U.S. officials shrug off Russia’s Alaska moves

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Russian bombers recently sighted off the Alaskan coast are “nothing out of the ordinary,” according to U.S. defense officials who noted that “safe and professional” interactions with Russian bombers on Monday took place in international airspace 100 miles from Kodiak Island, Alaska.

The Russian aircraft never encroached on U.S. airspace in either instance, said defense officials, adding that the Russians’ conduct was business as usual. In fact, our own military has made similar flights along both the Chinese and Russian coasts.

According to a statement made by the Russian Defense Ministry, their military “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.”

Former State Department staffer Howard Stoffer commented, however, that he thinks Russia has something to prove. “This kind of cat-and-mouse stuff has been going on for a while now,” he pointed out, noting that Russian President Vladimir Putin “is trying to put the U.S. 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,” said Stoffer, adding, “When the Russians buzz U.S. ships, that is an unprofessional action because it upsets the operation and is dangerous for all parties involved … that is where the line is drawn.”

Defense officials in February did claim that three “too close” encounters with Russian aircraft and the USS Porter in the Black Sea were not safe and were unprofessional, when the Russians flew dangerously near the American destroyer.

In a statement made by the Japanese Foreign Ministry, Japan said it has scrambled fighter jets four times this month in response to Russian fighter aircraft buzzing their coastline. Russia denies any wrongdoing.

Russia is not the only country that is currently strutting its military might around the world. The United States has sent warplanes and other military assets to locations across Europe as a way of reassuring European and NATO allies in the face of worldwide conflicts.

 U.S. relations with Russia took a dark turn in April after President Trump bombed a Syrian airfield in response to a chemical weapons attack on civilians, causing President Trump to admit that our relationship with Russia “may be at an all-time low.”

Stoffer said that it is unlikely American forces will take shots at Russian military, but he could envision a scenario in which “a U.S. commander greenlights alternative responses like jamming the aircraft’s radar and avionics systems — which could cause the aircraft to crash.”

In an all-out conflict, Moscow has the disadvantage, noted retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden. “No one wants to go to war with the Russians, but let me double down on another concept: The Russians really don’t want to go to war with us,” he pointed out.

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