Russian strategic nuclear bombers have flown into northwestern U.S. air defense identification zones at least sixteen times over the past ten days, according to Pentagon officials.
The incursions by Tu-95 Russian Bear H bombers are unprecedented, Defense experts say, leading some to believe that Russia is testing U.S. air defenses.
As reported by Bill Gertz of The Washington Free Beacon, The flights, which have also included a Russian intelligence-gathering jet flying near Alaska, were detected by the U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), and have prompted the scrambling of U.S. jet fighters in several cases.
“Over the past week, NORAD has visually identified Russian aircraft operating in and around the U.S. air defense identification zones,” said Maj. Beth Smith, spokeswoman for NORAD.
Maj. Smith notes that while the incursions, close to the Aleutian Islands, represent “a spike in activity”, they are nothing to worry about, and are part of training missions and exercises.
Other Defense officials, however, are not so sure. Without naming his sources, Gertz notes that the officials believe the bombers may be intentionally seeking to trigger U.S. air defenses, as Soviet fighters did during the Cold War in preparation for a nuclear conflict.
“These are not just training missions,” one official said, adding the the Russians appear to be “trying to test our air defense reactions, or our command and control systems.”
Amid a large strategic build up of nuclear forces, Russia has, in recent weeks, flown bombers closer to the U.S. than ever before since the fall of the Soviet Empire. On June 9th, U.S. F-15s and F-22s intercepted Russian bombers just 50 miles off the California coastline.
Meanwhile, NATO is again warning that Russia has amassed troops on its border and may soon invade Ukraine. It is claimed that Russia has 20,000 troops on the border and has added 8,000 this week. Ukrainian officials, who have been known to exaggerate the Russian threat, say the number is close to 45,000 troops with 100 fighter jets, helicopters and bombers, further heightening tensions in the region.
NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu has warned Russia will use “the pretext of a humanitarian or peace-keeping mission as an excuse to send troops into Eastern Ukraine.”
Contrary to the assertion of President Obama, U.S. sanctions on Russia appear to be having little effect other than to provoke saber rattling retaliations and a Russian ban on food imports from the US and Europe, as well as a threatened commercial flight ban.
Russia also announced that whistleblower Edward Snowden would be granted a three-year residence permit, another poke in the eye to the U.S. government.
Steve Watson is a London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham, and a Bachelor Of Arts Degree in Literature and Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University.