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Russian strategic bombers ‘spotted’ near Guam amid US defense cuts threats

Russian strategic bombers ‘spotted’ near Guam amid US defense cuts threats
Two Russian Tu-95 strategic bombers were intercepted near the key US Pacific military base in Guam, the Washington Free Beacon website claimed. The news comes ahead of the possible sequestration of the US military budget.

According to the Washington Free Beacon, several 'Russian Bears' – the NATO classification of the Tu-95 – provocatively approached the US stronghold on February 12, the same day that President Barack Obama was preparing to deliver his State of the Union address.US Air Force F-15 jets based at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam were scrambled to repel the intruders, Pacific Air Force in Hawaii spokesperson Captain Kim Bender confirmed.Captain Bender said that the bombers were intercepted north of Guam, and did not provide further details “for operational security reasons.” Because the Russian bombers stayed above international waters and made no attempts to approach the base, “No further actions occurred,” she said.The Washington Free Beacon article claimed that the visit was unprecedented, though in August 2007 two Russian Tu-95 bombers made a flight to Guam as part of military drills, a fact later confirmed by the Russian Air Force.The report cited former State Department security official Mark Groombridge, who said that “The Russians are clearly sending a signal that they consider the Pacific an area of vital national strategic interest and that they still have at least some power projection capabilities to counterbalance against any possible increase in US military assets in the region.”Tu-95s are armed with various types of X-55 cruise missiles with enough range (2,500 kilometers) to fire their 200-kiloton thermonuclear warheads from a safe distance beyond the reach of theGuam base’s radar.

But as the 'doomsday' of automatic military budget cuts looms in the US – less than two weeks away, on March 1 – the US military-industrial complex likely welcomes such reports.If  the US Congress reamins unable to reach a compromise over the federal budget and the sequester is put into action, the US Department of Defense will be forced to slash military training programs and Air Force flying hours, and fire hundreds of civilian personnel or force them to take unpaid leave. The cuts are still unlikely to shift the US from its pedestal as the biggest security spender in the world – which could soon reach a yearly total of $1 trillion.But US Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has warned that if Republicans and Democrats fail to reach a budget compromise, the “collateral damage of political gridlock” will have a devastating effect on the US Military.Commenting on the report, Washington hawk John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the UN and international security undersecretary of the US State Department, declared that “Obama’s ideological obsession” with dismantling America’s nuclear deterrent made the provocative flights by Russian strategic bombers possible.“Our national security is in danger of slipping off the national agenda even as the threats grow,” Bolton said.Half a year ago in August 2012, the Washington Free Beacon alarmed US authorities with its report that a Russian nuclear sub patrolling the Gulf of Mexico went undetected for more than a month. The report was never confirmed, and the Russian Air Force has likewise not confirmed that Tu-95s approached Guam lately.