Six nuclear-capable B-52 bombers were recently deployed to Europe by the U.S. Air Force where they will conduct “theater integration and flying training” exercises with regional allies and NATO partners. The move is largely interpreted as a message to Russia, which is in the midst of celebrations of its five-year anniversary of the Crimea annexation.
A bomber task force of B-52 Stratofortresses, airmen and support equipment arrived at RAF Fairford late last week and has since then been taking part in various training missions across Europe.
The Air Force said in a press release that four B-52s conducted Monday “flights to several places in Europe, including to the Norwegian Sea, the Baltic Sea/Estonia and the Mediterranean Sea/Greece.”
It added that B-52 bombers from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and RAF Fairford have also conducted “simultaneous theater familiarization training in the Indo-Pacific and Europe” as bombers “flew north to an area east of the Kamchatka Peninsula” near Russia, CNN reports.
The news release said that these flights showed American commitment “to allies and partners through the global employment of military forces.”
The B-52 nuclear bomber can carry up to 70,000 pounds of bombs, mines and missiles.
U.S.-Russian relations have been deteriorating lately with tensions increasing in the past few months, especially after Russia seized several Ukrainian ships in November and detained Ukrainian sailors after a confrontation in the Kerch Strait.
Following the incident, President Donald Trump canceled a planned meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, during last year’s G-20 summit in Argentina.
Congress has been constantly introducing new sanctions on Russia and acts targeting Putin for various affronts, including the annexation of Crimea. The Russian president traveled to Crimea this week and rallied crowds by saying a new powerful Russia has emerged that will stand up for its interests.
U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker said on Monday that a military solution for Ukraine to reclaim Crimea was off the table as that would “be militarily a disaster.”
“It would lead to the loss of thousands and thousands of lives. It’s not something anyone should be contemplating,” Volker said on the fifth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea.