Dutch daily: Partners of NATO air policing pilots trolled by Russians

Dutch F-16 at Ämari air base.
Dutch F-16 at Ämari air base. Source: Scott Abel

Dutch daily De Telegraaf reported that partners of Dutch fighter pilots on NATO's Baltic air policing mission two years ago repeatedly received unpleasant phone calls at the time from people with a Russian accent. They were asked, among other things, whether it would not be better for their men to leave the Baltic states.

De Telegraph wrote that the partners of Dutch F-16 fighter pilots were called at home by unknown individuals speaking English with a Russian accent. "They would ask detailed questions about what their partners were doing in the Baltic states, what they think about it, and said it would be better for them to stop what they are doing and return home," the paper wrote.

Exactly how many people received these calls isn't known, it added.

According to Dick Zandee, defense specialist at the Clingendael Institute, a Dutch policy think tank, this is a well-known phenomenon. That the callers were able to single out the pilots' partners shows how vulnerable communication systems are, he added.

Zandee said that this has been happening elsewhere as well, for example to NATO troops in Lithuania.

Citing "sources within the pilot community," De Telegraaf said the calls started after the pilots had phoned home using their own phones. Today, Dutch military personnel are no longer allowed to use mobile networks with their own phones, and accessing wireless networks is only permitted using the defense forces' own infrastructure. Whoever wants to make phone calls must purchase a prepaid phone with a local SIM card.

The Dutch military intelligence service, MIVD, told the paper that they are aware of the calls.

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Editor: Dario Cavegn

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