(CNSNews.com) – Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) expressed concern over what he called Russia’s recent “power projection” in the Western Hemisphere, including flying military aircraft near the coasts of Alaska and California.
“Russia’s engagement in the Western Hemisphere is deeply troubling,” Duncan said Thursday during a hearing held by the U.S. House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, which Duncan chairs.
“At a time when Russia is flexing its geopolitical muscles in other parts of the world, its power projection in our very region should be met with U.S. strength, resilience, and clarity,” he said.
Duncan gave several examples of Russian military activity in the Western Hemisphere last year.
“In June [of 2014], NORAD reported it had scrambled two F-22s and two F-15s after seeing a fleet of Russian bombers off the coasts of Alaska and California.
“In July, Russian President Putin traveled to the region to visit Cuba, Nicaragua, Argentina, and Brazil. At that time, Russia forgave 90 percent of Cuba's debt, and reportedly, Russia and Cuba agreed to reopen the Lourdes base only 150 miles from the United States' coast.
“In September, the U.S. intercepted Russian fighter jets and tankers in airspace near Alaska, and just in November of last year, Russia announced that it planned to send its long-range bombers to the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean.
“The United States did very little in response to all these developments,” Duncan pointed out.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who previously chaired the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also expressed her concern regarding Russian activities in the region, including Russian bombers “regularly patrolling the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.”
“The Russian Federation's activities in Latin America have a clear intent: eroding U.S. influence in our region, increasing military cooperation with the adversaries of democracy, of transparency, of the rule of law in Latin America,” she said.
“By forming military alliances and increasing defense cooperation, Russia has effectively gained power projection of forces right in our back yard.
“According to the Russian defense minister, supersonic bombers are regularly patrolling the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico to quote 'monitor foreign military powers, military activities, and maritime communications' end quote, and have on occasion landed in Venezuela just as they did precisely two years ago today.
“This year [Nicaraguan president Daniel] Ortega agreed to allow Russia to establish a satellite station in Nicaragua, and Nicaragua recently expressed an interest in acquiring top of the line MiG-29 fighters to be used in counter-narcotics operations, fueling fears that the Russians may have a continuous military footprint so close to our nation,” she noted.