The commander of United States Air Force operations in Europe and Africa expressed “very serious” concern Monday over what he described as big buildups of complex Russian missile defenses that increasingly threaten NATO military access to air space in parts of Europe, including one-third of the skies in Poland.
He also said Russia had started to engage in similar missile buildups in the Crimean Peninsula, which it annexed nearly two years ago from Ukraine, and in war-ravaged Syria, where Russian military forces have been assisting the government by bombing its insurgent foes for more than three months.
The commander, Gen. Frank Gorenc, whose responsibilities include Air Force operations covering 104 countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and parts of the Middle East, said the Russian strategy, known as anti-access/area denial, or A2/AD in military shorthand, was among the most worrisome trends he had seen.
Some of the heaviest concentrations of A2/AD deployments, General Gorenc said in an interview with The New York Times editorial board, are in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic coast. The surface-to-air missile systems there, he said, are “layered in a way that makes access to that area difficult,” with a spillover effect in parts of Poland and the Baltics, should NATO jets have reason to operate there.