New NATO head commends Baltic Air Police

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NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, at Lask Airforce Base in Poland on his first official visit to an alliance member-state since assuming his post last week, reiterated the organization’s resolve to create and maintain a rapid-reaction spearhead force ready to respond to threats against any individual ally on its eastern flank.

“We will implement the plan in full and maintain a continuous presence and activity in the eastern part of our Alliance,” he said after meeting with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski on Monday.

The NATO Channel prepared a video reportage on Stoltenberg’s first official trip as Secretary-General, offering a glimpse at the Baltic Air Police (BAP) mission from the runways of Lask Airforce Base, where US, Italian, Canadian and other allied airmen have been deployed.

The alliance’s new civilian chief credited NATO forces with protecting the skies over the Baltics, where alliance aircraft routinely patrol as part of an air-policing mission that has quadrupled in size in recent months.

The BAP also has jets and pilots stationed at Siauliai airbase in Lithuania and Amari airbase in Estonia. They have been scrambling regularly to intercept frequent Russian military flights along the edges of Baltic airspace in recent months.

Sixteen NATO fighters now take part in the mission, up from four. NATO officials say alliance intercepts of Russian aircraft have more than doubled in the past year, spiking in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in March.

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