A NATO F-16 fighter jet approached an aircraft carrying Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu as it traveled in international airspace over the Baltic Sea in northeast Europe Wednesday, escalating already heightened tensions in the region. Here’s how that went down.
A Russian Sukhoi-27 escorting the minister’s plane inserted itself between the two planes and maneuvered side to side, showing off its weapons payload and warning the F-16 to leave, according to reports. The minister’s plane eventually landed without further incident in Kaliningrad, a province squeezed between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic coast.
It isn’t clear which country the NATO F-16 flew from or why the jet approached the ministers’s plane. Russian and NATO jets have buzzed each other in the past, but this is the most high profile incident to date. Via Reuters:
Russian politicians called the episode the latest in a string of “provocations,” a day after the Russian defense ministry said an RC-135 U.S. reconnaissance plane had swerved dangerously near a Russian fighter jet over the Baltic and that another RC-135 had been intercepted.
The Pentagon disputed that, saying the U.S. aircraft “did nothing to provoke this behavior” and that the Russian intercept had been unsafe.
Earlier this month, Russia intercepted a nuclear-capable U.S. B-52 bomber Moscow claims was nearing its border.
So who at NATO wants to take responsibility for this one?