A Russian air force spy plane flew from Moscow to the U.S. on Wednesday, buzzing over the nation’s capital before making a pass over Bedminster, New Jersey, where President Donald Trump is currently vacationing at one of his golf resorts. The flight path of the jet suggests the Russians might have had Trump in mind during their reconnaissance mission.
The president was on the golf course Wednesday, but it’s unlikely the Russians managed to get any snapshots of Trump’s many mulligans and cheats. The flight path over Northern New Jersey did raise questions of motive since, as a Pentagon official told Politico, “I don't know of any military facilities there.” According to Politico, which followed the plane on a flight-tracking site, the Tupolev Tu-154M narrow-body jet entered U.S. airspace around Virginia’s Chincoteague Island and made several passes over the Washington D.C. metro area and New Jersey. It also passed over parts of Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, as well as near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio at low altitude.
While this sounds like a throwback to the Cold War, such flights are common.
Under the 1992 Treaty on Open Skies, 34 participating states (including Russia and the U.S.) allow reconnaissance missions over the other’s territory. The U.S. State Department says Russia and the U.S. have buzzed each other 165 times over the past 15 years. These missions are highly controlled, typically involving representatives of the country being observed participating in the mission.
But Wednesday’s flyovers are taking place amid rising tensions between the U.S. and Russia over a myriad of issues, including a recent congressional move to impose a new round of sanctions on Russia for its alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, its involvement in the Syrian civil war and its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.