UK & World News
Ukraine: Nato Planes To Monitor Russian Troops
Nato will fly surveillance aircraft through Polish and Romanian airspace to monitor the situation in Crimea; a step up in the Alliance's response to the crisis.
Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft based at Waddington in Lincolnshire and Geilenkirchen in Germany, and flown solely by the RAF, will track Russian troop and flight movements over an area of 312,000 square miles.
In reality, the aircraft don't need to be flown over Poland or Romania, as three Awacs flying in co-ordination could cover most of central Europe.
If Russian jets were to make an incursion into Nato-controlled airspace, they could be intercepted by US F-16s operating in Lithuania as part of Nato's east European air policing operation.
That is also conducted on a rotational basis with the United States currently responsible for manning the deterrent. Washington ordered a further six jets to join the deployment last week.
Poland also has its own capable air force which could be called into action if required and last week Turkish jets were scrambled when Russian planes entered their airspace near the Black Sea.
The flights "will enhance the Alliance's situational awareness," a Nato official said, adding: "All Awacs reconnaissance flights will take place solely over Alliance territory."
"This decision is an appropriate and responsible action in line with Nato's decision to intensify our ongoing assessment of the implications of this crisis for Alliance security," the official added.
Former Soviet satellite states in Eastern Europe have become increasingly nervous at President Vladimir Putin's apparent willingness to up the Ukraine ante over Crimea.
The crisis could deepen if Crimea - now controlled by pro-Russian leaders - votes in a March 16 referendum to break all links with Kiev and become part of Russia.
Poland and the Baltic states in particular have taken a hard line against Moscow as events have unfolded and last week, Warsaw called for urgent consultations with its Nato allies on the situation.
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