On Monday, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) reported visuals of Russian bomber planes off of the coasts of Alaska and California.
The planes were first spotted at 4:30 pm PST. Four Russian Tu-95 Bear-H long-range bombers and a Il-76 refueling tanker entered the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) near the far-western Aleutian Islands in Alaska. The ADIZ is a 200-mile buffer zone which extends away from the coasts of Canada and the United States. While it is not illegal to enter the airspace of an ADIZ, any planes which do so will have their activity monitored by jets from NORAD.
As soon as NORAD scrambled two, F-22 fighter jets to monitor the activity of the planes, the bombers changed course - two headed west toward eastern Russia, and the other two diverted south.
Around 9:30 pm PST, the two planes which headed south were discovered to be within 50 miles of the California coastline. Sovereign airspace does not begin until 12 miles from the coast.
Forgot how close Russia is to California.
— Sigmund Freud (@MarvMerchant) June 12, 2014
"The [Russian] aircraft remained in international airspace at all times, behaved professionally, and undertook no dangerous military activities. At no time did any of the bombers ever enter sovereign [U.S.] airspace," reported Canadian Army Captain Jennifer Stadnyk, a NORAD spokeswoman.
Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a spokesman for NORAD, explained that this was most likely a simple training exercise: “They typically do long range aviation training in the summer and it is not unusual for them to be more active during this time. We assess this was part of training. And they did not enter territorial airspace.”
Despite the facts that there have been 50 such encounters over the past five years and the planes did nothing illegal, some members of Congress, such as Republican Representative Mike Conaway from Texas, are still fear mongering about Putin and a nuclear threat from Russia:
Putin is doing this specifically to try to taunt the U.S. and exercise, at least in the reported world, some sort of saber-rattling, muscle-flexing kind of nonsense. Truth of the matter is we would have squashed either one of those [bombers] like baby seals... It’s a provocation and it’s unnecessary. But it fits in with [Putin’s] macho kind of saber-rattling.
Whether this incursion was saber-rattling by Putin or a routine training session is yet to be determined. What is for certain, however, is that latent Cold War tensions continue to rise, resulting in much fear and uncertainty.