While America is busy pointing fingers at who exactly failed to predict the Trump presidency, Putin is taking advantage of the chaos and the immediate political power vacuum left in the aftermath of the stunning transition from the Democratic president to a Republican sweep.
First, as we reported last night, NATO promptly freaked out after Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov urged President-elect Donald Trump to begin rebuilding the U.S.-Kremlin relationship "by urging NATO to withdraw forces from the Russian border." Peskov told the Associated Press that such a move "would lead to a kind of detente in Europe."
Second, fast forward to this morning when Russian Tass news agency reported that the crews of Russian strategic bombers Tu-160 and Tu-95 located at the "Engels" airbase, have been put on combat readiness, in preparation for imminent strikes on targets in Syria. Tass adds that the Russian strategic bombers have been armed with cruise missiles.
The Tupolev Tu-160 supersonic, strategic bomber
The Engels Air Force Base is a strategic military airbase in Russia located 14 kilometres east of Saratov.
According to a Tass sources, the "engineering staff at the base is loading the aircraft with cruise missiles and preparing them for combat use" adding that the "air strike group at the base is preparing to perform tasks with combat launches of cruise missiles."
Tass also notes that the Russian air force has been used for pinpoint strikes on important objects (command centers, ammunition depots, plants for the production of weapons and ammunition) of ISIS militants targeted by Russia.
The news follows a report that aircraft stationed on the decks of Russia’s aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, which recently arrived near Syria’s shores as part of a Russian battle group, have begun carrying out flights aimed at working out interaction with a coastal airfield, the ship’s captain reported.
“The flights are performed from the deck of the aircraft-carrying heavy cruiser. Interaction with a coastal airfield is being worked out,” Sergey Artamonov, Admiral Kuznetsov's captain, told the ‘Vesti v Subbotu’ program on Rossiya TV channel. According to the him, the flights have been carried out on a daily basis over the last four days.
The Russian Northern fleet battle group, consisting of Admiral Kuznetsov, the Pyotr Velikiy battle cruiser, two large anti-submarine ships Severomorsk and Vice-Admiral Kulakov as well as support vessels, arrived in the Mediterranean in early November.
Pyotr Velikiy's commander, Vladislav Malakhovsky, said that the Russian vessels aren’t being bothered by aircraft of other nations. “Nobody is flying above us. Everybody is afraid of approaching us closer than 50 kilometers, understanding the might of the cruisers (Pyotr Velikiy and Admiral Kuznetsov),” Malakhovsky said.