Officials at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, said the recent large-scale Russian air operations in the Baltics and the “considerable” air, naval, and land-based military activity in the region is “potentially dangerous.” Speaking to Air Force Magazine on background, a senior NATO official confirmed several recent large-scale Russian activities, noting that on Dec. 8 NATO fighters assigned to the Baltic air policing mission carried out intercepts of over 30 Russian aircraft of various types, which were flying in large groups off the coast of Norway and over the Baltic Sea. Those intercepts, which continued on Tuesday, followed a series of intercepts over the weekend, the NATO official said, including one large formation of four Tu-95 bombers flying with two Tu-22 Backfire bombers intercepted by Portuguese F-16s on Dec. 7. While most air intercepts by NATO are routine, the intercept of the bomber formation represented a “significant level of activity by Russia,” the official said—similar to an Oct. 31 flight with four Tu-95s and four Il-78 tankers flying from the North Sea down to the Portuguese coast. “NATO remains vigilant, and all the measures we are taking are defensive and in line with our international obligations,” the official added.
President Joe Biden is nominating Air Force Lt. Gen. Gregory M. Guillot to add a fourth star and succeed Gen. Glen D. VanHerck as the head of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)—one of several high-level nominations the Pentagon announced May 31.