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Madrid’s Castles in the Air: Spanish Jets to Spy on Russia Over Baltics

The Spanish Air Force will join the mission to patrol the skies over the Baltic States amid the deterioration of ties between NATO and Russia, according to the Spanish newspaper ABC.

The Spanish newspaper ABC reported that Spanish pilots will join the NATO-led mission in Estonia to strengthen patrolling the airspace of the Baltic States near the Russian border, one of the hot spots of confrontation between Moscow and NATO.

The Spanish mission, which is due to begin in April, will be joined by jets from the 15th Wing of the Spanish Air Force, based in Zaragoza.

In addition to monitoring the air space, the Spanish airmen will be responsible for training new pilots of F-18 all-weather carrier-capable multirole combat jets.

The details of the upcoming mission were announced by Spanish Defense Minister Maria Dolores de Cospedal during her visit to Zaragoza Air Base earlier this week.

The three Baltic States, Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania, do not possess air patrol capabilities. Since joining NATO in 2004, the three Baltic countries’ airspace has been defended by a rotating NATO mission.

NATO’s main base in the Baltic region is the Zokniai Air Force Base in Latvia, while Estonia’s Amari Air Base has been used by the alliance since 2014.

Last year, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the alliance will enhance its rotational presence in Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia with 4 battalions in 2017.

He said that there is no timeline for NATO’s expansion in Eastern Europe and that it will last as long as needed.

Since 2014, the alliance has been building up its military presence in Europe, especially in Eastern European countries neighboring Russia, using Moscow’s alleged interference in the Ukrainian conflict as a pretext.

Moscow has repeatedly denied the claims and warned NATO that the military buildup on Russia’s borders is provocative and threatens the existing strategic balance of power.


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