by The News / Jang Group (Pakistan) –
MOSCOW (February 28, 2004) — Russia’s air force chief told dozens of international military attaches on Friday that his force was for the first time getting the funding it needed to rapidly strike anywhere around the globe.
Air Force General Vladimir Mikhailov said that training time for pilots has doubled over the past year and that Russian strategic bombers have recently staged exercises in the Arctic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. The Moscow-based military attaches in response quizzed him closely on Russia’s future air ambitions.
‘We Are Ready to Go
Mikhailov confirmed that strategic bombers shot cruise missiles over the Arctic as part of broad military exercises staged earlier this month —billed as the most wide-ranging war games in some 20 years. He said Russia’s bombers never launched their missiles over the Atlantic in a move that would have likely prompted protest from NATO and the United States.
But he cautioned that Russia was ready at any moment to do so. “We are ready to go there today if necessary,” Mikhailov announced in an address in the defence ministry’s imposing central Moscow headquarters.
Russia has feared NATO expansion and issued protests over the AWACSs flights since the sensitive radars can see deep into Russia’s own territory. Mikhailov said Russia has staged several reconnaissance missions in the same area in recent days but said those flights were made over neutral international waters.
“This should not be seen as an act of revenge,” Mikhailov said with a grin.
And he stressed that Russia was ready to cooperate with NATO in anti-terror operations in Afghanistan and share its new Kant base in the Central Asia republic of Kyrgyzstan in case of emergency. “But we would need two commanders in that case —one who speaks Russian and one who speaks English,” he said.