U.S. Air Force F-35 joint strike fighters arrived in Estonia on Tuesday, putting the latest in U.S. military jet technology close to Russia at a time of escalating tensions between Washington and Moscow. The fifth-generation Lockheed Martin jets arrived at the Amari air base on Tuesday and were greeted by Estonian Defense Minister Margus Tsahkna, according to tweets from the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn.
American F-35 jets head to Estonia for exercises in Putin's backyard
The fifth-generation Lockheed Martin jets arrived at the Amari air base on Tuesday and were greeted by Estonian Defense Minister Margus Tsahkna, according to tweets from the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn. "You are always welcome here," he said, according to the embassy. The air base is about 140 miles away from the Russian border with Estonia.
Estonian site ERR reported the jets will stay in Estonia for several weeks and will be a part of training flights with U.S. and other NATO air forces. The United States wants to have F-35s permanently stationed in Europe by 2020.
The Pentagon announced this month that the jets would be heading to Europe, but the decision to send the planes to Estonia was not announced.
Relations between the United States and Russia have bottomed out in recent months following the U.S. intelligence community's report that the Kremlin ordered an influence campaign on the American presidential election, and the escalation of the civil war in Syria. And last week, U.S. F-22 Raptors were scrambled near Alaskan airspace to intercept Russian Tu-95 "Bear" bombers flying in the area.
U.S. diplomats have been very critical of Russian backing of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and Russian officials have criticized President Trump's decision to fire Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base in response to a chemical weapons attack ordered by Assad. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's visit to Moscow this month did little to warm relations.