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In an obvious show of force, the Russian military conducted massive naval military exercises just a few hundred miles from Hawaii hours before President Joe Biden was scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The exercises — which Russian officials reportedly touted as the largest since the end of the Cold War — took place about 300 to 500 miles west of Hawaii and included surface ships, anti-submarine aircraft, and long-range bombers, CBS News reported.
News of the “irregular air patrol” reportedly sent U.S. defense officials into a frenzy, as they “scrambled” F-22s from Hawaii to respond to the Russian bomber flights.
The Russian bombers reportedly were not intercepted as they did not enter the Air Defense Identification Zone, but they came close.
Defense officials noted that a U.S. carrier strike group was also operating about 200 miles east of Hawaii. That exercise was planned beforehand but was moved closer to Hawaii in response to the Russian exercise.
U.S. Indo-Pacific Command spokesman Capt. Mike Kafka said in a statement that the U.S. military is “monitoring the Russian vessels operating in international waters in the Western Pacific.”
“We operate in accordance with international law of the sea and in the air to ensure that all nations can do the same without fear or contest and in order to secure a free and open Indo-Pacific. As Russia operates within the region, it is expected to do so in accordance with international law,” he added.
A short video of the exercise produced by Russia’s ministry of defense was obtained the New York Post.
The exercises came directly alongside a highly anticipated meeting between Biden and Putin in Geneva, Switzerland, on Wednesday, in which both sides were hoping to “project strength” on the world stage, the Wall Street Journal reported.
While Biden may have been hoping to project strength through words, Putin was clearly hoping to project his country’s strength through a showcase of military prowess.
“It’s about making myself very clear what the conditions are to get a better relationship with Russia,” Biden told reporters after the G7 summit in Cornwall, England, over the weekend. “We’re not looking for conflict — we are looking to resolve those actions which we think are inconsistent with international norms.”
Biden, despite previously characterizing Putin as “a killer,” this week called him “bright,” “tough,” and a “worthy adversary.”
When asked about the military exercises following the summit, Putin dismissed U.S. concerns, saying they have “no basis.”
He claimed that Russia was not attempting “anything new” in the Arctic; rather, his country was “restoring the destroyed infrastructure” in the region.