By Jack Phillips
Over the past four days, NATO jets were scrambled several times in the two regions, the military alliance confirmed in a statement on Friday, to track and intercept the planes. The alliance said those aircraft belonged to the Russian military, although the models of the planes were not provided.
“NATO radars tracked a number of unidentified aircraft over the Baltic and Black Seas since April 26,” it said, adding that its air response team launched fighter jets “in their respective regions to intercept and identify the approaching aircraft.”
Poland, Romania, Denmark, France, Spain, and the United Kingdom launched fighter planes to investigate the aircraft that were allegedly approaching NATO airspace, the alliance also said. Russian planes never entered NATO territory, the statement said, while the interceptions were done in a routine manner.
The statement noted that Russian planes often don’t use a transponder indicating their position or altitude, and they do not file a flight plan with NATO.
“Allies deployed from the north to the south of Europe remain unified in support of the NATO Air Policing mission,” said Maj. Gen. Jorg Lebert, chief of staff for NATO’s Allied Air Command. “The quick response of NATO’s two CAOCs demonstrates NATO forces’ readiness and capability to guard Allied skies 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.”
The interceptions come as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine, as NATO has attempted to deploy more troops and military hardware near its eastern flank, namely in the Baltic states, Poland, Slovakia, and Romania.
NATO’s leadership and President Joe Biden have both stressed they will not send troops to Ukraine, although Biden this week called on Congress to pass a $33 billion spending package for Ukraine, including weapons for the beleaguered country.
Both Republicans and Democrats have made statements indicating they will pass the massive spending package. House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said Thursday that “time is of the essence” in giving more aid to Ukraine.
“Every time I talked to the Ukrainians, and I talked to them a lot, it’s always about weapons,” McCaul said in a statement. For Ukrainian President Volodymyr “Zelenskyy, his biggest criticism is I could have used these weapons last October,” he said.
Meanwhile, Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) told reporters Thursday that he believes there will be bipartisan support.
“I expected a robust one and we need a robust one to support Ukraine, so I assume that it will have bipartisan support,” Menendez told reporters.
However, some members of Congress have expressed reservations about spending more money in connection with the conflict.
“Thomas Massie @RepThomasMassie · 20h Congress just authorized Biden to transfer virtually any weapon of war, other than a nuclear weapon, to Ukraine,” wrote Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.). “Insane! Here is the link to the bill and the statutory definition of ‘defensive article’ the bill references. I voted No.”
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