Russian bombers to patrol Gulf of Mexico

In yet another sign of Russia rebuilding its military back to world-power caliber, its long-range bombers will patrol the globe, including the Gulf of Mexico.

Russia's strategic bomber Tu-160 or White Swan, the largest supersonic bomber in the worldRussia’s strategic bomber Tu-160 or White Swan, the largest supersonic bomber in the world

Vladimir Isachenkov reports for the Associated Press and the Canadian Press that on Nov. 12, 2014, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that Russia will send long-range strategic bombers on regular patrol missions across the globe, from the Arctic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.

Sergei Shoigu (l) and Vladimir Putin (r)

Sergei Shoigu (l) and Vladimir Putin (r)

The announcement came as NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg accused Russia of sending fresh troops and tanks into eastern Ukraine: “Over the last few days, we have seen multiple reports of large convoys moving into Eastern Ukraine. We assess that this significant military buildup includes Russian artillery, tanks, air defence systems and troops.”

Jens StoltenbergJens Stoltenberg (Source: A New World Order)

Moscow denied the allegation as unfounded, but Shoigu said the dispute with the West over Ukraine would require Russia to beef up its forces in the Crimea, the Black Sea Peninsula that Russia annexed in March.

Russian long-range bombers will conduct flights along Russian borders and over the Arctic Ocean. Shoigu said, “In the current situation we have to maintain military presence in the western Atlantic and eastern Pacific, as well as the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.” The Russian air force’s long-range planes also will conduct “reconnaissance missions to monitor foreign powers’ military activities and maritime communications.”

Shoigu would not say how frequent the patrol missions would be or offer any other specifics, but he noted that the increasing pace and duration of flights would require stronger maintenance efforts and that relevant directives have been issued to industries. Russia plans to expand its worldwide military presence by seeking permission for navy ships to use ports in Latin America, Asia and elsewhere for replenishing supplies and doing maintenance. Shoigu said the military was conducting talks with Algeria, Cyprus, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Cuba, Seychelles, Vietnam and Singapore. Russia also is talking to some of those countries about allowing long-range bombers to use their air bases for refuelling.

A senior U.S. military official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the flights publicly, said Russia has not previously flown actual bomber patrols over the Gulf of Mexico, including during the Cold War. Long-range bombers have been in the area before, but only to participate in various visits to the region when the aircraft stopped over night at locations in South or Central America. During the Cold War, other types of Russian aircraft flew patrols there, including surveillance flights and anti-submarine aircraft.

The official also said the pace of Russian flights around North America, including the Arctic, have largely remained steady, with about five incidents per year.

Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, declined to call this a Russian provocation, noting that the Russians have a right, like any other nation, to operate in international airspace and in international waters. The important thing is for such exercises to be carried out safely and in accordance with international standards.

Russian nuclear-capable strategic bombers were making regular patrols across the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans during Cold War times, reaching areas from which nuclear-tipped cruise missiles could be launched at the United States. But that stopped in the post-Soviet economic meltdown.

Under President Vladimir Putin, the bomber patrol flights have resumed, becoming even more frequent in recent weeks, with NATO reporting a spike in Russian military flights over the Black, Baltic and North seas as well as the Atlantic Ocean.

Ian Kearns, director of the European Leadership Network, a London-based think-tank , said the bomber patrols are part of Kremlin’s efforts to make the Russian military “more visible and more assertive in its actions.” He does not see Russia’s new bomber flights as “presaging a threat,” but as “just part of a general ramping-up of activities.” However, Kearns recognizes that “The more instances you have of NATO and Russian forces coming close together, the more chance there is of having something bad happening, even if it’s not intentional.”

On Monday, the European Leadership Network issued a report that found a sharp rise in Russian-NATO military encounters since the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea, including violations of national airspace, narrowly avoided midair collisions, close encounters at sea, harassment of reconnaissance planes, close overflights over warships, and Russian mock bombing raid missions. Three of the nearly 40 incidents carried a “high probability” of causing casualties or triggering a direct military confrontation: a narrowly avoided collision between a civilian airliner and a Russian surveillance plane, the abduction of an Estonian intelligence officer, and a large-scale Swedish hunt for a suspected Russian submarine that yielded no result.

In September, the report said, Russian strategic bombers in the Labrador Sea off Canada practiced cruise missile strikes on the U.S. Earlier this year, in May, Russian military aircraft approached within 50 miles (80 kilometres) of the California coast, the closest such Russian military flight reported since the end of the Cold War.

Russia-West ties have dipped to their lowest point since Cold War times over the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russia insurgents in Ukraine. The West and Ukraine have continuously accused Moscow of fueling the rebellion in eastern Ukraine with troops and weapons — claims Russia has rejected. Fighting has continued in the east, despite a cease-fire agreement signed between Ukraine and the rebels signed in Minsk, Belarus, in September.

Stoltenberg, the NATO chief, urged Russia to “pull back its forces and equipment from Ukraine, and to fully respect the Minsk agreements.”

Gen. Philip Breedlove

Gen. Philip Breedlove

U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, said Wednesday that the Russia-Ukraine border is “completely wide open.” In the last two days “we have seen columns of Russian equipment, primarily Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defence systems and Russian combat troops entering into Ukraine.” But Breedlove wouldn’t say how many new troops and weapons have moved into Ukraine or specify how the alliance obtained the information.

The Russian Defence Ministry quickly rejected Breedlove’s statement as groundless.


8 responses to “Russian bombers to patrol Gulf of Mexico

  1. Reblogged this on Fellowship of the Minds and commented:
    Putin is systematically rebuilding Russia’s military into a world power again, including sending strategic bombers to the shores of America — in the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile, Obama continues to fire officers, erode the U.S. military, and corrode our military’s morale.


  2. Medvedev, Komrade; “Tell Komrade Vladimir I can do more after the election” – Komrade Satan


  3. Russia seeks acknowledgement of its “great power” status after the humiliating collapse of the Soviet Union. Restoration of the capacity of its aviation to engage in demonstrative flights is part of the process. With NATO in eastern Europe, Russia’s military has sought to rebuild the nation’s defense perimeter. Crimea is a critical part of that reconstruction (providing secure access to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean as a security in depth for all of Southern Russia). Russia is currently seeking to restore its position among nations. The process involves a very expensive and potentially dangerous set of behaviors. Among other things it requires that the Kremlin refurbish much of its military platforms and provide for the complex logistics that are necessary to support it all.

    For our part, Washington’s foreign policy could do a great deal to reduce the urgency of Moscow’s enterprise. So far we have been remarkably clumsy in dealing with the Kremlin — driving the country’s leadership not only to high visibility demonstrations of military prowess, but into an increasingly complex bilateral relationship with Beijing. None of this should have been allowed to transpire. There are really very few vital interests threatened by Russia’s rehabilitation.


  4. I’ll believe non-stop patrols from Russia into the Gulf of Mexico and return to Russia when I see them. That is one seriously long haul even for a Tu-95 Bear, likely requiring in-air refueling both coming and going. I’m not sure that a Tu-160 could do it with safe fuel minimums even with in-air refueling both ways, but perhaps. If they can split that into two flights by arranging an agreement with someplace like Venezuela to be allowed to land and refuel for the trip home, then it becomes far more do-able.


    • Good point, Jim! Even the Russian defense minister recognizes that the global patrol plan requires an elaborate supporting infrastructure of maintenance and bases.


  5. Pingback: The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly 183 – The "New Cold War" Heightens - Red (Team) Analysis

  6. Reblogged this on Patriotic Gofer and commented:
    Here we are, friends. More proof that Russia is “planning” something big. Meanwhile, our government tears our own military to pieces.
    I’m not paranoid. How can I be? Russia and China both hate us and would love to see us wiped off the map, one way or another, so how could one be even just a tad paranoid?


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