During a NATO exercise on Friday, an inciting incident occurred over the Baltic Sea. A Russian fighter jet chased a US bomber into Danish airspace. Only when the Danes sent their F-16 jets into the air did the Russian plane turn back.
Details of the Incursion
During a NATO exercise, a Russian fighter jet chased a US bomber into Danish airspace, triggering an alliance protest. The NATO statement said: “The incident on Friday is the first of its kind in several years and indicates a new level of provocative behavior by Russia.”
An American B-52 bomber took part in the “Allied Sky” exercise on Friday, during which six of these aircraft flew across all 30 NATO member countries in one day. Above the Baltic Sea, the Air Force plane was suddenly accompanied by a Russian SU-27 plane, which followed the US plane over the Danish island of Bornholm. Only when the Danes sent their F-16 jets into the air did the Russian plane turn back.
NATO: ‘Russia is Disregarding International Norms’
NATO’s Allied Air Command put out a statement on the incident on Monday. “This incident shows that Russia is disregarding international norms and the sovereign airspace of an allied nation.” The alliance said it will remain vigilant, prepared, and ready to keep NATO airspace secure “day and night.”
Denmark immediately launched its rapid reaction alarm aircraft to counter the violation. However, the aggressive Russian fighters returned before interception, NATO confirmed and stating that “the unauthorized entry into the sovereign airspace is a serious violation of international law.”
Denmark: Wants to Ensure Similar Incident Doesn’t Recur in Future
Denmark’s Defense Minister Trine Bramsen said on Tuesday regarding the incident that the intrusion into Danish airspace was utterly unacceptable. Denmark will now “as soon as possible” discuss this incident with the Russian authorities, “to avoid repetition.”
Russia has denied the incident. The Russian Su-27 fighter plane used to intercept the US Air Force’s B-52 bomber did not violate Danish airspace and flew over the Baltic Sea’s neutral waters, the Russian state media reported on Monday, citing Tass, a spokesperson for the Russian Defense Ministry. “The Ministry of Defense has denied the North Atlantic Alliance’s statement that the Russian Su-27 fighter violated the Danish border,” the official said, according to Tass.
The incident occurs amid heightened tensions between the US and Russia. Washington has accused the Russian military of several provocative actions in the past few days, including the unprofessional interception of a US B-52 bomber over the Black Sea and responsibility for a collision between Americans and Russian armored vehicles in Syria in which seven US troops were injured.
When asked about the apparent increase in incidents with the Russians, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo referred to the vehicle collision in Syria on Monday and said the incident was seen last week in which a Russian vehicle deliberately rammed an American vehicle. These were the types of issues that Washington has been monitoring closely while staying in contact with the Russians to say that was unacceptable behavior. Pompeo said that the US will respond to every single incident.
In terms of the incursion over Danish airspace, the Russian plan returned to Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania that has a significant Russian military presence. Bornholm Island is in the Baltic Sea, less than 90 miles east of Copenhagen. Denmark is one of the Nordic region’s states that has witnessed increased Russian belligerence over these last years, which has put NATO on increased alert.