The Russian military today is more threatening than it was in the old Soviet Union during the Cold War, and is using flights close to the U.S. to flex its military muscle to send a "message" that Russia, once more, is a global power.
Adm. William Gortney, commander of the U.S. Northern Command (Northcom) and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), said in a Pentagon briefing that Russia now has a "far more capable military than the quantitative, very large military that the Soviet Union had," The Hill
Further, he said in a military briefing: "This past year has marked a notable increase in Russian military assertiveness," CNN
Gortney said that Russian heavy bombers have been flying more patrols outside normal Russian airspace "than in any year since the Cold War," at a pace "that has not been what they've done in the past, even back with the Soviet Union."
The increased Russian assertiveness, The Hill said, comes as relations between the U.S. and Russia have been strained by Russia's invasion of the Ukraine and annexation of Crimea last year, and its alleged involvement in arming and training pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, which Russia has denied.
Gortney said that Russian spy and logistics ships have been tracked near Cuba and Venezuela, and that Russia is working on its capacity to deploy "long-range conventionally armed cruise missiles" which can be launched from bombers, submarines and destroyers, giving the Russians "deterrent" options "short of the nuclear threshold," CNN reported.
"We have also witnessed improved interoperability between Russian long-range aviation and other elements of the Russian military, including air and maritime intelligence collection platforms positioned to monitor NORAD responses," he said, adding that the new Russian air patrols are intended to "communicate its displeasure with Western policies, particularly with regard to Ukraine," CNN reported.
"We watch very carefully what they are doing," Defense News
reported that Gortney said.
"They are adhering to international standards that are required by all airplanes that are out there, and everybody is flying in a professional manner in their side and our side as we watch very closely.
"We are prepared to intercept them should we need to, should we choose to."
However, he said: "Should these trends continue over time, NORAD will face increased risk in our ability to defend North America against Russian air, maritime and cruise missile threats," The Hill reported.
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