Image: NORAD/Northcom commander Admiral James Winnefeld
Ed Andrieski  /  AP
NORAD/Northcom commander Admiral James Winnefeld, pictured at his office at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Tuesday, warned the Moscow airport attack could have happened in U.S.
msnbc.com news services
updated 1/26/2011 4:56:24 AM ET 2011-01-26T09:56:24

The suicide bombing at Moscow's busiest airport is a tragedy that "could have just as easily happened here," the commander of NORAD and the U.S. Northern Command said Tuesday.

"People think of us and the Russians as adversaries, and we're not, and particularly in this area," Adm. James Winnefeld said in an interview with The Associated Press. "We feel very badly for what happened to them in Moscow because that could have just as easily happened here."

Military-to-military relations between the U.S. and Russia are improving, Winnefeld said, and it's possible he will meet with Russian commanders in Russia if the two sides can work out the details.

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"I would welcome the opportunity, candidly, and I would also welcome the opportunity to host a Russian counterpart here," he said.

Winnefeld said he had no direct counterpart in Russia but he was interested in meeting the commander of Russia's long-range aviation.

Story: Russia presses U.S. for guarantee on missile shield

Winnefeld heads the North American Aerospace Defense Command, a joint U.S.-Canada command that is responsible for defending both nations from air attack and for monitoring potential maritime threats.

He also leads the Northern Command, which is responsible for the military defense of U.S. soil and supporting civilian agencies in the event of a natural or human-caused disasters.

Both have headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Winnefeld declined to say what impact the Moscow bombing might have on U.S. security measures. That's a matter for the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Safety Administration, he said.

U.S. 'playing catch-up' vs. lone-wolf terrorists

The explosion Monday at Domodedovo Airport killed 35 people and injured 180. No one has claimed responsibility, but Islamist separatist insurgents from Chechnya have taken credit for previous attacks in Moscow.

Talking tough a day after the bombing, Russia's leaders ordered security services to root out the culprits behind the attack .

"This was an abominable crime in both its senselessness and its cruelty," Russian President Vladimir Putin told a meeting of ministers in Moscow on Tuesday.

"I do not doubt that this crime will be solved and that retribution is inevitable."

Meanwhile, a New York Police Department detective arrived in Russia Tuesday to gather information about the bombing.

The officer's visit aims to help New York guard against a similar attack. He has been to Moscow previously to learn about a subway station bombing.

The detective is normally assigned to Tel Aviv as part of a program in which NYPD officers are stationed around the world to help learn from overseas attacks.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Video: Russian leaders vow vengeance for suicide bombing

  1. Closed captioning of: Russian leaders vow vengeance for suicide bombing

    >>> russian leaders are vowing vengeance after monday's suicide bombing in moscow. nbc's stephanie gosk has the story. hey, stephanie . good morning.

    >> reporter: good morning, ann. well, the head of transportation security in this region has been fired, but there are so many unanswered questions. not the least of which whether or not the government had specific intelligence that the attack was going to happen. at a moscow hospital president dmitry medvedev and prime minister ladimir putin viewed the results firsthand. they are scum, he says. both vowed revenge but it will be difficult. islamic insurgents from the north caucasus are widely expected having claimed responsibility for attacks in the past, but the russian government has been trying to crack down on the region for 20 years.

    >> i think the government can do very little. policy in north caucasus has been inefficient and short-sighted.

    >> reporter: some have lost trust for the government to protect them.

    >> the police do a bad job and this is what happens.

    >> reporter: the president described the security at domodedovo airport as chaotic. changes have been made already. now everyone going in or out of the arrivals hall passes through a security check. the improvements are too late for those killed on monday. their families are receiving $100,000 from the government and today has been declared a day of mourning in their honor. ann?

    >> stephanie , thank you.

Timeline: Recent terror attacks in Russia

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