Feinstein ‘Not Concerned’ About Russian Bombers in Venezuela

By Josiah Ryan | September 11, 2008 | 7:15pm EDT

Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Thursday she is not concerned about Russia's announcement on Wednesday that it had moved two long-range bombers to a base in Venezuela, a South American country just over a thousand miles from Florida.

(CNSNews.com) - Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a senior member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told CNSNews.com Thursday that she is not concerned about Russia’s announcement on Wednesday that it had moved two long-range bombers to a base in Venezuela, a South American country just over a thousand miles from Florida.
Other senators, however, both Republican and Democrat, were less optimistic about Russia’s action.
“No,” Feinstein replied when CNSNews.com asked if she was concerned by Russia’s move. “I don’t think Russia would launch attacks on the United States.”
“I think the relations are going through a very difficult period,” said Feinstein. “I think it’s very important to look very carefully at the Georgia-Russia situation and really remember that the best interest of the United States is to solve the issue without military action if we can.”
Russia’s defense ministry announced on Wednesday that two of its Tupolev Tu-160 strategic bombers, would be stationed temporarily at Libertador Airfield in Venezuela in order to participate in war games in conjunction with Hugo Chavez’s Venezuelan regime.
The Tupolev Tu-160, according to globalsecurity.com, is the most powerful combat aircraft in the Russian arsenal. It is capable of reaching speeds of up to 2,000 kilometers per hour and delivering nuclear weapons.
Given its speed, the Tu-160 would be capable of reaching Washington, D.C., or New York City from anywhere in Venezuela in less than two hours, and of reaching the Florida coastline in less than one hour.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who serves with Feinstein on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said she believes the Russian action in Venezuela requires close scrutiny from the U.S.
“There is a continuing pattern over the last several months of Russian intimidation,” Mikulski told CNSNews.com. “Russia is trying to reclaim power in the world, and they are using the same old bullying intimidation tactics that go back to Brezhnev and Stalin.
“They tried to take down Estonia with a cyber attack. They moved tanks into Georgia, and now there are the fighter craft. If they want to show their world power, they should do it through diplomacy and not through intimidation,” she added.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) agreed that the relocation of the aircraft is a cause for concern and told CNSNews.com that Alaska, which is separated from Russia by the Bering Sea, has often encountered Russian military aircraft flying uncomfortably near U.S. airspace.
“What you are suggesting doesn’t surprise me, and yes it concerns me,” said Murkowski. “If it is clearly a flexing of muscle and effort to display force, it makes you wonder what the objective is and what the appropriate response should be.”

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