A pair of Russian bombers capable of delivering a nuclear bombing attack buzzed the southern coastline of Alaska late Monday night, the Pentagon revealed on Wednesday, the first such provocation since Donald Trump took office. But Russian online news service Pravda hinted that the Russian bomber fly-by may signal Russia’s desire to regain Alaska from the United States.
The Russian Tu-95 “Bear” bombers — Russia’s equivalent of the America B-52 — were quickly intercepted by a pair of U.S. F-22 stealth fighter jets, a spokesperson for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) told the New York Times.
The Russian bombers remained in international airspace, and the intercept carried out by the American stealth fighters remained “safe and professional,” according to a Pentagon statement.
Whether the Russian Tu-95 bombers were actually armed with nuclear weapons, however, remains unknown. The image at the top of this page depicts a Tu-95 “Bear,” not one of the actual planes intercepted off of Alaska. The two Russian bombers flew in another direction, apparently returning to their home base, after the F-22 fighters cut them off.
In an earlier article this year, Pravda stated, “If USA wants Crimea returned to Ukraine, Russia wants Alaska back.”
In Wednesday’s report of the Alaska bomber incident, Pravda referred to “a number of American media and bloggers (who) did not miss an opportunity to speak about the impending ‘Russian invasion of Alaska’ and the beginning of World War III.”
In fact, as far back as 2014, Russia’s envoy to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov stated cryptically that the United States should “watch over Alaska,” and about 35,000 Russians signed a petition calling on their government to take back the state, according to the Moscow Times.
Russia seized Crimea, which was then part of neighboring Ukraine, in March of 2014.
Pravda reported on Wednesday, “Russian spies have been operating in Alaska for a long time already. Dressed in civil clothing, Russian citizens were repeatedly spotted in abandoned motels and near US army bases.”
Pravda attributed the allegations to “an anonymous former officer of the US Navy.”
While the alleged Russian desire to reclaim Alaska from the United States provided one element of context to the Russian nuclear bomber fly-by of Kodiak Island — just off the southern coast of Alaska — on Monday, the confrontation in the skies also comes amidst the U.S. domestic controversy over Trump’s ties to Russia, and whether Trump promised concessions to the Russian government in exchange for their use of Russian hackers and propaganda that could help him win the 2016 presidential election.
Several congressional committees are now investigating those allegations, and on Monday, a British journalist reported that last July, one of Trump’s then-advisors, Carter Page, visited Moscow “carrying with him a pre-recorded tape of Donald Trump offering to change American policy if he were to be elected, to make it more favorable to Putin.
The report continued, “In exchange, Page was authorized directly by Trump to request the help of the Russian government in hacking the election.”
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Those possible American policy changes are believed to include the lifting of economic sanctions against Russia.
The confrontation between the Russian bombers and American stealth fighter jets, though unprecedented in the Trump administration, was far from the first aerial duel between U.S. and Russian military aircraft. Since 2007, there have been at least 60 such confrontations, with the most recent prior to Monday coming on July 4 of 2015, when Russian bombers flew a mere 40 miles off the coast of Mendocino, California.
[Featured Image by Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Images]