Despite repeated warnings from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that the U.S. is driving the rise of tensions at Ukraine’s eastern border, the U.S. Air Force has deployed four B-52 bombers with nuclear capabilities to the U.K., where one official acknowledged that the deployment is at least partially connected to Russia’s recent military activities.
Two B-52 Stratofortress aircrafts arrived at Royal Air Force Fairford on Thursday, with two more following. The bombers integrated with other NATO members’ forces en route to Fairford, according to the Air Force, including “British Typhoon aircraft and Portuguese F-16s currently assigned to NATO’s Icelandic Air Policing mission.”
The U.S. military downplayed the deployment, saying it was a “long-planned Bomber Task Force mission,” but one U.K. defense source told The Telegraph, “Is this aligned to current tensions? Yes and no.”
According to The Telegraph, a former British intelligence official noted that the Pentagon could launch air strikes from Fairford as it has before.
“From Fairford they could operate against a range of targets: troop concentrations in southern Russia and Belarus, Moscow/St. Petersburg, even the naval bases in the White Sea,” the former official told the outlet. “In 1991 they hit Baghdad from Fairford, flew on to Diego Garcia, refueled and rearmed, bombed Baghdad again on the way back, and returned to Fairford.”
The bombers sent from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota are capable of carrying precision-guided and nuclear weapons.
As the bombers arrived in the U.K., President Joe Biden warned in an interview with NBC News that American citizens in Ukraine and Russia should leave immediately while the U.S. State Department issued a notice that it would not be able to evacuate Americans in the event of military action by Russia.
“We’re dealing with one of the largest armies in the world,” Biden told Lester Holt. “Things could go crazy quickly.”
“That’s a world war when Americans and Russia start shooting at one another,” the president added.
The U.S. has claimed Russia is poised to potentially launch an invasion of Ukraine, with tanks reaching Kyiv within 48 hours of beginning an attack at the border.
Russia’s military has been conducting exercises near the border for two days after having assembled troops there in recent months. Russian officials deny having plans to attack Ukraine and have called on the U.S. to guarantee that Ukraine, a former Soviet state, will not be permitted to join NATO and for the alliance to withdraw troops from Eastern European countries, as well as other security assurances. The U.S. has rejected those demands.
In addition to the B-52 bombers, the U.S. is deploying 1,700 troops to Poland, while British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace arrived in Moscow Friday for diplomatic talks.
In discussions with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Thursday, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss called on Russian to pull back its military presence at the Ukrainian border and de-escalate the situation.
“You first have to prove to me that we are the ones who created this tense situation,” Lavrov said. “The West is trying to make a tragedy out of this, while, increasingly, it’s similar to a comedy.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters Friday that negotiations with the West are ongoing and that he will speak with French President Emmanuel Macron in the coming days for further diplomatic talks.