By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
By air, sea and land, the Russian bear’s claws are stretching back into corners of a world that had all but forgotten
The latest reminder came this week when Russian strategic Tu-95 bombers flew over the Pacific to within a few hundred kilometers (miles) of the U.S. military base on the island of Guam — and, according to a Russian general, exchanged grins with U.S. fighter pilots sent to intercept.
The dramatic incident August 8 capped a summer in which President Vladimir Putin has sought to project power far and wide, building on a rearmament program fuelled by oil and gas revenues.
“At every opportunity
The long-distance flight by the strategic bombers, impossible for years because of severe underfunding, also recalled an incident in July when bombers deployed near
And it’s not just in the skies that
On August 2 Russian explorers descended 4,261 metres (13,980 feet) under the
The following day, the navy’s chief of staff suggested reestablishing a full-time Russian naval presence in the
Meanwhile the ground army, which was badly mauled in more than a decade of fighting Chechen rebels, is getting new equipment and improved training.
On August 9 and 10 troops were sent to China’s remote province of Xinjiang for international exercises with Chinese and Central Asian forces, 6,000 of whom will next week be hosted on Russian soil for large-scale drills involving artillery, aircraft and paratroopers.
The surge in activity is welcomed in a country shocked by the way
“For the Kremlin it’s very important to retain at least one area where we equal the
But there are accusations that a newly confident and rearming
The Guam exploit came three days after Russia’s southern neighbor Georgia claimed a Russian warplane fired a missile onto its territory — something Moscow hotly denies.
The scandal over the murder last year in
The highlight of the Guam mission, says the commander of strategic bombers, Pavel Androsov, was a mid-air greeting between Russian and US pilots — a scene reminiscent of the macho 1986 Hollywood film “Top Gun.”
“Imagine, you take off from Blagoveshchensk, fly for 13 hours, flying across neutral waters, then our planes meeting their NATO colleagues ... with a mutual exchange of smiles,” he was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.
The Pentagon confirmed the Russian mission, but denied that a close encounter took place. “It was a non-event,” one official said on condition of anonymity.
Political commentator Yuliya Latynina said there was nothing to fear from
“Thank God. We are showing our strength with bombers, the North Pole flag, et cetera, but we are not making war,” she said. “We should be happy that the strategic bombers flew across the Pacific without losses. That’s already a victory.”