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​A Russian Air Force Tupolev Tu-22M3 at Ryazan Dyagilevo. Photo by Alex Beltyukov.

Russia’s military forces are undertaking massive snap military drills, from its Eastern Military District to the Arctic to the Black Sea, which includes deployments of both Tu-95 strategic bombers as well as the nuclear-capable Tu-22M3 Backfire bombers to Crimea. Iskander SS-26 theater ballistic missile systems are also deploying in Russia’s Kaliningrad region, near the Baltic States. The drills, according to Russian government and wire services, will last from March 16-21 and involve more than 100 aircraft, 15 submarines, 40 naval ships, and upwards of 76,000 personnel. Adm. Cecil Haney, head of US Strategic Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday the exercises are “very provocative” and are clearly intended to send a strong signal to the US and its allies, in combination with other activities, such as “significant” long-range bomber training, and their violation of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty, “where Russia is trying to ascribe to be in terms of coercion” through use of their strategic forces. In his opening remarks to the committee, Haney noted Russia is purposefully investing in its cyber and strategic forces, as well as counter-space programs.