to defend our states if this aggression should continue.”
The fighter jets are there not only for defense but also to send a clear message that Russia should not push into the region. NATO air support is on constant alert and taking turns to patrol the skies. At NATO’s command centers, they are monitoring Russian air activity and noticing increased traffic.
“We’ve seen a slow increase over the years consistent with Russian ambition,” said Air Operations Centre director Stephen Richards. “Their airforce has received more money. We know that. Everybody knows that and so we see more activity. I would say it’s not worrying but we need to be sure that we are aware of it.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Russia has no plans to go further than the annexation of Crimea, but that they will defend ethnic Russians in any country if they feel their safety or freedom is in danger.