If there were a season for war games, this would be it.
In one corner of Asia, North Korea continues to square off against the U.S. and South Korea as they conduct a series of military exercises. Threats from the reclusive communist country of missile strikes and cutting communication lines are met with test flights of U.S. stealth bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
On the other side of the continent, Russia surprised the world with unscheduled war games in the Black Sea on Friday, involving over 7,000 troops, 250 armored vehicles, 20 attack aircraft and 30 warships, according to media reports.
Actual war may not be imminent, but the world watches as tensions rise in these two consequential regions.
"We're in our annual exercise cycle. So are they," said Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, Joint Chiefs chairman, on Thursday about strife on the Korean peninsula.
"There have been moves in the maritime domain on each coast, as well as some of the artillery units across the demilitarized zone," he added. These are "consistent with historic patterns and training exercises."
The U.S. deployed two B-2 Spirit strategic bombers from a Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri—roughly 6,500 miles away—to fly over South Korea on Thursday as a part of the ongoing Foal Eagle military exercises. Though the bomber is frequently used in exercises, it is the first time it's flown to Korea for this wargame.
"The B-2 routinely participates in joint and coalition exercises to hone our skills working with our sister services and allies," Air Force 1st Lt. John Cooper tells U.S. News. "Yesterday was the first time the B-2 has participated in Foal Eagle, with its involvement serving as a demonstration of our commitment to the security of our allies."
Cooper did not say how many times or where else in the world the B-2 has participated in exercises.
"The reaction to the B-2 that we're most concerned about is not necessarily the reaction it might elicit in North Korea but rather among our Japanese and South Korean allies," Dempsey said Thursday. "Those exercises are mostly to assure our allies that they can count on us to be prepared and to help them deter conflict."
Meanwhile, Russia's wargames are "a general demonstration of a piece with [President Vladmir] Putin's tear-it-up-and-start-again approach to the Defense Ministry," says Michael Weiss, a Russia expert and reporter for NOW Lebanon.
Putin recently fired his former defense minister and hired Sergei Shoigu, a reformer who Weiss says wants to return Russia's military to Soviet-era might.
"This exercise is muscle flexing designed to make Russia look mighty and superpower-like," he says. "There are probably undertones here to warn off NATO or U.S. military intervention in Syria."
The U.S. and NATO have expressed reluctance with getting involved directly in Syria, he adds.
Weiss notes these operations are going on just north of Turkey, which wants increased Western intervention to overthrow the embattled Bashar al Assad regime.