Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said Wednesday that "we have to maintain (Russia's) military presence in the western Atlantic and eastern Pacific, as well as the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico" -- including sending bombers "as part of the drills." Shoigu added that Russia will also boost its security in Crimea, the region it annexed from Ukraine earlier this year.
"In many respects, this is connected with the situation in Ukraine, with fomentation of anti-Russian moods on the part of NATO and reinforcement of foreign military presence next to our border," Shoigu said.
The situation in Ukraine remains very much unsettled, as it has been since early this year. In fact, there are signs that the violence there is growing worse, with U.S. and allied officials accusing Moscow of sending fresh troops, tanks and other military equipment across the border in recent days -- something that Russian officials have strongly denied.
It's also true, of course, that Ukraine sits some 6,000 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. But the fact the situation there is being used as justification for military moves elsewhere speaks to the broader implications stemming from the tensions between Russia and the West, particularly the United States.
The plans come after Shoigu said Russia will expand its presence in the Arctic region, which would seemingly affect Alaska and northern Canada. This includes full radar coverage of that region by year's end, leaving Russia ready "to meet unwanted guests" both from the north and east by 2015, Shoigu said, according to a state-run TASS news agency report.
Jeffrey Mankoff, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the Russians are "clearly" trying to make a point with their plan to send bombers toward the Gulf of Mexico, a message "connected to the tensions over Ukraine that have also affected the broader relationship."
"It's kind of a reciprocity," Mankoff told CNN. "They see us trying to muscle in on what they see as their sphere of influence. (Russia is likely thinking), 'If they can do it to us, we can do it them.'"