Daily US Times: On Monday, the US Navy sailed three destroyers into the Barents Sea off Russia’s Arctic coast. It is for the first time Navy ships have operated in the area since the mid-1980s, the height of the Cold War.
US Naval Forces Europe issued a statement, saying ”The purpose of the operation was to assert freedom of navigation and demonstrate seamless integration among allies.”
The three destroyers — USS Roosevelt, USS Porter, and USS Donald Cook, — were joined by a UK Royal Navy frigate, HMS Kent.
The Barents Sea is part of the Arctic Ocean and borders northern Norway and Russia. The Russian port of Murmansk, which hosts the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet, sits on the sea.
Moscow was notified about the upcoming operation on Friday, US Navy says, “to avoid misperceptions, reduce risk, and prevent inadvertent escalation.”
US officials have consistently said that Russia has boosted its military operations and presence in the Arctic in recent days.
Last year, a Pentagon report on the Arctic said: “Russia has gradually strengthened its presence by creating new Arctic units, refurbishing old airfields and infrastructure in the Arctic, and establishing new military bases along its Arctic coastline.”
The report added: “There is also a concerted effort to establish a network of air defense and coastal missile systems, early warning radars, rescue centers, and a variety of sensors.”
NATO jets intercepted Russian military aircraft in the area on two occasions late last month.
A statement from NATO about those incidents said: ”Last Tuesday a Russian Airborne Early Warning aircraft as well as two Russian Tu-22 long range bombers with fighter escorts approached NATO airspace off the coast of Norway and were intercepted by Norwegian fighter jets.”
Norwegian F-16 and F-35 fighters once again intercepted Russian aircraft the following day, according to NATO, this time two maritime patrol planes, after they approached “NATO airspace close to Norway”.
The UK’s Royal Air Force also launched Typhoon fighter aircraft to meet and escort the Russian planes as they tracked south toward the North Sea.
Russian and the US militaries often find themselves operating in close proximity in and around Europe.
Last month, US military accused Russian jets of twice endangering the crew of a US Navy surveillance plane flying in international airspace in the eastern Mediterranean after the Russian aircraft performed what the Navy called “unsafe and unprofessional” intercepts.
A Russian fighter aircraft approached a US Navy aircraft over the Mediterranean Sea, both governments confirmed while offering different accounts of the incident.