Russian bombers meant to provoke, scare West European rivals: Dutch Defense Minister

Minister Ank Bijleveld of Defense thinks that two Russian bombers intercepted by Belgian F-16s just before entering Dutch airspace on Monday, were meant to scare, provoke or test Russia's West-European rivals, she said to the Telegraaf.

Two Belgian F-16s intercepted the two Russian Toepolev TU-160s, so-called Blackjack bombers, over the North Sea near the Wadden islands on Monday morning. They escorted the bombers towards the United Kingdom, where British fighter planes took over the escort. 

Bijleveld is not worried about the incident, "because we have a good eye on it", she said to the newspaper. She added that the Quick Reaction Alert system - the system used by the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg to protect the Benelux airspace - "worked very well" on Monday. 

According to the Minister, the incident confirms that "the threat is increasing at least slightly from the east side. I assume it is a form of deterrence or provocation, or to get a look once in a while. That is not the intention and that is why we keep an eye on them."

From January 1st last year, the Netherlands and Belgium are alternately responsible for monitoring the Benelux airspace. Belgium took over this duty from the Netherlands last week. If an aircraft enters the airspace without making radio contact, fighter jets take off within a few minutes to prepare for a possible threat.