Russia and Nato jets clash
President Vladimir Putin could be courting conflict with the West instructing pilots to breach protocols over the Baltics.
The response from NATO has seen coalition forces involved in close encounters, having flown within just 10 yards of Russian jets, sources say.
Russian fighter pilots have breached airspace protocols over Finland and Estonia repeatedly in acts of airborne aggression.
In one recent incident 13 fighter jets were intercepted as they appeared to escort a nuclear missile system in the sea prompting German pilots to intervene.
NATO is to call on Russia to cease its drills over the Baltic Sea in a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council.
Experts say Russia is attempting to justify its actions by claiming it requires to access to its naval base in the enclave of Kaliningrad.
German commander Swen Jacob said: “The fighter aircraft are almost always armed to the teeth.
“Six kinds of missiles. They could carry up to 10.”
Mr Putin is using the US election to flex his military muscle according to defence chiefs.
And in an attempt to back up this rhetoric last month he said: “There are many issues it has become difficult to discuss with the current administration, because practically no obligations are met and no agreements are respected, including those on Syria.
There has been a number of close calls over the Baltics
“We are ready, in any case, to talk with the new president and look for solutions to any, even the most difficult, issues.”
But former deputy secretary-general of NATO Alexander Vershbow said the behaviour sanctioned by the Kremlin could backfire.
He said: “[They were] clearly meant to be flipping the bird, in diplomatic terms.
“They’ve got to be careful not to get onto an even worse footing with the new U.S. administration.”
Juri Luik, head of the International Center for Defense and Security said Estonia has been forced to call on NATO for support.
He said: “We cannot handle ourselves.
“We need help from our allies.
“The Russians want to signal in a thousand different ways that they are the top dog, this is their area.”
NATO has admitted it is facing an uphill battle as it tries to preserve airspace integrity.
Its collective task force uses fighter aircraft for Air Policing purely for the purposes of its defensive mission.
Since the 1970s, NATO has established a comprehensive system of air surveillance and airspace management means, as well as Quick Reaction Alert which has led to hundreds of missions this year alone.
NATO forces are constantly on high alert over Russia aggression in the skies
A spokesman said: “Today, the world is more dangerous than it has been for many decades. To the east, we see an assertive Russia, violating sovereign borders. To the south, we see turmoil across the Middle East and North Africa.
NATO Allies also face other threats, including acts of terrorism in our own streets.
“NATO’s commitment to defend each Ally is as important today as ever before.
The challenges we face are such that no nation can tackle them alone.”