NATO war planes have had to scramble 400 times this year in response to an increase in Russian air activity around Europe, a rise of 50 percent over last year, the new secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said on Thursday.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation members have sought to fill gaps in the alliance’s land, air and sea defences since Russia annexed Crimea and backed the secessionist movement in the eastern part of Ukraine.

Speaking to U.S., German and Estonian troops at a newly expanded and renovated air base in western Estonia, which once housed a Soviet military installation, Stoltenberg said the problem was not just where the Russians are flying but that they are not turning on their transponders or communicating.

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