Russia has sent two nuclear-capable bombers to Venezuela following a meeting last week between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
The stated reason is to participate in military exercises. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responded via Twitter:
He was immediately attacked by Twitter users who drew comparisons between Russia and the U.S. and accused Pompeo of hypocrisy (visible in the thread under Pompeo’s tweet), and by the official Russian foreign ministry Russian news agency, TASS, for being “absolutely unprofessional”.
Maduro regularly accuses the U.S. of wanting to disrupt the Venezuelan government. There may be truth to that; according to the L.A. Times, President Trump pressed his aides about the possibility of invading the country earlier this year. In August he survived a drone attack which was directly performed by Venezuelan citizens but which he has blamed on the Americans.
The aircraft are TU-160 bombers, part of the fleet used by Russia in their Syrian campaign. They are designed to be long-range vehicles and are capable of delivering a nuclear payload.
This is not the first time they have been deployed to the region. The bombers have previously been sent to Venezuela in 2008 and 2013, according to BBC News.
The timing of the event, soon after a show of military support for the Ukraine by the U.S., suggests a reciprocal threat; aircraft flying within striking distance of the United States mainland from within the airspace of an allied nation which perceives an existential threat from a major world power.