Reports from the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) earlier this week indicate that four Russian strategic bombers flew close to Alaska while two of the nuclear-capable bombers came within 50 miles of the coast of California. The bombers were accompanied by two aerial refueling tanks.
The Washington Free Beacon reports that Navy Captain Jeff Davis, NORAD spokesman, said the planes appeared to be conducting a training mission. He added that when two U.S. F-15 jets were sent out to intercept the bombers, the aircraft acted with professionalism. Davis said, “They typically do long range aviation training in the summer and it is not unusual for them to be more active during this time,” he said. “We assess this was part of training. And they did not enter territorial airspace.”
Not everyone, however, shares NORAD’s assessment that this was an innocent and not unusual training mission.
Rep. Mike Conaway (R., Texas), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, called the Russian flights “intentional provocations.”
“Putin is doing this specifically to try to taunt the U.S. and exercise, at least in the reported world, some sort of saber-rattling, muscle-flexing kind of nonsense,” Conaway said in an interview. “Truth of the matter is we would have squashed either one of those [bombers] like baby seals.”
“It’s a provocation and it’s unnecessary. But it fits in with [Putin’s] macho kind of saber-rattling,” he said, adding that he expects Russia will carry out more of these kinds of incidents in the future.”
A former NORAD Alaska commander had even harsher words and assessment of these nuclear-capable Russian bombers flying so close to the United States. Lt. General Thomas McInerney is retired from the Air Force and says never, to his recollection, has such an event happened, even during the Cold War.
Again we see the Obama administration through their covert—but overt to Mr. Putin—unilateral disarmament, inviting adventurism by the Russians,” McInerney said in an email.
“At the height of the Cold War I do not remember them getting this close. Mr. Putin had to approve this mission and he is just showing his personal contempt for President Obama right after meeting him in Normandy less than a week ago,” McInerney said.
McInerney sees such actions by Putin as a sign of utter disrespect to the Obama presidency.
Russian President Vladmir Putin has shown by his actions that he has little respect for Barack Obama. Critics of Obama have argued that the world neither fears nor respects the United States any longer under Obama’s leadership. Despite Russia’s takeover of Crimea, a rise of terrorism at the hands of al Qaeda and their affiliates, and the violent Islamic takeover of Iraq, Obama actually said on Thursday that the world is less violent than it has ever been.
Whether such a statement is based on naivety or desire to cover up his glaring failure on foreign affairs, it sends the wrong message on a world stage where the United States was once seen as the premier super power and a force to be reckoned with. In sending these bombers so close to the coast of California, Putin is seen by some to be flexing his muscles in an attempt to find out how and if Obama will respond.