East Europe’s Air Umbrella

p, .Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met with Estonian Defense Minister Sven Mikser and Czech Republic Minister of Defense Martin Stropnicky at the Pentagon on Tuesday to discuss ways to bolster NATO activities in the Baltics in response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said Tuesday. Hagel, Stropnicky, and “leaders from a dozen European nations” will continue the discussion at an Atlantic Council conference today, he added. At the same time, allied officials announced that British, Danish, and Polish fighters will jointly patrol NATO’s Baltic airspace from bases in Estonia and Lithuania for the next four months. Polish MiG-29s augmented by Royal Air Force Typhoons took over Baltic air policing at Šiauliai AB, Lithuania, while Danish F-16s will stand quick reaction alert from Amari AB, Estonia, according to an April 29 NATO release. NATO also dispatched French Rafale fighters to Malbork AB, Poland, and Canadian F-18s to Romania “as part of the NATO efforts to reassure Allies in Central and Eastern Europe,” according to the alliance statement. Russian military aircraft illegally breached Ukrainian airspace “on several occasions” late last week, reported Reuters. (Kirby transcript.) (Stropnicky readout.)