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Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO's supreme allied commander for Europe, briefs reporters at the Pentagon, Nov. 3, 2014. Screenshot captured from Defense Department video

Last week’s spate of large Russian air exercises that saw Russian military aircraft approach NATO airspace across the European continent was a divergence from the norm and is unsettling, said Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO’s top general in Europe, on Monday. “What is significant is that across history, most of these [Russian aviation] incursions have been very small groups of airplanes, sometimes singletons or at most two aircraft,” he told reporters during a Pentagon briefing. “What you saw this past week was a larger, more complex formation of aircraft carrying out a little deeper, and I would say a little bit more provocative, flight path. And so, it is a concern,” he added. The Russian activities did nothing to add to a more stable security environment in Europe, and are thus “problematic,” he noted. “My opinion is that they're messaging us … that they are a great power and that they have the ability to exert these kinds of influences in our thinking,” said Breedlove. NATO air policing assets reacted quickly and professionally by intercepting and escorting the Russian aircraft, he said. (Breedlove transcript)