Russia will continue to "probe" off Irish waters, says former NATO commander.

Russia will continue to “probe” the “incredibly strategically important waters west of Ireland” with long-range air surveillance and nuclear submarines, former US Nato commander retired US Navy Admiral James Stavridis, has said.

The former Nato supreme allied commander in Europe from 2009 to 2013, was responding to incidents of two Russian bomber aircrafts flying in Irish-controlled airspace west of the country twice over the past week.

On Wednesday, British RAF Typhoon fighter jets were scrambled for the second time in five days to monitor two Russian Tupolev TU-95 Bear bombers as they flew in international airspace controlled by the Irish Aviation Authority.

Admiral Stavridis said that the Russians were testing a strategically important area called the Greenland-Iceland-UK “gap” that controls the entrances to the North Atlantic and transatlantic commerce between the US and Europe, the largest trading relationship in the world.

“This is attractive to Vladimir Putin because it demonstrates Russian military capability, creates some divisive forces in Nato because there is a difference of opinion as to how robustly to respond and provides an image within Russia of a strong decisive leader,” the former US commander in Europe told The Irish Times.

Adm Stravridis referred to the significant timing of the military flights as the Russian leader seeks to extend his term of control to 2036 with recent proposed constitutional changes in Moscow.

The Russian embassy in Dublin said that the two Russian airforce aircraft were carrying out a “routine training mission” in the North Atlantic.

“The flight took place in the international airspace according to all international rules and standards,” said Russian embassy spokeswoman Victoria Loginova. “The aircraft at no point entered the sovereign airspace of Ireland, nor was there any plan to do it.”

Ireland has no aircraft capable of intercepting potentially hostile contacts, and so an arrangement exists whereby Britain's Royal Air Force can overfly Irish airspace for the purpose.

Read Also: UK, Norwegian, and French fighters intercept Russian aircraft over North Sea.

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