The Wall Street Journal was first to report that 11 Chinese and Russian warships were spotted off the coast of Alaska, not far from the Aleutian Islands.
According to the Journal, U.S. experts said it was the largest such flotilla to approach American shores. Although the ships never entered U.S. territorial waters, they were shadowed by four U.S. destroyers and P-8 Poseidon aircraft.
“It is a historical first,” said Brent Sadler, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a retired Navy captain to the newspaper. “Given the context of the war in Ukraine and tensions around Taiwan, this move is highly provocative.”
Two of the three members of the Alaska U.S. Congressional Delegation issued responses to the report.
U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and longtime advocate of upgrading the military’s presence in Alaska, posted a statement on the social media platform X:
“The incursion by 11 Chinese and Russian warships operating together – off the coast of Alaska – is yet another reminder that we have entered a new era of authoritarian aggression led by the dictators in Beijing and Moscow,” Sen. Sullivan wrote. “In recognition of this reality and our state’s unrivaled strategic location, for years, I’ve been pressing the Navy and each successive administration to commit to a greater Naval, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps presence in Alaska, more Arctic-capable vessels, and more infrastructure to host these assets, like the deep-water port of Nome.”
Sullivan reminded readers that last summer, the Chinese and Russian navies conducted a similar operation off the coast of Alaska and that President Joe Biden had a weak response.
“Given that our response was tepid, I strongly encouraged senior military leaders to be ready with a much more robust response should such another joint Chinese/Russian naval operation occur off our coast,” Sullivan said. “For that reason, I was heartened to see that this latest incursion was met with four U.S. Navy destroyers, which sends a strong message to Xi Jinping and Putin that the United States will not hesitate to protect and defend our vital national interests in Alaska.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski also issued a statement: “We have been in close contact with leadership from Alaska Command for several days now and received detailed classified briefings about the foreign vessels that are transiting U.S. waters in the Aleutians.”
Murkowski noted that Alaska is in close proximity to China and Russia.
“Incursions like this are why we are working so hard to secure funding and resources to expand our military’s capacity and capabilities in Alaska, and why our colleagues must join us in supporting those investments,” she said.
Murkowski is in Ketchikan this weekend for the Blueberry Festival and a charitable fundraiser for cancer research. Sullivan is finishing his required annual U.S. Marine Reserve training.
Rep. Mary Peltola issued no statement. She is believed to be out of the country during August recess.