A Russian jet — a supersonic Su-27 fighter — faced down two NATO F-16s in the skies over the Baltic Sea Monday, in what was at least the fourth such showdown between Russian planes and NATO fighters in the past two weeks.
The Russian military jet was flying razor close to Latvian air space, while remaining over international waters. But NATO took no chances and scrambled fighters to push the Russian Su-27 off of the Latvian coastline, that country’s army announced on its Twitter feed.
NATO Baltic Air Policing QRA F16 jets on 17 NOV scrambled to intercept RU Armed Forces Su-27 over the Baltic Sea.
— NBS (@Latvijas_armija) November 17, 2014
On November 12, two Dutch NATO fighters intercepted a Russian transport jet that flew over the Baltic without a flight plan. And on November 8, a Russian spy plane violated NATO air space over Lithuania when two Canadian NATO policing jets took to the skies to drive the Russians away.
Two days before that, another Russian spy plane almost grazed Latvia’s air space before a NATO squadron escorted it back to Russian territory.
Monday’s aerial standoff between the NATO and Russian jets was yet another example of what a report by the European Leadership Network last week called Russia’s “dangerous brinksmanship” in the region, as Russia has repeatedly sent jets and surveillance aircraft into the skies over the Baltic.
Russian jets have also flown near, or into Japanese air space in record numbers this year as well.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, interviewed on German television Sunday following the G20 summit meetings in Australia — meetings where Putin showed up accompanied by four menacing Russian warships — said that the repeated flights by his country’s aircraft are simply military exercises carried out “exclusively in the international waters and over international air space.”
But an expert on the Russian military, Tom Nichols of the United States Naval War College, told Business Insider that the seemingly aggressive moves made by the Russian jets are “not normal,” and called the increased provocations by Russia “an expression of Putin’s foreign policy,” that “comes from the very top.”
A spokesperson for Russia’s embassy in Australia dismissed the idea that the Russian warships that stationed themselves off Australian shores during the summit had anything but innocent intentions.
“Your reaction is not that surprising because we do rarely go this way,” said Maxim Raku. “We really don’t break any rules, we stick to international law, so why should we be seen as a danger?”
NATO jets have scrambled to cut off Russian intruders and potential intruders more times in 2014 than in any year since the Cold War ended more than two decades ago.