- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A top Russian official said Wednesday the country plans on conducting patrols with its bombers that extend into the Gulf of Mexico.

“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,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Wednesday in Moscow, The Associated Press reported.

Mr. Shoigu’s remarks were in response to accusations by NATO that Russia was once again sending military personnel into Ukraine.

The Russian official did not provide specifics on the patrols, but said planes will conduct “reconnaissance missions to monitor foreign powers’ military activities and maritime communications,” AP reported.

Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, told AP he would not characterize Russia’s actions as a provocation, as the nation has a right to operate in international airspace.

Large-scale Russian maneuvers along European airspace forced NATO members to scramble jets in late October. Four Tu-95 Bear H strategic bombers and four Il-78 tanker aircraft did not file flight plans, maintain radio contact with civilian air traffic controllers or use on-board transponders, NATO reported Oct. 29.

SEE ALSO: Jets scrambled for large-scale Russian activity in European airspace: NATO

“Russia’s escalating provocative acts of intimidation and threats of destabilization are cause for concern — not just for our European allies — but for the entire NATO alliance,” Congressman Mike Turner, Chairman of U.S. Delegation to the NATO parliamentary assembly and senior House Armed Service Committee member, said at the time.

• Douglas Ernst can be reached at dernst@washingtontimes.com.

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