Over the Atlantic Ocean and the North, Black and Baltic seas, Russian bombers, fighter jets and tanker aircraft were detected flying in international airspace, the article says. There were no incursions into national airspace, a violation of sovereignty that would have significantly amplified the seriousness of the four incidents, three of which took place on Wednesday, article's author Michael Birnbaum points out.
He writes: "In at least one of the four incidents, the aircraft had switched off their transponders and had not filed flight plans with civilian air traffic controllers. That means that civilian air traffic control cannot track them, potentially creating a risk for civilian planes. That incident took place around 3:00 a.m. in Western Europe on Wednesday, when four Tu-95 long-range strategic nuclear bombers and four Il-78 tanker aircraft flew over the Norwegian Sea. Norwegian F-16 fighter jets scrambled to intercept them. Six of the planes returned to Russia, but two of the bombers skirted the Norwegian coast, flew past Britain - sending Typhoon fighter jets to scramble in response - and then finally looped west of Spain and Portugal, attracting Portuguese F-16s. Then the two bombers appeared to return to Russia."
The air incidents' details were disclosed to Birnbaum by Lt. Col. Jay Janzen, a spokesman for NATO's military command in Mons, Belgium. " The flights we've seen in the last 24 hours, the size of those flights and some of the flight plans are definitely unusual," he said. U.S. officials regard the flights as a show of force by the Putin government. "It's concerning because it's moving in the wrong direction," said one U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the air activity publicly. "It's not helping to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine. It's not helping to improve relations between NATO and Russia. It's not helping anybody."