(CBS SF) — Russia has dismissed comments by the commander of U.S. air forces in the Pacific linking Russian military flights near the California coast and the island of Guam as a show of force over the Ukraine crisis.
Earlier this week, Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle said the increasing amount of long-range Russian patrols of both flights and ships were monitored around Japan and Korea as well.
“We relate a lot of that to what’s going on in the Ukraine,” Carlisle said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.
Carlisle said a U.S. F-15 fighter jet intercepted a Tu-95 Russian long-range bomber that had flown to Guam and said the goal of the intensified activity in the Pacific region is to demonstrate its capabilities and to gather intelligence.
A Russian Defense Ministry official told Russian news agency Interfax agency that Carlisle’s comment were surprising. “Linking Russian warplanes’ scheduled flights in the eastern sector of the Pacific Ocean to the situation in Ukraine can only attest to the poor knowledge of geography for the simple reason that these regions are located in different hemispheres,” the official said.
“The United States borders on Russia along the Bering Strait. Therefore, seeing Russian warplanes’ flights over the neutral waters of the Pacific Ocean as a challenge to the United States is strange to say the least. The more so since the intensity of US intelligence planes’ flights in the vicinity of Russia’s eastern borders has never abated since the end of the Cold War,” he said.
A secession crisis on Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula has led to the Russian annexation of Crimea and unrest in neighboring regions of the former Soviet republic.
Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed that a U.S. spy plane flight prompted confusion at Los Angeles International Airport air traffic control last week, resulting in dozens of canceled flights and hundreds of delayed flights.