Thu 6 Sep 2007
RIA Novosti reports:
MOSCOW, September 6 (RIA Novosti) - NATO jets escort almost all Russian strategic bombers engaged in long-range patrols, Alexander Drobyshevsky, an aide to the commander of Russia’s Air Force told RIA Novosti Thursday.
He said the flights were resumed late on September 5 in accordance with a previously-approved plan. The Tu-95MC Bear bombers fly over the Pacific, the Atlantic, and Arctic oceans, and are refueled in mid-air.
Drobyshevsky said six Tu-95MC aircraft had landed and eight were still flying. “All the Russian strategic bombers’ flights are performed in accordance with international rules. The aircraft fly over neutral waters, and do not get close to air borders of foreign states,” he said, adding that the aircraft had each flown for up to 17 hours.
President Vladimir Putin announced the resumption of patrol flights August 17, and said that although the country halted long-distance strategic patrol flights to remote regions in 1992, other nations continued the practice, creating certain problems for Russian national security.
Although it was common practice during the Cold War for both the U.S. and the Soviet Union to keep nuclear strategic bombers permanently airborne, the Kremlin cut long-range patrols in 1992. The decision came as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the ensuing economic and political chaos.
However, the newly-resurgent Russia, awash with oil dollars, has invested heavily in military technology, and the resumption of long-range patrols is widely seen among political commentators as another sign of its drive to assert itself both militarily and politically.