Is there really such a thing as NATO airspace?

On August 24, the BBC reported that British fighter jets intercepted a Russian military aircraft over the Black Sea.

The article said “typhoons were scrambled from a base in Romania on Thursday after a Be-12 maritime patrol aircraft was seen heading south-west from Crimea towards NATO airspace.”

According to international law, only sovereign countries have the right to regulate their own airspace, not international organizations. Of course, individual countries can ask allies to help patrol their airspace, but the state remains the sole authority that can exercise air sovereignty. Thus, technically, the BBC article should have said that a Russian plane was violating a NATO member’s airspace – in this case Romanian airspace – and not “NATO airspace.”

Interestingly, NATO countries view Russia violating Romanian airspace not as a bilateral issue but as violating “NATO airspace,” and Spanish planes violating Finland’s airspace is described as “NATO planes violating Finnish airspace.”

Back in August 2017, two Spanish NATO planes breached Finnish airspace while intercepting Russian aircraft near Estonia. Since Finland is not a NATO member, the violation of its airspace by the alliance’s members is viewed as a solely Finnish issue. Läs artikel