The task of signaling U.S. determination to defend Europe falls, again, to an airplane that first flew when Truman was president.
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The ultimate symbol of the Cold War is back to play a leading role in the confrontation between NATO and Russia that began last year over the Ukrainian conflict. The United States is sending the B-52 Stratofortress, the giant nuclear bomber that stood on alert for decades to strike the Soviet Union, to take part in an exercise in Sweden next month — right on the doorstep of Russia, in the airspace where Russian warplanes have been venturing for months. The appearance of the bombers over northern Europe may further persuade observers that the climate between East and West has turned into a new cold war, complete with the exact same weapons of mass destruction that defined the old one.
Unlike during the uppercase Cold War, the huge eight-engined bombers will not carry nuclear bombs. They will make an appearance during a naval exercise on June 13, flying nonstop from the U.S. and simulating a drop of anti-ship mines near Ravlunda on the Baltic Sea, Swedish general Karl Engelbrektson told journalists at a press conference on Wednesday.
Swedish broadcaster Sverige Radio reported, citing the Swedish news agency TT, that the mission is intended to simulate the defense of the coast in case of an attack by amphibious forces. The exercise, code-named Baltops, is an annual event, now in its forty-third edition, but takes a special significance this year amid increased hostility from Russia in the Baltic Sea. Last year, Russian submarines may have entered Swedish waters twice, sparking massive hunts by the Swedish navy that failed to turn up anything conclusive, but raised fears that Russia was reverting to tactics it had not used since the days of the USSR.
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