DUBROVNIK, Croatia — A pair of US Air Force B52 strategic bombers flew low over the Croatian resort of Dubrovnik and three other NATO member states in the region on Monday as a sign of support amid Russian aggression in Ukraine.
In addition to the walled Croatian tourist resort of Dubrovnik, the plane also flew over the government headquarters in Skopje, North Macedonia, Skanderbeg Square in the Albanian capital of Tirana and along Montenegro’s Adriatic coast.
The Balkans and the Adriatic have recently faced increasing military, intelligence and propaganda activities from Moscow, which considers the region of strategic importance due to its access to the Mediterranean.
“The purpose of each flyover is to demonstrate US commitment and assurance to NATO allies and partners in southeastern Europe,” the US Air Force said in a statement. “In addition, this gives citizens the opportunity to take photos and videos and enjoy the plane flying over.”
Crowds gathered in the squares in Skopje and Tirana, and tourists in Dubrovnik and Montenegro watched the giant bombers thunder overhead. Some spectators waved American flags.
North Macedonia was the last country to join NATO in 2020 and Montenegro did so in 2017, both despite strong opposition from Russia.
North Macedonia’s army chief, Lieutenant Colonel Jovan Azmanovski, told TV channel Kanal 5 that the bombers’ flights were symbolic proof that “our skies are safe”.
“People in North Macedonia were able to see a flight of USAF B52, two strategic bombers over Skopje, demonstrating our NATO membership and the safety and security of our and the entire Alliance’s air. Our air is safe and our (NATO) membership is more than visible,” Azmanovski said.
In Tirana, Albanian army chief of staff, Arben Kingji, said “we are witnessing a strategic military demonstration.”
“Our strategic partners are hand in hand with us, it is a message of unity,” he said in the square where people gathered.
The two B-52 Stratofortress aircraft are assigned to the 23rd Bomb Squadron currently operating from RAF Fairford, United Kingdom.
Since 2018, the US has conducted more than 200 Bomber Task Force flights with allies and partners.
Most recently, this involved B-1B Lancer flights over the Scandinavian, Baltic and Black Sea regions in May, as well as an air police flight over North Macedonia in June. In June, Stratofortresses flew over the Arctic Ocean and later took part in BALTOPS, the largest annual exercise in the Baltic Sea.
The amphibious warship USS Kearsarge – the largest warship to ever visit Lithuania – was officially welcomed in the Baltic Sea on Monday. The country borders NATO member Poland and Belarus, an ally of Moscow.
On Monday, the NATO air police mission in Lithuania reported that four fighter jets were scrambled last week to identify and escort Russian warplanes that violated international airspace rules.
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