Russia Plans To Send More Long-Range Bombers To U.S., Could Endanger Commercial Flights

Russia has announced plans to send more long-range bombers toward the United States in a military provocation that experts say could put commercial flights in danger.

This week, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said that the country will be increasing its patrols to the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic, which he said was a direct result of the situation in Ukraine. Russian forces invaded Ukraine to back pro-Moscow rebels, earning a sharp rebuke from the United States which then led to new economic sanctions against Russia.

Most recently the United States has accused Russia of sending new troops and tanks into Ukraine, an allegation Russia has denied.

“In many respects, this is connected with the situation in Ukraine, with fomentation of anti-Russian moods on the part of NATO and reinforcement of foreign military presence next to our border,” Shoigu said.

Russia has already increased its military activity near the United States. Earlier this year U.S. fighter jets intercepted long-range bombers off the coasts of Alaska and California, including two planes that flew within 50 miles of the California coast. These incidents have taken place in what is known as the air defense zone, within 200 miles of the U.S. coast but outside the 13.8 miles defined as U.S. territory.

Experts say the Russian bombers could endanger commercial flights in the United States. Earlier this year a Russian military plane nearly collided with a Swedish passenger aircraft with 132 people on board. There are also allegations that Russian troops were the ones responsible for shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine.

“If there’s a collision or if somebody overreacted,” it could set off tensions between the countries, said Jeffrey Mankoff, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

While Russia is increasing its military activity with the United States by sending long-range bombers, the country has also been increasing its presence in the Baltic region. There are fears that the country could eventually invade other regions with large pockets of ethnic Russians, as it did in Ukraine’s Crimea region.

[Image via CNN]