Two Russian nuclear bombers flew within 40 miles of the California coast and relayed a veiled threat to American pilots on Independence Day in what Rep. Adam Kinzinger said Wednesday was "an act of aggression."
"If you have any doubt whether the Cold War is back on, these are the kind of maneuvers that show that it is," the Illinois Republican, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Brianna Keilar on CNN
. "There has been a re-establishment … of, in essence, a kind of Cold War principle," whereas in earlier eras, "it was all a show of force."
The Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers flew into U.S. airspace during a July Fourth aerial event, Defense Department officials told The Washington Free Beacon this week.
"Good morning American pilots, we are here to greet you on your Fourth of July Independence Day," a Russian bomber crew member said over the emergency aircraft channel.
Defense officials and the U.S. Northern Command in Colorado told the Free Beacon this week that two U.S. F-15 jets intercepted the Russian bombers on July 4 as they flew as close as 39 miles off Mendocino County, north of San Francisco.
One of the Russian crew members issued the warning in a radio message, defense officials said.
Earlier that day, the Bear bombers intruded on the U.S. air defense identification zone near Alaska, the Free Beacon reports. The 200-mile controlled airspace is patrolled by U.S. and Canadian jets under the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
The incident came on the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin called President Barack Obama to extend Fourth of July greetings, CNN reports.
Kinzinger, a two-term congressman who served with the Air Force in both Iraq and Afghanistan, told CNN that "we're seeing this literally on a weekly basis from the Russians — whether it's the mainland or parts of Europe, or anywhere else.
"This isn't anything new by the Russians, but the stepped-up nature goes to prove that Vladimir Putin — sometimes the smallest kid in class is the biggest bully," the congressman added. "That's who he is."
He said he agreed with Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Marine Corps commandant who has been named by President Barack Obama to become the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that Russia remains the nation's biggest threat — not terrorism.
"Terrorism is a huge threat, but the problem with Russia is it could take one wrong move," Kinzinger said.
"The problem is that Vladimir Putin understands that the Russian economy is about one-eighth of what the American economy is, their military is totally incapable — compared to the American military — but what he's doing is testing ours and testing the West's will.
"That's why it's important for us to stand up now and make it very clear we're not going to be bullied."
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