Dec. 11 (UPI) — A move by Russia to send two nuclear-capable bombers to Venezuela has prompted a war of words between the Trump administration and the Kremlin.
Moscow said it sent two TU-160 strategic bombers Monday as a show of support for the Venezuelan government, which has come under scrutiny and U.S. sanctions. They were accompanied by an An-124 heavy military transport and an II-62 long-haul plane. Norwegian F-16 fighter jets escorted the planes for part of the route.
Norway is a founding member of NATO and its leaders have expressed concern about Russia’s aggressive behavior. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed those concerns.
“The Russian and Venezuelan people should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer,” Pompeo tweeted.
Russia’s defense ministry broadcast video of the planes landing in Caracas.
Tuesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Pompeo’s reaction was undiplomatic and inappropriate.
The show of force comes one week after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro visited Russia and the two countries signed multi-billion-dollar investment contracts.
Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez said the aircraft pose no threat.
“Let nobody be afraid of the presence of these livelihood airplanes, bombers, fighters and strategic bombers that landed on the Venezuelan territory,” Lopez said. “We are building peace rather than waging war.”
Cuban President Migel Diaz-Canel visited Moscow last month, sparking fears of the Cold War.
The TU-160 strategic bombers are capable of supersonic flight.