While groping in its conflicting relations with China and Russia, Joe Biden’s new US government is sending signals of military readiness to rivals, in an attempt to demarcate the territory.
Not that there is a prospect of short-term confrontation. But new American governments are often tested by their adversaries in their willingness to play the usual game of mutual provocation.
Thus, the US Air Force announced the dispatch this week of four B1-B bombers to the base of Orland in Norway.
For three weeks, the aircraft and 200 men will train with the local Air Force much further north, in the Arctic Circle, which Moscow considers its strategic priority area – around 25% of its gross domestic product comes from of gas and oil extraction that Region.
The B1-Bs have flown in Norway before, but this is the first time they will be employed in such a northern area, which means another message. The jet is the only strategic bomber that carries nuclear, supersonic weapons from the US arsenal, and was designed for rapid penetration into the airspace of the former Soviet Union.
The Arctic is the closest point for such an incursion, although obviously the presence of the equipment there is only a reminder, not a direct threat.
Moscow passed the receipt as on other occasions, announcing Tuesday (9) that two Tu-160 strategic bombers, similar models but much larger than the B1-B, flew over the waters between Norway and Greenland. And an A-50 radar plane started operating in Murmansk, the Arctic capital, two days earlier.
Russia is identified in a December Pentagon document as a top-notch military threat, not least because it maintains a nuclear arsenal comparable to that of the United States. It lives in constant tension on its borders with NATO, a military alliance led by Washington.
From the start of government, Biden marked a truce in the difficult relationship with Moscow by agreeing to the extension postponed by predecessor Donald Trump of the main missile limitation agreement with atomic warheads between the two countries.
At the same time, however, it raised the tone of political criticism due to the arrest of opposing leader Alexei Navalni, who had returned to Russia after being treated for a poisoning he claimed was the work of the Kremlin. .
Biden has already spoken on the phone with President Vladimir Putin, and the flexing of this military musculature in the Arctic, in addition to the actions already underway in the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea, is part of this dynamic of not appear weak in the eyes of the opponent.
The same is happening with China, highlighted in the same study not only as a military threat, but primarily a strategic one, as it competes with the United States economically – something Russia falls short of doing.
Also on Tuesday (9), the US Navy began a rare exercise with two groups of aircraft carriers in the South China Sea. Beijing considers 85% of the region, which concentrates its vital maritime trade routes, to be its own.
To this end, he militarizes the rocks and creates man-made islands throughout the region. The United States regularly questions this notion of sovereignty, which was openly condemned for the first time in 2020, sending ships on what it calls freedom of navigation operations.
As the name suggests, it is about asserting that the waters are international, as determined by the United Nations in a dispute between the Philippines and China that Beijing does not recognize.
Two weeks ago, the group of aircraft carriers led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt had already entered the South China Sea, shortly after Biden’s inauguration. He is now accompanied by the USS Nimitz group. In total, these are the nuclear-powered giants, each with around 90 planes, plus six warships.
The last time such double military exercises took place in the region last June, at the height of tension over US criticism of what they call the expansionism of the Communist dictatorship. To top it off, a French nuclear attack submarine is also operating in the area.
Trump created the so-called Cold War 2.0 against the government led by Xi Jinping during his tenure, sparking litigation in several areas: from the prevalence of 5G network provision to tariff warfare to pandemic management. and the question of hindrance. autonomy in Hong Kong.
All of this was tempered by the heating up of military rhetoric from side to side. The Chinese denounce American attitudes as belligerent and deny any intentions other than to defend national sovereignty, even though Xi has increased his control over the armed forces.
The usual response to these movements is Beijing’s constant air exercises in the region and growing tension around the island of Taiwan, which is independent in practice but considered a rebellious province by the Chinese.
Last week, China’s Defense Ministry made it clear that a formal request for Taipei independence would mean war, a tone above the often harsh one applied to relations between countries.
The United States, while recognizing China’s policy of considering only one China, is supporting the Taiwanese with weapons and the promise of defense in the event of an invasion.
As in the case of Russia, the move is meant to signal Xi that the United States will maintain a hard line in the region, even if it changes Trump’s explicit belligerent tone. Biden told CBS on Friday that there was “no reason to call out” the Chinese leader, but denied seeking a conflict.