Russia’s Constant Test of NATO Allies

Despite increases in Russian tests of NATO airspace, the current level of response is adequate though it is reviewed daily, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said. The US is part of a regular rotation to Baltic nations to protect the airspace of NATO allies, and in recent months the need for scrambled responses to Russian interference has increased. For example, the current rotation of German aircraft in Estonia handling the mission reported more than 30 scrambles between August and November in response to Russian aircraft flying near civilian air routes with their transponders turned off, James said Monday during an event at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C. The Air Force contingent that deployed earlier in the year reported similar conduct, including an unsafe intercept of an RC-135 Rivet Joint flying in international airspace. There’s “push and push, and test and test” going on by Russian jets, James said. The “highest levels” of NATO and US officials review the response daily, and even though there has been an increase in Russian involvement, the current level of response is adequate, James said. The US will take the reins back next year with a contingent of F-15s from the Louisiana Air National Guard deploying as a theater security package to multiple locations throughout Europe in the spring, James announced. While avoiding specifics, James said if she were “a betting woman,” she’d put money on the F-35 deploying to Europe next summer.