Russian President Vladimir Putin has called the United States’ strike on Syria a “significant blow” to the relationship between the two countries. Many in Alaska wonder what that means for our relationship with a fellow Arctic nation.


At Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, members of the 11th Air Force are constantly monitoring airspace around Alaska and Canada.


“If Russia sends one of its military aircraft on a mission into international airspace—they’re not doing anything wrong—but as part of our requirement we need to make sure we properly identify them,” said Col. Harlie Bodine.


The U.S. military intercepts about 10 Russian aircraft a year in the “Air Defense Identification Zone.” Bodine said his team is not on heightened alert after the Syrian attack, but they are prepared.


“I want to reassure Alaskan citizens of the U.S. that here at the Alaska NORAD region, we have the watch and we will defend our skies of the United States and Canada,” Bodine said.


Former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell used to chair the Arctic Research Commission and said he hopes the Syria strike won’t jeopardize Alaska’s relationship with Russia.


“We’ve got to normalize relations in the neighborhood. No matter what else is happening around the world it’s important we continue to keep this border open,” Treadwell said. “Because there are many people, Native and non-Native, who have family on each side of the Bering Strait.”


Treadwell added it’s mutually beneficial for the nations to work together for economic opportunities as more people become interested in Arctic tourism.


There has been opposition to the missile launch, however. Michael Patterson organized a protest to get people talking about the issue. The Iraq War veteran said people need to consider the long-term implications.


“I think really in Alaska what we’re trying to do to get a conversation started about what it means for U.S. intervention in Syria and particularly in a sense of what it means for the U.S. to directly attack Assad,” Patterson said, referencing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.


The impact of the attack remains to be seen, but most hope Alaska and Russia can find some common ground to continue Arctic relations.


KTVA 11’s Heather Hintze can be reached via email or on Facebook or Twitter.


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