State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed Thursday that the U.S. is pressing Vietnam to bar Russian military aircraft from refueling at the former American base at Cam Ranh Bay, while a U.S. commander raised concerns about Russia's military activities in the Western Hemisphere, Censor.NET reports citing Bloomberg.
As Russian President Vladimir Putin accuses the U.S. of meddling in his backyard by backing the government of Ukraine against pro-Russian separatists, the U.S. is protesting Russia's far-flung displays of military strength, the article reads.
At a Senate committee hearing on Thursday, Marine Corps General John Kelly, head of U.S. Southern Command, said Russia is stepping up its efforts to gain influence in the Americas. Periodically since 2008, Russia has pursued an increased presence in Latin America through propaganda, military arms and equipment sales, counterdrug agreements and trade, he said in a statement submitted as he testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee. In particilar, Russia is courting Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua "to gain access to air bases and ports for resupply of Russian naval assets and strategic bombers operating in the Western Hemisphere," Kelly explained.
"Under President Putin, however, we have seen a clear return to Cold War tactics," according to Kelly. Starting last year, a Russian intelligence ship has docked in Havana "multiple times conducting operations in the Gulf of Mexico and along the East Coast of the United States," he said. President Barack Obama has moved the U.S. toward normalizing relations with Cuba, over objections from some lawmakers who say the island nation's Communist regime can't be trusted.
Both Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have moved more air assets into closer proximity to each other in Europe, according to the report. NATO has reinforced the Baltic Air Policing Mission -- a show of support for NATO members Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia -- and operated airborne warning and control system aircraft out of bases in Poland and Romania, while Russia has moved combat aircraft into bases in newly annexed Crimea and increased the number of flights by its long-range warplanes. The group said that since March 2014 there have been at least 66 risky encounters between Russian air or naval forces and NATO or civilian aircraft or ships. It said it's identified 27 new incidents since its initial report on the subject in November. Those include a "narrowly avoided collision" Dec. 12 between an SAS AB airliner and a Russian military jet flying with its transponder switched off, according to the Swedish military. Over the past year, Russian military aircraft have probed and sometimes violated the borders of European nations' airspace more than 100 times, according to NATO.