MOSCOW, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- In its latest provocation in the new cold war, Russia is sending long-range bombers to patrol the Gulf of Mexico off U.S. shores.
The planes will be sent as part of "drills" to "maintain a military presence" in the Western Atlantic, eastern Pacific, the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, said Defense Minister Sergy Shoigu.
A senior Obama administration official called the plan "provocative and potentially destabilizing," but did not detail what kind of response the bombers might run into.
The Russians are trying to make a strong point with the flights, say experts, underscoring that their focus on an area so close to American is no different than U.S. interest in the Ukraine in Russia's backyard.
"They see us trying to muscle in on what they see as their sphere of influence," said Jeffrey Mankoff, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, pointing out that Russia is thinking: "If they can do it to us, we can do it them.'"
Russia will also expand its presence in the Arctic region, which could affect Alaska and northern Canada. This will involve full radar coverage of the region so that Russia can "meet unwanted guests" both from the north and east, Shoigu said.
U.S. fighter jets already intercepted four Russian long-range bombers off Alaska and California last summer. They flew within an area 200 miles from the coast. Two peeled off and headed west, while the other two flew south and were intercepted by U.S. F-15s within 50 miles off California.