In the only US state bordering Russia, Alaska governor says defenses are strong

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With U.S. intelligence officials warning the nuclear threat from the Kremlin is likely “increasing” as its invasion of Ukraine continues, the governor of the U.S. state closest to Russia said its defenses are strong and its personnel are prepared for any type of belligerent behavior.

Speaking to Fox News Digital following his remarks at CPAC last month, Alaska Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy said The Last Frontier’s skies are regularly monitored for foreign military aircraft – and he has no reason to believe the Russians or any other outside force will incur on or harass Alaskans at this time.

“The state of Alaska is strongly defended by active duty, Guard and Reserve forces,” Dunleavy said.

While testifying on Tuesday at a House Intelligence Committee hearing on worldwide threats, CIA Director William Burns responded to a question from Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, about Russia, saying that he agrees there is an increased threat.

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter takes off from a close formation taxi at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska U.S. Air Force/Justin Connaher/Handout via REUTERS

“I think our role is to try to provide insight from inside the intelligence community into the plans, the ambitions, the pace at which of adversaries – China or Russia – can move on these issues,” Burns said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said publicly in February that he was placing his nuclear forces on a “special alert status,” which U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said in the hearing was “very unusual,” but should be taken seriously.

“Would it be correct to characterize that likely your assessment is that the threat is increasing?” Turner asked. 

Haines responded, “That the threat is increasing, generally yes, I think that’s fair.”

Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy speaks at the Petroleum Club in Anchorage, Alaska, U.S. January 15, 2020. Picture taken January 15, 2020.
(REUTERS/Yereth Rosen)

“We’re very close to the Bear,” Dunleavy noted at CPAC, adding that the U.S. originally purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867, for just over $7 million.

“Alaska Army National Guard members provide operational control and security for the nation’s ground-based interceptors at Fort Greely in the Interior,” he told Fox News Digital.

The full moon disappears from view in Soldotna, Alaska, as it sets Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, behind peaks in the Alaska Range shortly before sunrise.(AP Photo/Peninsula Clarion, M. Scott Moon) MAGS OUT; NO SALES

The interceptors near Fairbanks provide defense against potential ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) attacks on the homeland, while the Alaska Air Guard to the south at Clear Space Force Base can detect both ICBMs and submarine-launched missiles for the greater U.S. Space Force.

In Anchorage – the state’s largest city – personnel at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson provide air sovereignty and theater air control, Dunleavy said, which monitors the state’s skies for foreign military aircraft.

A view of new Bering Sea ice just formed off Nome, Alaska, U.S. December 21, 2018, on the winter solstice. Picture taken December 21, 2018. REUTERS/Yereth Rosen.

Dunleavy noted that, at their closest proximity, Russia and the United States are separated by less than three miles – between Little Diomede Island, Alaska, and Big Diomede Island, Chukotka, Russia – in the middle of the Bering Strait. 

The typical mainland to mainland distance between the two countries is about 50 miles across the shared sea and strait.

With much of Alaska’s maritime border area used by key state industries like crabbing and fishing, Dunleavy doesn’t foresee any malign activity toward Alaskans working on the water:

“We have no reason to suspect that U.S. fishermen fishing legally in U.S. waters will be harassed by Russian interests,” he said.

“The state of Alaska is strongly defended by U.S. military forces, including enforcement of the U.S. Maritime Defense Zone.”

Fox News’ Danielle Wallace contributed to this report.

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