Russian and NORAD forces united on Wednesday and Thursday for a joint exercise over Alaska and the Bering Strait. Despite tense relations between Russia and the United States, the joint military operation was smooth.
The goal of the training exercise was to make sure Russian and NORAD forces (US and Canadian military) could successfully find, track, and escort a hijacked aircraft over international borders.
NORAD’s director of operations, Canadian Major General Andre Viens, explained that there was no talk of canceling the exercise, despite tension between the countries, reports ABC News.
Viens added at the conclusion of the joint exercise that there was no discussion beforehand that the exercise would be canceled.
His Russian counterpart, General Major Dmitry Gomenkov, commander of the Aerospace Defense Brigade for eastern Russia, agreed, adding, “I see no problems.”
The tension between Russia and the United States stem from Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor who stole information about the United States’ secret surveillance programs. Russia granted Snowden temporary asylum after the whistleblower fled the US.
CBS News notes that Colonel Patrick Carpentier, a member of the Canadian Air Force who observed the operation aboard the “hijacked plane,” added that the exercise was about cooperation.
Because of that, there was no room for discussion about tensions between Russia and the US. He added, “This is a mission that we have to accomplish, so it really is beyond those types of frictions. We cooperate because we have to.”
While the Russia-NORAD exercise happened, President Barack Obama canceled a different exercise between Russia and US troops. He also canceled a visit to Russia to meet with President Vladimir Putin. However, he has already said that the US won’t boycott the Olympits, which will take place in Sochi next year.
The joint military operation involved a small plane being “hijacked” shortly after it took off from Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. Two Canadian CF-18 Hornets and three Russian Sukhoi (SU-27) fighter jets participated in the maneuvers. While the exercise has been performed in the past, it was the first time the actual hand-off of the hijacked plane happened.
In previous years, NORAD or Russian fighters broke off at a certain point. Gomenkov announced after the NORAD-Russia exercise was over that planning for next year’s operation will start in November. Leaders will talk about ways to improve it and make it more complex.
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