On Monday evening two Russian TU-95 Bear bombers were intercepted by two U.S. F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft 100 nautical miles south of Kodiak, Alaska. The interception was described as “safe and professional” by Pentagon spokesman, Commander Gary Ross (USN). The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) confirmed that the Russian planes were in the U.S. Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) but not in American airspace. U.S. airspace extends 12 nautical miles from the U.S. Shoreline. The two U.S. F-22 fighters flew alongside the Russian bombers until they turned away and headed on an appropriate course.
Russian bombers have not been seen off the Alaskan coast since 2015. It has been confirmed that the Russian bombers are nuclear-capable. However, there has been no confirmation on what type or if any weapons were onboard the bombers. This was the first time Russia has sent bombers this close to the U.S. since President Trump took office. This incident comes when, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last week, U.S.-Russian relations have hit a “low point”.
The Pentagon has stated that this incident is nothing out of the ordinary. However, one has to speculate if President Trump’s decision to strike Syria earlier this month may have influenced Russia’s decision to exhibit this aggressive act. On April 6th, 2017 President Trump ordered a missile strike on a Syrian airbase after reports they had used chemical weapons. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has stated that Trump’s attack could prompt “grave consequences not only for regional but global security.”
As a candidate, Donald Trump had hoped to strengthan relations with Russia. Recently, President Trump has said ” Right now we are not getting along with Russia at all. We may be at an all-time low in terms of relationship with Russia.” There have been other incidents with the Russian military in the past few months. The Viktor Leonov, a Russian spy ship, has been spotted off the U.S. coastline several times over the last few months. Also, the USS Porter had three encounter with Russian aircraft while operating in the Black Sea. Hopefully, Monday’s encounter will not escalate the downward spiral of U.S.-Russian relations.