Hours before the Putin-Biden summit in Geneva, Russia reportedly conducted a massive naval exercise near Hawaii, prompting the US military to scramble its F-22 Raptor fighter jets.
Reports suggest that Russia undertook a large-scale naval exercise 300 to 500 miles off the Hawaiian islands over the weekend. The Russian Navy confirmed the presence of its Pacific fleet around Hawaii.
“The Pacific Fleet’s ships and vessels have completed their deployment in the area of an operational exercise and have started accomplishing tasks today under the scenario of tactical maneuvers as part of the Pacific Fleet’s distant maritime zone task force,” Rear Admiral Konstantin Kabantsov, Commander of the Pacific Fleet’s Primorye Flotilla of All-Arms Forces, was quoted as saying by Russian news agency TASS.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the warships conducted command and control exercises at a distance from the naval bases.
“The anti-submarine warfare ship Admiral Panteleyev, the frigate Marshal Shaposhnikov, the corvettes Gromky, Sovershenniy and Hero of the Russian Federation Aldar Tsydenzhapov and Ka-27PL anti-submarine warfare helicopters practiced detecting and tracking a notional enemy’s submarine. Subsequently, they ‘edged it out’ of the area of the drills,” a statement by the Russian Defense Ministry said.
Russian fleet's large-scale exercises at the Pacific Ocean
— RT (@RT_com) June 13, 2021
It seems that since the past weeks, Russian intelligence-gathering ships have been present near Hawaii. TheDrive reported that the spy ship Kareliya was stationed to monitor the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai. The surveillance of the Missile Range Facility may have resulted in the delay of the ship-launched SM-6 missile against a medium-range ballistic missile target, the report added.
Also, the Pacific drills of the Russian Navy coincided with the presence of the US aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) with its strike group around 200 miles away from Hawaii. While the presence of the Carl Vinson Strike group is for a certification exercise, its location has been changed, closer to Hawaii, after the reports of Russian presence there.
US Sent F-22 Raptors
Two F-22-A ‘Raptor’ stealth fighters took off from the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and a third jet followed them soon after, The Drive reported. The F-22s were finally followed by a KC-135 for support.
The Hickam Air Force Base houses the 199th Fighter Squadron which has two fully armed jets on standby to be dispatched on any security alert. The F-22s stationed at Hawaii are responsible for tracking unidentified or threatening aircraft near the air defense identification zone (ADIZ) surrounding the islands.
— Fighter-pictures (@fighterpics) June 13, 2021
The US Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) was also monitoring the Russian ships which were traversing the international waters in the western Pacific.
“As part of our normal daily operations, we closely track all vessels in the Indo-Pacific area of operations through maritime patrol aircraft, surface ships and joint capabilities,” US Indo-Pacific Command spokesman Navy Captain Mike Kafka said.
“We operate in accordance with international law of the sea and in the air to ensure that all nations can do the same without fear or contest and in order to secure a free and open Indo-Pacific. As Russia operates within the region, it is expected to do so in accordance with international law,” he added.
The Biden-Putin Summit
The Russian presence in the waters of the Pacific near Hawaii came shortly before the Russian President was slated to meet his US counterpart Joe Biden. Tensions between the two Cold War-era rivals have been increasing in recent months, with both countries recalling their ambassadors in March.
🇷🇺🇺🇸Even in periods of tension, #Russia & #US are able to make progress on our shared goals of ensuring predictability in the strategic sphere, reducing the risk of armed conflicts & the threat of nuclear war, that cannot be won & must never be fought.
— MFA Russia 🇷🇺 (@mfa_russia) June 16, 2021
At the Geneva summit, the two leaders agreed to reinstate their respective ambassadors. It was also agreed that talks on arms control norms, which limit the number of strategic nuclear weapon delivery systems, and the capacity of warheads, will be resumed.
However, they also touched upon several contentious issues. The US highlighted its concerns regarding the Russian military build-up at the border with Ukraine, the arrest of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and the supposed cyberattacks emanating from Russia targeting the US.