The air encounter took place on the second day of the Baltops-2019 NATO naval and air exercise in the Baltic Sea, in which the United States, Sweden (a non-NATO member), and sixteen other nations, including non-NATO member Finland, were taking part. Not taking part in the exercise were NATO members Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg, Canada, Czechia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Iceland, Croatia, and Montenegro. The exercise was scheduled for June 9-21.
The Baltops exercise was being held under the command of the newly-reconstituted US Second Fleet, which is headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia. The annual exercise concludes with the participating ships and submarines sailing to Kiel in Germany to participate in the annual Kielerwochen naval parade, which also serves an opportunity for sailors to drink copious amounts of beer during the week-long festivities.
There is little doubt that the Western military alliance is attempting to turn the Baltic Sea into a “NATO lake.” With Sweden and Finland now openly participating in NATO military exercises and making no real secret of their participation in the operations with the FIVE EYES signals intelligence alliance of core members Britain, the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, there is but one nation in the Baltic that remains both outside the NATO construct and NATO’s sole target: Russia.