The Kremlin on Thursday slammed US attempts to "stoke tensions" by flying nuclear-capable bombers near its borders after a series of prior close encounters over the Baltic Sea.
This after the US Air Force starting late last week deployed no less than six nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to Europe for what it described as "theater integration and flying training" with regional NATO allies and partners.
The training missions are set to occur at various locations across Europe, but on Monday the operation riled Moscow due to four B-52s conducting "flights to several places in Europe, including to the Norwegian Sea, the Baltic Sea/Estonia and the Mediterranean Sea/Greece," according to an Air Force statement.
US Baltic operations puts American and Russian planes in dangerously close vicinity as there's been a recent spate of instances over the past year where Russian intercepts of US flights have resulted in heightening rhetoric coming from each side.
For example, in November, the US complained about an "unsafe" intercept of a plane by an Su-27. As video of that incident showed the Su-27 made a pass directly in front of the mission aircraft. Moscow insisted that the pass was indeed safe; however, the Pentagon has consistently condemned the Russian intercepts as "unsafe" and "unprofessional".
Two weeks ago the Russian Defense Ministry (MoD) released stunning footageof yet another intercept of a US spy plane over the waters of the Baltic Sea near the Russian border which occurred on an unknown date.
No intercept or any close encounters resulted from Thursday's events, but it suggests the two sides are increasingly willing to play chicken as "red lines" are continually crossed, and this further following this week's NATO condemnations of Russian"wide-ranging military buildup in Crimea" upon Moscow celebrations of the fifth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Western media dubbed the events Putin's "Crimean annexation party".
The US National Security Council on Monday echoed this sentiment, reiterating in a statement that the Crimean situation "continues to pose a threat to our regional allies."
Russia’s Defense Ministry acknowledged of Thursday's B-52 bomber incident that the pair of Russian gets had returned to base without getting close to the American planes.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters “In general, I will limit myself to only saying that of course such actions by the United States do not lead to a strengthening of an atmosphere of security and stability in the region that directly adjoins Russia’s borders,” and he added: “On the contrary, they create additional tensions.”