At this year’s second NATO-Russia Council meeting, which kicked off in Brussels Thursday, envoys from both Russia and NATO are expected to address recent “unsafe” jet maneuvers near the Baltic Sea.
“A diplomatic source in Brussels earlier said that efforts to prevent incidents and ensure the transparency of military activity in Europe that has considerably intensified recently will top the agenda of the meeting,” according to Tass, a Russian state-owned media service.
In late June, a NATO F-16 fighter belonging to Poland attempted to intercept a Russian Su-27 carrying Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu over the Baltic Sea. While the Polish jet was eventually deterred, the incident prompted an unhappy Russian response.
“The situation near our western borders tends to deteriorate. This is linked to the increasing military activity of NATO countries in Eastern Europe,” Shoigu said at a Russian Defense Ministry meeting.
“All these developments demonstrate the Western partners’ blatant reluctance to abandon their anti-Russian policy,” Shoigu added, referring to a military build-up and a spate of NATO exercises held in Eastern Europe in the last year or so.
The encounter was filmed by a Russian journalist:
Also in June, the Russian military scrambled a fighter to intercept a nuclear-capable U.S. B-52 it said flew too close to Russian borders. The American plane, which was in international airspace, was escorted away from Russian territory without incident.
NATO, for its part, claims it tracked three Russian aircraft over the Baltic Sea last month, two of which, it said, did not respond to air traffic control or requests to identify themselves, but the Russians say this was the same incident involving the Polish F-16, and that their own planes were merely responding to a perceived threat.
“There have been a series of unsafe intercepts,” a NATO official said of Russian pilots. “Risk reduction remains a concern.”
Another incident saw a Russian Su-27 buzz a U.S. RC-135 reconnaissance plane in late June.
Russia’s envoy, Alexander Grushko, is expected to raise the issue with his counterparts at the meeting, as well as the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
The meeting in Brussels, which takes place on the ambassadorial level, is supposed to provide a forum where regional diplomats can discuss issues and de-escalate tensions. Thursday’s talks are the fifth round since the crisis in Ukraine stymied regular meetings in 2014.
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