Russian bombers will spread across the world in new patrol missions announced by the country’s military Wednesday.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in a statement that Western provocations in Ukraine had made expanded measures necessary, according to the Associated Press.
“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,” Shoigu said.
The move comes after weeks of escalation by Moscow in Ukraine and the rest of Europe. That includes a sharp uptick in unannounced flyovers by Russian bombers over airspace in western Europe. On Tuesday, NATO commander U.S. Gen. Philip Breedlove said that Russian forces were once again entering eastern Ukraine, including “Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air-defense systems and Russian combat troops.”
“It is our first guess that these forces will go in to make this a more contiguous, more whole and capable pocket of land in order to then hold onto it long-term,” he said, according to the Washington Post.
Moscow, however, denies the accusations, saying that there is no firm evidence.
Breedlove also told reporters that weapons and materiel “capable of being nuclear” are being brought into Crimea, according to CBS News. The peninsula was once part of Ukraine but after a much-criticized referendum earlier this year, declared its independence and was annexed by Russia.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s defense minister said Wednesday that his country’s military will be heading east in preparation for any Russian aggression.
All of this comes against a backdrop of increasing concern that Moscow’s belligerent moves could spark a wider conflict. On Monday, the European Leadership Network, a London-based think thank, issued a report in which it called Russia’s actions “dangerous brinkmanship” that “could prove catastrophic.”
But on Wednesday, Russia’s deputy UN ambassador told the body’s Security Council that it was Kiev that was at fault.
“Throughout the ceasefire period a concentration of Ukrainian troops was observed almost along the entire front line,” Aleksandr Pankin said, according to RT.
Moscow has long accused of the West of boosting what it considers unsavory elements of Ukrainian politics as a way to further encroach on a supposed Russian sphere of influence in eastern Europe. That in turn has led to more provocative military actions both in Europe and now worldwide.
Those actions could mean a somewhat unprecedented level of brinksmanship. Despite the long history of tensions throughout the Cold War, a senior American official told the AP that Russian bombers had never flown a patrol over the Gulf of Mexico.[photo credit: Mikhail Serbin]