On Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry said Russia scrambled two fighter jets to escort US B-1B bombers over the Black Sea, an incident that coincided with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s visit to the region.
“Russian fighter crews identified the air targets as two B-1B supersonic strategic bombers accompanied by two KC-135 tanker aircraft of the US Air Force and escorted them over the Black Sea,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
“After the foreign warplanes had been turned away from Russia’s state border, the Russian fighters safely returned to their home airbase,” the statement said. The US frequently deploys spy planes to the Black Sea, but bomber flights are more rare.
The US bomber flights came after Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin made visits to Georgia and Ukraine, where he slammed Russia and signaled future NATO memberships are still possible for the two countries that border Russia. On Wednesday, Austin was in Romania, a NATO ally that has a coast on the Black Sea.
The US and NATO have stepped up their military activity in the Black Sea, ratcheting up tensions with Russia. The most provocative move came back in June when the British warship HMS Defender sailed within 12 nautical miles of Crimea.