September 25, 2014 3:29 pm
Russian Intercepts Highlight NATO Air Power in The Baltics
By Mark Odell
Behind the rising number of intercepts of Russian military aircraft probing the airspace of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania lies a build-up of NATO air power in the region linked to a longstanding agreement to protect the three former Soviet republics.
The so-called Baltic Air Policing arrangement was put in place in 2004 when the three Baltic states joined NATO. It was designed to allow the new members to focus their small defense budgets on building up their armies into rapidly deployed reaction forces rather than spending hundreds of millions of dollars on expensive combat aircraft.
The deal envisaged the more established NATO members providing four aircraft on a four-monthly rotation to protect the Baltic airspace. A former Soviet bomber air base was chosen as the home of the new rapid reaction…
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