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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Are The Russians Poking At The Trump Tiger?

Russian Military Planes Crowd the U.S. for a Fourth Day

U.S., Canadian fighters intercept long-range bombers

A Norad spokesman said Russian Tu-95 bombers were in international airspace near the coasts of Alaska and Canada.
A Norad spokesman said Russian Tu-95 bombers were in international airspace near the coasts of 
Alaska and Canada. PHOTO: LYSTSEVA MARINA/ZUMA PRESS
WASHINGTON—Russia flew long-range combat aircraft near American airspace
 for the fourth consecutive day, the Pentagon said Friday, marking the first such string 
of incursions since 2014, but prompting little concern from the White House.
American and Canadian jet fighters intercepted a pair of Russian “Bear” long-range 
bombers in international airspace near Alaska on Thursday, said John Cornelio, a 
spokesman for North American Aerospace Defense Command, or Norad. The
 interception was the latest incident between American and Russian aircraft, coming 
amid tension between the two powers over Syria and other issues.
At a press briefing Friday, White House Spokesman Sean Spicer said the administration
 is aware of the situation but said it isn’t unusual.
“As long as those are conducted in accordance with international protocols and rules, 
then that’s obviously -- but we monitor everything,” Mr. Spicer said. “Any further
 comment on that I would refer to the Department of Defense.”
U.S. military officials declined to speculate about Russia’s motives for the flights, 
which came amid an increase in tension between the two countries following U.S.
 cruise missile strikes earlier this month targeting Syria’s military aircraft. Syria and
 Russia are allies.
Asked to comment on the flights,
 Russia’s U.S. embassy pointed to 
a Defense Ministry statement
 carried earlier this week in
 government-controlled media.
“All flights of the Aerospace Force were carried out and are carried out in strict
 accordance with the international rules of using the airspace over the neutral waters
 without violation of borders of other states,” the statement said.
In the latest incident, two U.S. F-22 jets along with two Canadian CF-18 Hornets, 
scrambled Thursday to meet a pair of Russian Tu-95 bombers which were in 
international airspace near the coasts of Alaska and Canada, Mr. Cornelio said.
“Those aircraft identified and intercepted two Russian bombers and stayed with them 
until they departed the identification zones,” he said. “It’s the fourth day in a row
 that we’ve seen Russian activity in our air defense identification zone.”
On Monday, two F-22s intercepted a pair of Bear bombers near the Aleutian Islands, 
the same vicinity. The next day, Bear bombers made a similar flight, though the U.S.
 didn’t scramble fighters, instead choosing to monitor the situation.
On Wednesday, Russian IL-38 anti-submarine planes made a flight into international 
airspace near Alaska, though they weren’t intercepted, and on Thursday, the Bears
 were again in the air, prompting the joint U.S.-Canadian interception.
At no point in any of the flights did the Russians enter U.S. or Canadian airspace, 
officials said.
Before Monday’s interception, Russian aircraft had not made such flights since 2015,
 Mr. Cornelio said. The last time Russians strung together a series of consecutive flights
 in this manner was in 2014.
“That is unusual in the sense that that hasn’t happened here since 2014, but not 
unprecedented,” he said of the series of flights near U.S. airspace. He added that
 the Russian and North American pilots conducted all flights in a professional manner
 with no threats to each other.
“There is nothing provocative in the way they are conducting their flights in
 international airspace,” Mr. Cornelio said.
The Canadian military declined to comment further on the matter, referring all 
questions to Norad, which is a U.S./Canadian joint command.