In a show of military muscle amid tensions with the West, Russia will send long-range strategic bombers on regular patrol missions across the globe, from the Arctic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, a top official said Wednesday.
The announcement by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu came as NATO’s chief accused Russia of sending fresh troops and tanks into eastern Ukraine.
“Over the last few days, we have seen multiple reports of large convoys moving into Eastern Ukraine,” said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. “We assess that this significant military buildup includes Russian artillery, tanks, air defense systems and troops. His statement called the situation a “severe threat to the cease-fire.”
Moscow denied the allegation as unfounded, but Shoigu also said the dispute with the West over Ukraine would require Russia to beef up its forces in the Crimea, the Black Sea Peninsula that Russia annexed in March.
Shoigu said Russian long-range bombers will conduct flights along Russian borders and over the Arctic Ocean. He said, “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 would not say how frequent the patrol missions would be or offer any other specifics, but he noted that the increasing pace and duration of flights would require stronger maintenance efforts and that relevant directives have been issued to industries.
A senior U.S. military official said Russia has not previously flown actual bomber patrols over the Gulf of Mexico, including during the Cold War.
This story is compiled with information from the Associated Press.