In a flashback to the Cold War, on 18 July a U.S. Air Force surveillance aircraft that was in international airspace off Kaliningrad, the Russian territory that before 1945 was part of East Prussia, was chased by Russian fighters. As reported in The New York Times, the unarmed aircraft, an RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft known as a RIVET JOINT in the espionage trade, was sufficiently concerned by this threat that the large, lumbering plane headed for sanctuary over Gotland Island, a Swedish territory in the Baltic Sea. The U.S. Department of Defense apologized to Stockholm for this unplanned violation of Swedish sovereignty.
Unsatisfied with this, the Kremlin today publicly chastised the Swedes with a message entitled: “Comment by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Information and Press Department regarding the violation of Sweden’s airspace by an American RC-135 spy plane.”
Mincing no words, the Russian MFA employed mocking language reminiscent of the darker days of the Cold War to express its displeasure with Stockholm:
A recent breach of Sweden’s airspace by a U.S. RC-135 spy plane is a rather revealing case. It is interesting to know why Sweden, known for its policy of “freedom from military alliances,” suddenly decided to play along with the USA and made clumsy attempts to hide this fact from the Swedish and international community. However, the theory that the American pilots used Swedish airspace to escape Russian fighters looks like a challenge to common sense. We believe that sovereignty over national airspace is not a basis on which dubious Hollywood scripts could be spun out.
It is this build-up of the activities of NATO and those “true Balts,” the USA, in the Baltic region, which all this time was a zone of peace and stability, that leads to absurd situations such as a sudden “friendly” invasion of airspace of Sweden, which is not involved in military alliances. This line cannot be described other than irresponsible and short-sighted, poisoning the atmosphere in North Europe.
The Kremlin’s remarkable tone here, which is far from diplomatic, ought to concern everyone, given the already high state of tensions over Ukraine.