Russian Fighters to Counter NATO Deployments

Russia is considering deploying additional fighter jets to Belarus to counter Air Force F-15s and F-16s sent to reassure NATO allies in Poland and Lithuania, reported state-run RIA Novosti. Russian President Vladimir Putin said he opposes NATO’s presence “on our historic territories,” apparently referencing NATO’s Eastern European member states, in a separate state-run media report released March 18. Russia already deployed six Su-27 fighters to a base just over the Polish and Lithuanian border where US fighters are currently stationed in response to Russian military incursions in Ukraine, a separate press report stated. “There is in fact an escalation of the situation near our borders . . . We will respond to it appropriately,” said Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, explaining his request for more fighters. As many as 15 additional Russian fighters could be dispatched under the two countries’ mutual defense agreement, RIA Novsti noted. Ukraine’s independent government in Kiev said it will not seek NATO membership, in a bid to calm tensions following Russia’s annexation of the country’s Crimea region on Tuesday, reported the Washington Post. NATO once again called on Russia to de-escalate and cease military hostilities against Ukraine in a statement earlier this week.