Wow – Russia really is starting to strut its military stuff on the world stage again.
Two Tu-95 bombers flew to the US island of Guam in the Pacific Ocean, paying a surprise visit to the US military base there. Shocked US pilots on the base were forced to scramble to intercept the Russian bombers.
The BBC has this quote from a beaming Russian General:
“It has always been the tradition of our long-range aviation to fly far into the ocean, to meet [US] aircraft carriers and greet [US pilots] visually. Yesterday [Wednesday] we revived this tradition, and two of our young crews paid a visit to the area of the base of Guam. I think the result was good. We met our colleagues – fighter jet pilots from [US] aircraft carriers. We exchanged smiles and returned home.”
The media are, of course, reporting it in rather sensationalist terms (“Russia sparks Cold War scramble” was the BBC’s uninspired effort), but yesterday’s “raid” shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone. Russia has been steadily raising the international profile of its military, popping up all over the place, from Scotland to the North Pole to the Pacific, reminding its old NATO adversaries that it is still around and, when grumpy enough, is still a force to be reckoned with.
What it really means is that the Russian military now has enough money in its budget to do things like actually fly its planes and to sail its maintained and more or less ship-shape navy out of port. To my mind this is infinitely preferable to having an uncared for fleet slowly rotting away and poisoning the world’s oceans with glowing nuclear waste.
Update: A US General, on the other hand, says that the Russian planes didn’t even get within 500 kilometers (300 miles) of Guam: “U.S. planes went to an orbit point in preparation for an intercept that never occurred because the Bears didn’t get close enough”.