RAF Typhoons based in Estonia were dispatched three times in the past 24 hours to intercept Russian jets flying close to NATO military exercises in the Baltic. The exercises boast 5,600 troops from 17 militaries, as well as 49 vessels, including the Royal Navy’s HMS Ocean. Speaking to Sky News, the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon warned Russia that the exercise were “not a game” and that Britain would “stand tall, shoulder-to-shoulder” with its allies in eastern Europe.
"I am hugely proud to see the men and women of the RAF continuing their watch over our allies on the eastern borders of the Nato alliance," said Fallon. "Our on-going presence here sends a clear message that we will stand with our eastern European partners. The UK has a pivotal role to play in ensuring global security, and if we fail to defend our allies as well as ourselves, we risk encouraging adventurism and instability elsewhere in the world."
Ocean is taking part in amphibious landings in northern Poland. The Kremlin has criticized the exercises, which are being held less than 100 miles from the Russian border, with Moscow warning the drills will further revive Cold War tensions.
A British Royal Air Force (RAF) Typhoon jet fighter departs Gioia del Colle air base, Italy, Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Vladimir Putin’s government, said: "It's not Russia that's approaching someone's borders. It's NATO's military infrastructure that is approaching the borders of Russia.” He added that the exercises would force Russia into taking measures to “safeguard its own interests, its own security."
On Tuesday, Putin said that Russia would add 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles to its nuclear arsenal, a move NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called “saber-rattling.” Tension remains high between Russia and the West over Moscow’s role in the crisis in Ukraine, in which Moscow-backed separatists have seized swathes of land following the annexation of Crimea in 2014.