Damien Sharkov — NEWSWEEK July 22, 2015
Russia’s air force is stationing a squadron of long-range, supersonic bombers to Crimea with the option of eventually sending an entire regiment to the peninsula in response to Eastern European NATO allies’ reinforcement plans, according to Russian independent news agency Interfax.
Poland and Romania have agreed to host U.S.-missiles on their territory as part of a missile shield designed to protect NATO allies from potential attacks. Last month a representative of Russia’s Security Council, the state defence advisory body, issued an implicit threat to the two countries saying they had turned themselves into “targets” for Russia’s military.
Russia has previously threatened to redeploy more servicemen, tanks and artillery to its western borders, if the U.S. decides to store more military vehicles in Poland and the Baltic countries.
Today a Russian Ministry of Defence source was quoted as saying that a squadron of Tu-22M3 supersonic, strategic bombers will be redeployed to the annexed Crimean peninsula in the near future
“Its combat capabilities will allow a considerable increase in the air defence reinforcement around the Black Sea and the surrounding region,” the defence ministry source told Interfax. “This is one of the measures taken in response to the deployment of an American missile base on the territory of Romania,” the source added.
According to the source, the Tu-22M3 deployment to Crimea could eventually be increased to a whole regiment. An air force squadron normally consists of between 10 and 24 military aircraft, however it can include more, according to the Russian naval dictionary. A regiment consists of several squadrons.
The Tu-22M3 bombers, also known as Backfire bombers, are not currently deployed in Crimea, however they got a chance to experience the terrain in March when some of them were deployed to the peninsula during large-scale snap exercises.
The Russian air force has boasted that the Backfire aircraft’s reach well beyond the Black Sea’s limits, meaning both it and its missiles can pose a threat to coastline states. There are currently 40 of them in regular use in the Russian air force, according to online news site Lenta.ru. Such bombers were once stationed in Crimea during the late 1980s, before the fall of the Soviet Union.
Speaking to Newsweek, a NATO official criticized the plans and other Russian initiatives to increase military presence in Crimea.
“As NATO foreign ministers said in May, more than one year has passed since Russia’s illegal and illegitimate, self-declared ‘annexation’ of Crimea, which we do not, and will not, recognize, and which we call on Russia to reverse,” the NATO official added.
“We condemn Russia’s ongoing and wide-ranging military build-up in Crimea, and are concerned by Russia’s efforts and stated plans for further military build-up in the Black Sea region, which will potentially have further implications for the stability of the region.”