Newspaper article The Canadian Press

NATO Jets Intercept Russian Fighters Twice in 2 Days over Baltic Sea

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

NATO Jets Intercept Russian Fighters Twice in 2 Days over Baltic Sea

Article excerpt

NATO intercepts Russian jets over Baltic Sea

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OTTAWA - A senior National Defence official says the Harper government has been given a series of options to maintain Canada's support for jittery allies in eastern Europe, but the contribution to NATO's air policing mission over the Balitic will come to an end by the new year as scheduled.

Maj.-Gen. Michael Hood testified before a House of Commons committee on Tuesday just as reports emerged that the Northatlantic alliance scrambled fighter jets -- including two Canadian F-18s -- twice in two days to intercept Russian military aircraft in the vicinity.

Many east European nations say Russian military activity in the region is increasing, but Hood characterized the majority of fighter interceptions as routine events involving cargo planes in an area where national boundaries are complicated and don't run in straight lines.

He said he wasn't tracking the specific incident revealed by NATO on Tuesday, but overall the missions have been non-threatening.

"The routine interception of Russian aircraft takes place very regularly," Hood said.

He told the all-party committee that while the CF-18 deployment may be coming to an end, National Defence has developed suggestions for the Harper government for further participation in NATO's ongoing mission to reassure jittery allies who border Russia.

"Our contribution to Baltic air policing will finish at the end of this block and the mission itself will continue with other NATO countries as far as options for continued presence in all three services, that is being looked at right now," said Hood, who is the director of the strategic joint staff, the nerve centre of National Defence.

He didn't say what the options might involve, but it is known that Canada intends to participate in a massive multinational exercise next year that is intended to test NATO's rapid reaction force.

At the NATO Summit in Wales last month, the Harper government shied away from an opportunity to join either the alliance's rapid reaction force, which is meant to deploy in a crisis -- or a separate British expeditionary force that is being assembled. …

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