Air Force General Glen VanHerck warned this week that Russia is increasing its military presence around Alaska in order to “reassert on a global stage their influence and their capabilities.”
VanHerck, who also leads the North American Aerospace Defense Command, said to senators on Wednesday that “we’re back in the peer competition.”
“Clearly Russia is trying to reassert on a global stage their influence and their capabilities,” continued VanHerck. “That’s exactly what’s going on. It’s great power competition.”
The difference between the past and now is the intercepts are more complex – multi-access, multi-platforms and often times they’ll enter the [air defense identification zone] and stay for hours,” added VanHerck “That would be the significant difference. But why this is ongoing? It is playing out as the peer competition that we’ve talked about.”
NORAD reported in January and March that it had tracked Russian aircraft inside the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone. The aircraft did not enter United States or Canadian sovereign airspace.
Within the last week or so, there’s been significant activity in the Arctic,” added VanHerck. “Again, I attribute that back to a competition ongoing.”
“These Russian military operations include multiple flights of heavy bombers, anti-submarine aircraft, and intelligence collection platforms near Alaska,” said VanHerck. “These efforts show both Russia’s military reach and how they rehearse potential strikes on our homeland. Last summer, the Russian Navy focused its annual OCEAN SHIELD exercise on the defense of Russia’s maritime approaches in the Arctic and Pacific.”
“The multi-fleet exercise, intended in part to demonstrate Russia’s ability to control access to the Arctic through the Bering Strait, included amphibious landings on the Chukotka Peninsula opposite Alaska, as well as anti-submarine patrols and anti-ship cruise missile launches from within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone,” continued VanHerck.
“When I talk about my strategy, it’s getting further left in our messaging and creating deterrence options,” said VanHerck. “It’s about giving decision space to senior leaders.”
Further left is a military term for ahead of an adversary’s action.
“The fact that you can tell a competitor that you’re aware of their activities and potential intent gives us the opportunity to posture forces or use strategic messaging to create a deterrence effect,” continued VanHerck.
“These combat training, research, and practical measures have demonstrated the Russian Navy’s abilities and preparedness to operate in the harsh northern latitudes,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin, adding that this work “must be continued.”