According to the Polish commentator Wojciech Majkowski, current Russian military aviation flights over the Baltic Sea don’t appear threatening, but in the future they might cause more tension in the region, delfi.lt reported on 7 August.
The article, published in the portal politykaglobalna.pl, points out that the Russian Air Force continues to encroach into Baltic air space, despite the presence of NATO fighter planes that have been patrolling the skies of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia for eight years.
Russia has not kept its distance, despite the fact that the Baltic States‘ governments have joined NATO and are under the protection of its air force. However, the effect on the Baltic States‘ air space without the NATO forces in the region is easy to imagine, according to the article‘s author. “It does not seem possible that Moscow would soon decide to stop this kind of provocation”, W.Majkowski states.
He goes on to state that our big neighbor‘s reminder of its military capabilities has become a standard tool of political pressure in the region. The crash of the Su-27 fighter on the 15th of September, 2005, in Lithuania‘s Šakiai district, has been called the most serious incident caused by the Russian Air Force.
The article quotes National Defense Minister Rasa Jukneviciene, who in July said that every week the Russian fighters are convoyed by the NATO fighters from Siauliai: “As the Baltic States lack appropriate assets to monitor their airspace, other NATO member States have conducted the air policing mission on a rotational basis since 2004. The Lithuanian Air Force base at Šiauliai is host to NATO’s Baltic Air Policing contingents.” (Source: http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/news_85569.htm, 14 08 2012.)
Currently, Baltic air space is protected by Polish manned fighter troops, and, says W.Majkowski, “So far, except for Su-27 fighter crash in Lithuania, the consequences of such incidents were not serious. At first sight, such events may not appear threatening at all. But, they still could happen, and that could tension in the Baltic region to escalate.”
The last incident occurred in July when NATO fighters responded to Russian aircraft maneuvers in the protected airspace. At that time, Polish fighter forces escorted the Russian bombers over the Baltic sea. As of this year, the NATO air-policing mission has been extended indefinitely, with the first review set for 2018.