No official position yet in response to Russian invitation to discuss Baltic air safety
Neither Estonia nor NATO have yet issued official responses to the Russian defense ministry’s suggestion to meet in Moscow to discuss air safety matters and general security policy issues.
NATO’s deputy secretary general, Alexander Vershbow, said on Wednesday that the Russian initiative to improve the air safety situation in the Baltic Sea area was welcome, but that it didn’t go far enough.
Director of the Estonian Defence Ministry's strategic communication department, Artur Jugaste, said to ERR’s Estonian news portal that neither they nor NATO had declined the Russian invitation.
“Like Deputy Secretary General Vershbow said, the allies have repeatedly tried to increase transparency in their communication with Russia, both in connection with NATO as well as the OSCE. Vershbow’s goal was to invite Russia to meet the commitments it entered into, but which it doesn’t meet at present,” Jugaste said.
He added that Vershbow had also pointed out that Russia needed to change its behavior in Ukraine and elsewhere if what it wanted was to build trust.
The Russian defense ministry had invited NATO’s member states to Moscow next month, along with representatives of Sweden and Finland, both of which aren’t members of the alliance, to discuss matters of air safety in the Baltic Sea region.
Incidents where Russian military planes come dangerously close to civilian jets, as well as airspace violations on the part of planes of the Russian air force, have become a lot more frequent since the occupation and annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the following difficulties between Russia and the West.
Often times these Russian aircraft fly with their transponders turned off, which makes them hard to detect except for specialized military radar. They represent a danger for civilian as well as military air traffic in the Baltic Sea area, where most of the incidents occur.