Long-Range Russian Flights and the Arctic

Russia’s recent decision to fly four long-range flights in as many days near the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone is about demonstrating advancing tactics, Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, boss of US European Command, told Congress Tuesday. “The flights are in a sense a function of their growing capabilities,” he said in testimony before the Senate defense appropriations subcommittee, and the successful completion of the sorties demonstrates “their refurbishment of the air force, their long-range bombers.” Scaparrotti said Russia completes similar flights “on the other side of the Arctic into Europe as well.” While the flights alone are not worrisome, Scaparrotti said they may be part of a broader Russian strategy in the Arctic region. “Our concern is that … they could position themselves in a place to control the Arctic,” he warned. The European Reassurance Initiative has been crucial to deterring such a strategy, Scaparrotti said. ERI funding “provides us the capabilities in early warning systems, it provides us the capabilities in ISR” necessary to monitor Russian intentions in the Arctic.