Author Topic: Pentagon sending fighter jets to boost NATO presence amid Ukraine crisis  (Read 241 times)

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Pentagon sending fighter jets to boost NATO presence amid Ukraine crisis
Published March 05,

WASHINGTON –  The U.S. military is boosting its NATO presence in a bid to support the defenses of U.S. allies in Europe in response to Russia's takeover of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.

After Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel first alluded to the effort during testimony on Capitol Hill earlier Wednesday morning, a Defense official confirmed that the U.S. will send six additional F-15s and one KC-135 to "augment the mission" in Baltic countries.

The U.S. currently provides four F-15s to what's known as the Baltic Air Policing rotation. The additional aircraft will be sent from a base in Britain to Siauliai Air Base in Lithuania, the official said.

"This action comes at the request of our Baltic Allies and further demonstrates our commitment to NATO security," the official said.

In addition, the official said the Pentagon is now "consulting" with Polish allies on "increasing activities" in connection with a separate detachment mission in that country. Poland currently hosts 10 U.S. Air Force personnel as part of joint aviation training work.

Speaking during a press conference in Paris, Secretary of State John Kerry described these decisions as "concrete steps to reassure our NATO allies." Obama administration officials continue to urge Russian President Vladimir Putin to "de-escalate" and have not confirmed that any military options are on the table at this point.

In his remarks earlier Wednesday, Hagel focused on U.S. diplomatic and aid efforts since Moscow's invasion into Ukrainian territory. He said he'd speak later Wednesday with Ukraine's new defense minister; Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey spoke to his Russian counterpart earlier in the day. Neither Hagel nor Dempsey mentioned military options.

"I urge continued restraint to reserve room for a diplomatic solution," Dempsey told the Senate panel.

While the hearing was supposed to focus on the military's budget, both witnesses quickly addressed the ongoing events in Ukraine.

Since last weekend, Russian troops have taken control of much of the peninsula in the Black Sea, where Russian speakers are in the majority. Moscow doesn't recognize the Ukrainian leadership that came to power after protesters ousted the country's pro-Russian president last month. It has cited strategic interests as well as the protection of ethnic Russians in making its case for intervention.

Hagel said the U.S. was reaffirming its commitment to allies in Central and Eastern Europe, some of whom spent decades in the last century under Soviet domination. European countries are grappling with their own response to the crisis, fearful about moves reminiscent of Russia's Cold War policy of regional hegemony but equally concerned about damaging trade and energy partnerships vital to their economies.

The United States assumed control over NATO's air policing duties over Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in January. Belgium previously had the four-month rotating duty. The mission "not only protects the integrity of NATO airspace, it illustrates the alliance's core function of collective defense," the 28-nation bloc said in a statement at the time.

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Will the administration let them have live weapons on these jets?

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Will the administration let them have live weapons on these jets?

The administration doesn't have a say in that. All aircraft, matters not which country they are from, in the Baltic Air Policing fly hot.
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A sensible thing to do - probably one of the few things that will actually calm a jittery nerve or two in the Baltics - but it lost some of its effect, I think, by talking about it first.  If the aircraft had been sent from the US to Siauliai Air Base immediately after Russian boots hit ukraine soil, the Baltic states would have known about it - they'd be told about it privately - and the Russians would have known about it via their radars.  Both sides would have taken it as a "hint" that the US was not about to abandon its NATO allies, and it couldn't so easily be dismissed as a propaganda stunt if the US hadn't talked about it first.  It's still important, but by talking it up Hagel et al., have now given it a PR dimension it didn't need.

Once again, the administration is flouting TR's adage about speaking softly and carrying a big stick - when you have the stick, your enemies know it, so you don't have to tell them about it and, in fact, you squander some of the effectiveness of that stick - short of actually having to hit someone with it - if you prance around in public talking about how big your stick is.
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