Russian military aircraft have been seen off the US coast four times in four days
A US Defence official told CNN, Russian military aircraft have been seen flying off the coast of Alaska for the fourth time in four days.
Two Tu-95 nuclear-capable Bear bombers and two IL-38 maritime patrol aircraft were spotted off the coast but remained outside of US airspace on Wednesday and Thursday.
According to CNN, the bombers entered the Alaskan Air Defence Identification Zone some 700 nautical miles southwest of Anchorage.
All such missions are carried out in strict compliance with international regulations and with respect to national borders
Russian Defence Ministry
The US Defence official said there is “no other way to interpret this other than as strategic messaging”.
US fighter jets intercepted two Russian bombers in international airspace 100 miles from Kodiak Island, Alaska on Monday.
Tensions continued to escalate on Tuesday when two Russian bombers were spotted in the same area just 41 miles off the Alaskan coast.
US surveillance aircraft were called to the scene as Moscow said the movements were part of regular patrols.
The Russian Defence Ministry said its aircraft “regularly carries out patrol missions above the neutral waters of the Arctic, the Atlantic, the Black Sea and the Pacific Ocean.
“All such missions are carried out in strict compliance with international regulations and with respect to national borders.”
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But one US defence expert says the missions are part of Russian President Vladimir Putin trying “to prove Russia is back in the game”.
Howard Stoffer, a former member of the State Department, told CNN: "This kind of cat-and-mouse stuff has been going on for a while now.
“Putin is trying to put the US on notice that the Russians are everywhere and are back to expanding the limits of expanding their military power."
IL-38 maritime patrol aircraft were spotted off the Alaskan coast
Two Tu-95 nuclear-capable Bear bombers were also seen off the US coast
As tensions threaten to reach boiling point over North Korea and Syria, Russian aircraft have been seen flying along the coastline of US ally Japan four times this month.
Russian spy ship the Viktor Leonov has also reportedly been spotted near the US coastline twice as US-Russia relations reach a new low.
But Mr Stoffer says although it is unlikely the US would fire a shot at Russian military, Washington could authorise attempts to jam Russian aircraft radar and systems sparking a plane crash.
Experts says Washington is unlikely to fire the first shot
If war breaks out retired Air Force General Michael Hayden insists the US is the stronger power.
He said: “No one wants to go to war with the Russians, but let me double down on another concept: The Russians really don't want to go to war with us. They are by far the weaker power.”