PARIS, April 24 (Reuters) - France will send four Rafale fighter jets to Poland next week as part of a show of NATO commitment to Central Europe and the Baltic states, which have been rattled by the escalation of tensions between Russia and Ukraine.
The four warplanes will be sent to Malbork in northern Poland on April 28 on a double mission: to train the Polish air force and stand ready for air patrols over the Baltic states under NATO command, the French defence ministry said.
Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian visited Poland and the Baltics last month to reassure them on security, and will go to Malbork on April 29 as the French pilots start their four-month mission.
NATO said last week it would send more ships, planes and troops to eastern Europe to reassure allies worried by Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its massing of troops on the border with eastern Ukraine.
NATO has operated its “police the skies” mission over the Baltic states since 2004, with each alliance member state taking a turn every four months to supply planes. The United States does the job at the moment and Poland will take over in May. (Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)