As the UK government is pressured at home and from Washington to maintain its commitment to spending the required 2% of the GDP on defence as required by NATO the Royal Air Force’s Typhoons guarding the Baltic States have seen their busiest day yet. As NATO conducted a large scale amphibious landing exercise on the shores of northern Poland which included the Royal Navy’s flagship HMS Ocean and up to 5600 troops from 17 militaries around the alliance the Russian armed forces were keen to demonstrate that it was a threat to be taken seriously and would not be intimidated by the west. In a dramatic surge of activity Russian aircraft approaching the exercise area and NATO controlled airspace along the Baltic necessitated the scrambling of RAF typhoons three times over a 24 hour period and with the exercise still going on it is likely even more interceptions will take place in the coming days.
NATO’s exercise was designed to demonstrate the alliance’s commitment to defending its eastern European allies while simultaneously warning Russia against having any ambitions beyond its annexation of the Crimea last year despite claims of Russian troops already in eastern Ukraine. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said that the UK will “stand tall, shoulder-to-shoulder” with her NATO allies to defend eastern Europe from outside aggression.
With Russia reacting extremely negatively to American ambitions to place additional forces at its western European bases even going so far as to cite it as one of the reasons why Russia needs to update and upgrade its nuclear deterrent its clear that Cold War II shows no sign of cooling down just yet. Fortunately for now the situation between the west and Russia remains a war of words but as more economic sanctions threaten to further alienate Russia from the global community it would not take much to see an escalation of the situation. For NATO and in particular the RAF the worry is that a reckless Russian bomber crew carry out dangerous manoeuvres whilst being intercepted and results in a collision. RAF fighter pilots have repeatedly reported that Russian crews behave dangerously (almost aggressively) when being escorted away from controlled airspace and if a collision were to occur with lives lost then the situation could deteriorate rapidly.