First, they flew a nuclear-capable bomber close to our West coast just to relay the message “Good morning, American pilots.
We are here to greet you on your Fourth of July Independence Day,” in a cockpit-to-cockpit message.
Then, in February of this year, the United States had three encounters with the same nation’s aircraft while sailing in the Black Sea.
Now, just this past Monday, the U.S. Airforce dispatched two F-22 Raptors to intercept two TU-95 Bear Bombers off the coast of Alaska.
All of these aircrafts were Russian.
The intercept, which was described by a US military official as safe and professional, took place about 100 miles from Kodiak Island after the Russian aircraft flew into the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone.
There was no cockpit-to-cockpit radio communication between the US and Russian pilots, the US official told CNN.
The TU-95 Bear has been the mainstay of first the Soviet, and now the Russian, nuclear strike force.
For a while now, the Pentagon has been cool and unalarmed when discussing Russia’s long-range air force excursions.
Others, however, are not so relaxed.
Tensions between the United States and Russia have been on the rise, following conflicting international agendas.
Despite hopeful campaign rhetoric that Washington and the Kremlin could heal old wounds, President Trump has even become uncertain that our relationship with Russia can be smoothed out.
In a press conference last week, the President stated, “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.”
Now, with the Pentagon confirming Monday’s incident that led the U.S. to scramble F-22’s, it appears that Russia could be probing the U.S. and gauging its responses.
One Congressman even found the close excursion to be threatening.
… Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that the Russians were “trying to show their teeth” by flying so close to the US coastline amid tensions between the two nations.
“This was a show of force by the Russians to show us that they are still here,” Kinzinger said. It was “an attempt to come up as close as they could to our international borders to see what our reaction would be.”
This may signal the beginning of another period of Russian saber rattling, as they’ve done in years past.
In 2014, American, British, and other NATO countries were forced to scramble fighters to head off Russian bombers a total of over 400 times according to the European Council on Foreign Relations.
And also just in the past few months, Russian attack aircraft have intentionally flown dangerously close to U.S. Navy ships in the Mediterranean.
In one instance, a Russian aircraft was observed flying a simulated “attack run” on a U.S. Navy destroyer and missed the ship by less than 30 feet.
In addition to brushes with Russian aircraft, the Viktor Leninov, a Russian spy ship, has now been observed near the U.S. coastline twice in recent months.
This certainly demonstrates what President Trump was talking about when he said that U.S.–Russian relations are at an all-time low.
If Putin is really trying to test what Trump’s response to these kinds of threats would be, as Rep. Kinzinger suspects, Putin should be wary.
Because one thing is certain, the era of soft diplomacy and “reset buttons” are over.
President Trump made that much clear with recent strikes on an ISIS installation and a Syrian airfield.
Whether Russia is simply testing our limits, much like a child tests a new babysitter to see how much he can get away with, or if the country is truly gearing up to take military action against Western countries remains to be seen.
If it is the latter though, we can expect that the Trump Administration will respond swiftly and decisively.