Hours before Barack Obama's State of the Union address, two Russian nuclear-armed bombers circled the western Pacific island of Guam, an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States. This is the latest sign of the growing strategic assertiveness of Moscow towards the United States.
The Tu-95 Bear-H strategic bombers were equipped with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles. The bombers were followed closely by U.S. jets.
The Washington Free Beacon reports,
Air Force Capt. Kim Bender, a spokeswoman for the Pacific Air Force in Hawaii, confirmed the incident to the Washington Free Beacon and said Air Force F-15 jets based on Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, “scrambled and responded to the aircraft.”
“The Tu-95s were intercepted and left the area in a northbound direction. No further actions occurred,” she said. Bender said no other details would be released “for operational security reasons.”
The bomber incident was considered highly unusual. Russian strategic bombers are not known to have conducted such operations in the past into the south Pacific from bomber bases in the Russian Far East, which is thousands of miles away and over water.
“Every day brings new evidence that Obama’s ideological obsession with dismantling our nuclear deterrent is dangerous,” said former United Nations ambassador and former State Department internationals security undersecretary John Bolton. “Our national security is in danger of slipping off the national agenda even as the threats grow.”
F-15s were deployed from Kadena Air Base in Japan to intercept the bombers in an ongoing annual Exercise Guahan Shield 2013.
According to Defense officials the bombers carried six Kj-55 of Kh-55SM cruise missilbes that are capable of hitting targets 1,800 miles away with either a high-explosive warhead or a 200-kiloton nuclear warhead.
Currently there are about 200 U.S. Marines training on the island and it is considered a key strategic military base in the new Asia policy of the Obama administration. As a result of that policy, it has become a target for both China and North Korea who have the capability of hitting the island with missiles.
As the U.S. has said it would defend Japan in a military confrontation with China over the Senkakus and it seems that the Russian bombers are sending a signal that they are siding with China.
The White House reaffirmed in a statement on February 13, 2013 ":that the United States remains steadfast in its defense commitments to Japan, including the extended deterrence offered by the U.S. nuclear umbrella. The President indicated that he looked forward to in-depth discussions when the Prime Minister visits Washington later this month."
The Japanese Prime Minister is due to arrive at the White House on Friday February 22 to speak with Obama.
Former State Department security official Mark Groombridge said, “It shows that the Russians, like the Chinese, are not just going to sit idly by and watch the United States ‘pivot’ or ‘rebalance’ its forces toward Asia."
“One could argue the Russians were poking a bit of fun at the Obama Administration, seeing how they flew these long-range bombers close to Guam on the same day as the state of the union address,” he added.
“But the broader implications are more profound,” Groombridge continued. “The Russians are clearly sending a signal that they consider the Pacific an area of vital national strategic interest and that they still have at least some power projection capabilities to counterbalance against any possible increase in U.S. military assets in the region.”
One has to wonder at the reduction of our nuclear arsenal by one-third in light of incidents like this. It appears that Russia is simply testing us to seem how much it can get away with and demonstrate the weakness of this administration to deal with another nuclear power.