In a provocative show of force for Russia, the United States for the first time landed a nuclear-powered bomber in the region above the Arctic Circle.
This is the shortest route to an attack on Moscow, thanks to the curvature of the Earth. The aircraft was handpicked: a B-1B, a supersonic bomber designed during the Cold War only for penetration missions into Soviet airspace at the time.
The plane, one of four moved last month to the Norwegian base in Orland, landed at the northernmost airfield in Bodo on Sunday. Details have started to appear now.
The crew of the “Dark Knight”, nicknamed the aircraft, performed the so-called “hot stop”, in which all four engines are turned off and it is refueled ashore with the crew on board. This is one of the simulations of what happens during combat missions.
The Arctic Circle is seen as a backyard by Moscow, which maintains a strong military presence across the peninsula which is home to Norway and Sweden.
In addition to important military routes, taking advantage of the shorter distances between Russia and the West through the North Pole, the Arctic thaw opened up commercial shipping lanes and further exploration for gas and oil.
B-1Bs and other bombers have already flown over the area, but the landing has symbolic significance: a message about capabilities and disposition consistent with the more aggressive rhetoric of Joe Biden’s new government in front of Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin .
Russia responded last month by sending for the first time a cruiser, Marshal Ustinov, to the Varanger Fjord, which marks the maritime border with Norway – which is a member of NATO, a state-led military alliance. -United.
More signals are expected, as the B-1Bs conduct reconnaissance missions with Norwegian F-16s and F-35s, in addition to others with Gripen fighters from Sweden, a non-Western ally. NATO and has a history of fear. from Russia.
The move comes after Biden gave speeches and took action against Putin, accusing the Russian government of trying to kill opponent Alexei Navalni and imposing sanctions on officials linked to the Kremlin.
All this is part of the diplomatic dance of the great powers, revived in the years of Putin in power (from 1999 to today) and accentuated by the assertiveness of China by Xi Jinping.
Significantly, Chinese Ambassador to Moscow Zhang Hanhui told Interfax on Wednesday (10) that his country should coordinate policies aimed at the United States with Moscow.
“Fifty years ago, the United States and China opened the door to a relationship that had been closed for decades. Now, 50 years later, the United States must correct the mistakes it made, ”said Zhang.
Biden will hold a virtual meeting with his allies at Quad, the military group that brings together the United States, Japan, Australia and India, as opposed to Beijing. Sino-US tensions continue to rise in places like the South China Sea, which frequently receives B1-Bs.
“As two great countries, China and Russia share common interests,” the ambassador said.
It’s a typical bite, because on Wednesday the United States confirmed it would favor a high-level diplomatic meeting with Chinese envoys in Alaska.
The meeting, revealed by the Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post, is expected to bring together the foreign ministers of the countries “in the coming months”, according to the White House.
In this way, it is possible to read the nod to Putin as a means of asserting his independence from Biden, who until now only signaled the continuation of the policy of confrontation with China established by his predecessor, Donald Trump.
Republican Cold War 2.0 may change tone, but not its purpose. Biden has already made it clear that he sees China as America’s greatest strategic rival, while he sees Russia as a dangerous adversary, especially in the military realm.
In this way, seemingly small signals, such as sending a plane to a remote base in the Arctic, gain importance as a thermometer for side-by-side arrangements.