Two U.S. jets intercepted six Russian planes that neared U.S. airspace off Alaska on Thursday and Canadian planes intercepted two Russian bombers that approached Canadian airspace, NORAD told CNN and Canada's CBC News on Thursday.
The two Tupolev Tu-95 long-range bombers, commonly referred to as "Bears," came within 60 to 100 kilometers of Canadian airspace in the early morning hours Thursday, NORAD told CTV News. NORAD radar detected the aircraft around 1:30 a.m. PT and scrambled two CF-18s fighter jets from undisclosed location in northwest Canada. The Russian planes turned back after making contact.
CNN's Barbara Starr quoted a U.S. official who said that "officials in Washington think the incidents were related to the visit by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who talked to Canadian officials Wednesday and President Barack Obama on Thursday. The United States promised Ukraine $46 million in nonlethal aid for its battle with pro-Russian militants."
"It is Europe's and it is America's war now, too. It is the war for the free world," Poroshenko said.
So what's Russia up to this week? The Week's Kyle Mizokami suggests that these minor transgressions of international boundaries are part of a subtle show of strength, a defining feature of Russian diplomacy under President Vladimir Putin. Russian Bears buzz U.S. airspace as a way to remind NATO countries — like, say, Finland and Canada — of Putin's nuclear capabilities.
Editors Note: Mar. 3, 2015
An earlier version of this article cited CNN reporting, but did not include quotations around the cited passage. The story has been updated to fully attribute CNN's language.