The Russia Effect in the Asia-Pacific

Russian military forces, particularly air and naval assets, have become “increasingly active” in the Asia-Pacific region in the aftermath of the Ukraine crisis, said Pacific Air Forces Commander Gen. Hawk Carlisle on Monday. The uptick in activity has been “significant,” Carlisle told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. Russia’s long-range aviation assets, Tu-95 and Tu-160 airplanes, have expanded flights in four areas: around Japan, near Korea, in the western Pacific near Guam, and in and around Alaska, he said. The flights near Japan and Korea have grown more assertive, such as near the disputed Kurile Islands, said Carlisle. The reasons for this are varied, he noted, and include demonstrating military capability and gathering intelligence on activities such as the Foal Eagle exercise in South Korea and other joint US-Japan-South Korean drills. Although there is dialogue and engagement between the Russians and some US allies in the Pacific, there is concern among the allies that Russia’s assertive posture is related to events in and around Ukraine, and has implications for other territorial disputes, said Carlisle during his May 5 talk.