Off the coast of Alaska, Russian military aircraft were spotted for the fourth time in four days, according to a U.S. defense official who told CNN about the situation.
What happened? CNN reported:
The two most recent sightings occurred late Wednesday and on Thursday, with the first involving two IL-38 maritime patrol aircraft and the second involving two Tu-95 nuclear-capable Bear bombers.
Russian aircraft never entered US airspace but the North American Aerospace Defense Command did dispatch US F-22s and Canadian CF-18s jets to perform an intercept during Thursday’s encounter, a NORAD spokesperson told CNN.
On Thursday, the bombers entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone 700 nautical miles southwest of Anchorage — significantly farther from the US coastline than two other encounters that occurred on Monday and Tuesday.
The Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone is a designated region of international airspace, primarily surrounding the US and Canada, that is meant as a buffer to allow for the identification of aircraft heading towards North America.
What does it mean? The defense official explained to CNN that there is “no other way to interpret this other than as strategic messaging.”
CNN reported: “While the Russians have not conducted flights of this nature since 2015, another senior defense official stressed that they are ‘not a concern’ and attributed the uptick to a recent lack of available Russian aircraft and need to boost training.”
CNN also pointed out that there has been no military threat posed at this point by these flights. Still, these flights and other Russian efforts to buzz our ships and otherwise flex their military muscles toward the U.S. and our allies does appear to be strategic.
Russian strategy. Moscow claimed that the country “regularly carries out patrol missions above the neutral waters of the Arctic, the Atlantic, the Black Sea and the Pacific Ocean.”
“All such missions are carried out in strict compliance with international regulations and with respect to national borders,” the Russian Defense Ministry claimed in a written statement.
Howard Stoffer, a former State Department staffer explained that what we’ve seen this week is part of a broader strategy by Russian President Vladimir Putin “to prove Russia is back in the game.”
“This kind of cat-and-mouse stuff has been going on for a while now,” Stoffer told CNN.
He further noted that Putin “is trying to put the US on notice that the Russians are everywhere and are back to expanding the limits of expanding their military power.”
“It is one thing when you fly to be noticed,” he said. “When the Russians buzz US ships, that is an unprofessional action because upsets the operation and is dangerous for all parties involved … that is where the line that is drawn.”