What is Russia's play? That seems to be the question on the minds of military planners and diplomats across the world as the country continues to bump up against the airspace of western powers with its fighters and bombers.

"They're obviously messaging us," US Air Force Col. Frank Flores told The Los Angeles Times. "We still don't know their intent."

While Russia's intent remains unclear, it continues to step up flights that, while remaining in international waters, are uncomfortably close to a number of countries, including the United States. American F-22 Raptors were scrambled over ten times last year to intercept Russian aircraft. That's nothing compared to Europe, though, where Russian incursions more than tripled to over 100 incidents in the past year. Often, The Times reports, the Russians are flying without their aerial transponders on, posing a danger to civilian flights.

Russia has offered little in the way of explanations for its behavior, though.

"In the current situation we have to maintain military presence in the western Atlantic and eastern Pacific, as well as the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico," Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said back in November after the country announced plans to patrol nearer US skies.

The Times piece goes on to elaborate on the latest hot spot between the two countries – the Arctic. Both Russia and the United States have been playing a cat-and-mouse game over the newly opening seaways at the top of the world. It really is a must-read piece. Head over and take a look.

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