NATO will be tripling the volume of its fighter patrols over the Baltic States, Reuters reports. Two of the three Baltic states — Estonia and Latvia – are in precarious positions vis-à-vis Russia, and have large Russian minorities that Putin’s government has been making some noises about lately (especially Estonia — see Andrew Stuttaford’s writing on this). Since the Baltics joined NATO in 2004, the organization has provided “air policing” over the area, since the little states basically don’t have air forces of their own. (Below, two German F-4 Phantoms and two Polish MiG-29s as part of the patrol force in 2012 — Germany has thankfully finally retired the F-4s, but there’s a lesson there.)
The air-patrol announcement is part of a wider plan NATO is supposed to reveal on April 15 to bolster the Western presence in Central and Eastern Europe, which is intended to shorten the response time to any crisis in the area, and potentially could include sending military advisers to help the Ukrainian government. Meanwhile, the U.S. is sending a second missile-defense destroyer to the Black Sea, where it doesn’t normally have ships. Another guided-missile destroyer, the USS Truxtun, completed exercises there in late March and supposedly left — but the White House said last week that its deployment was extended and it remains in the sea.