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The bomber targeting of U.S. missile defenses also followed stepped up Russian bomber activities targeting other U.S. missile defense sites, including ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California. A large-scale Russian military exercise in the Arctic in June included flights by two Tu-95 Bear bombers that Russian military officials said had simulated attacks on U.S. missile defenses in Alaska.

Another pair of Tu-95s flew on July 4 the closest to the California coast that a Russian bomber had flown since the days of the Soviet Union, when strategic bomber flights near U.S. coasts were a routine feature of the Cold War.

Russian targeting of missile defenses also comes as Moscow’s GRU military intelligence announced April 1 that it would deploy a new reconnaissance ship in the Pacific to spy on U.S. missile defenses in Alaska and Hawaii.

The ship Yuri Ivanov will begin service next year, military sources told the state-run Izvestia news outlet.

One source said the main mission of the ship would be to monitor U.S. missile defense components in Alaska and Hawaii. The ship will be outfitted with electronic sensors that allow detection, interception, and analysis of signals from radar, weapons systems, and communications.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu told Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during a telephone call March 25 that Moscow wanted to resume missile defense talks.

Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement that Shoygu “expressed his desire to reconvene missile defense discussions with the U.S. at the deputy minister level.”

“Secretary Hagel agreed and reiterated that this is an important part of U.S.-Russian relations,” Little said. “He assured Minister Shoygu that these discussions would continue and be carried forward by under secretary of defense for policy Dr. Jim Miller.”

Russian accounts of the conversation said the Russians plan to discuss the U.S. and NATO missile defense for Europe.

“We are very interested in how the situation surrounding the European missile-defense will develop, and our minister proposed reconvening regular consultations on this matter at deputy defense minister level: Anatoly Antonov from the Russian side and James Miller from the American side,” Shoygu’s deputy Anatoly Antonov said, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.

U.S. plans for missile defenses in Europe include a phased approach that will employ a combination of ships and ground-based missile defenses designed mainly to counter attacks from Iranian missiles.

Hagel announced last month that the Pentagon would give up plans for the SM-3 IIB and instead increase the number of ground-based interceptors in California and Alaska from 30 to 44 over the next several years.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement after that announcement saying the United States continues to bolster global missile defenses, and therefore there is a need to work out “reliably legally binding guarantees” that missile defenses in Europe will not be targeted at Russian missiles.

Moscow has said the European defenses pose a threat to Russian security and late last year a Russian general threatened preemptive attacks on U.S. missile defense sites in any future crisis.

One venue for the missile defense talks could be the international conference on European security set to begin May 23 in Moscow, when Hagel could attend, according a Russian official quoted in press reports.

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