Russia critical after US sends nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to Europe

The U.S. deployed six nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to Europe last week to conduct training with NATO allies and partners, American officials reported, in a move promptly criticized by the Kremlin Thursday.

The U.S. Air Force is carrying out “theater integration and flight training” out of London’s RAF Fairford station, which will help prepare airmen to use the base as their forward operating location for bombers in Europe, the Air Force said last week.

“Training with joint partners, allied nations and other U.S. Air Force units contributes to our ready and postured forces and enables us to build enduring and strategic relationships necessary to confront a broad range of global challenges,” the Air Force said.

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The Kremlin accused the U.S. of escalating tensions by flying its B-52 bombers near its border. Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed it prepared two Sukhoi SU-27 fighter jets to intercept a U.S. aircraft spotted on the radar before it changed direction, Reuters reported Thursday.

"In general, I will limit myself to only saying that of course, such actions by the United States do not lead to a strengthening of an atmosphere of security and stability in the region that directly adjoins Russia's borders," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters.

The U.S. Embassy in Poland maintained that the Air Force conducted flights to Lithuania and Poland Wednesday to conduct interoperability training in NATO-controlled territory near the Baltic Sea.

Relations between Russia and NATO forces have been strained since Russia’s annexation of Crimea five years ago and continued to escalate as Moscow backed pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine. America's former U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, called out Russia’s “dangerous” and “arrogant” behavior after it seized Ukrainian naval ships in November and held sailors captive, The Hill reported.

The Air Force is conducting similar exercises in both Europe and the Indo-Pacific, launching B-52H Stratofortress bombers from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and RAF Fairford, United Kingdom, it said in a second press release on Wednesday.

“Collectively, the flights from the Indo-Pacific and Europe demonstrated U.S. commitment to allies and partners through the global employment of military forces,” the U.S. Air Force said.

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U.S. bombers flew north from Andersen on Monday to survey an area east of the Kamchatka Peninsula before returning to base.

Following international law and norms, the Air Force has been routinely conducting flight missions for over 10 years as part of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s “Continuous Bomber Presence” to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific.