Russian ships are conducting the largest military exercises since the Cold War off the coast of Hawaii, sending the US Air Force scrambling hours before President Biden meets Wednesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The exercises, conducted by the Russian navy in the Pacific Ocean 300 to 500 miles west of Hawaii, include long-range bombers, surface ships and anti-submarine aircraft.
The US Air Force scrambled F-22 stealth fighters from Hawaii in response to the exercises.
The bombers, US officials said Tuesday, did not enter the Air Defense Identification Zone and were not intercepted.
The exercises come on the heels of Biden’s highly anticipated summit with Putin Wednesday in Geneva, Switzerland.
Much has been made about the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders during Biden’s presidency, especially given the tense state of US-Russia relations.
Biden on Monday walked back his previous description of Putin as “a killer” — calling him “bright,” “tough” and a “worthy adversary” ahead of their upcoming summit meeting.
During a news conference at the annual NATO meeting in Brussels, Biden said he answered “honestly” last year when he said “I do” in response to a question about whether he thought the former KGB agent was “a killer.”
“I believe he has, in the past, essentially acknowledged that he was — that there were certain things that he would do or did do,” Biden said Monday.
“But it’s not — I don’t think it matters a whole lot in terms of this next meeting we’re about to have.”
Biden also said of Putin, “I have met with him. He’s bright, he’s tough.”
“And I have found that he is a — as they say when we used to play ball — a worthy adversary,” he added.
Moscow has continued to flex its military muscle in Ukraine and in the Black Sea in recent months — along with its warning to the US to back off, which caused Biden to turn two US warships around in April that were headed there.
Biden declared a national emergency that month, slapping sanctions on more than three dozen people in Russia and expelling 10 diplomats.