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On two occasions in the beginning of November, NATO fighter jets scrambled to intercept Russian spy planes flying near Latvia and Lithuania. They were among 100 Russian fighter jets NATO intercepted this year along Europe’s fringes. In 2013 they had been only three such incidents.
Yes, but that’s all the way over in Europe. Why should we care?
On November 12, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu announced that Russia plans to start sending long-range strategic bombers to the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico on a regular basis “to maintain (Russia’s) military presence…as part of the drills.”
A senior U.S. military official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the move is unprecedented — that Russia didn’t even go that far during the Cold War.
Putin’s war games are setting off alarms worldwide, says Bloomberg Businessweek
Should the American people be paying more attention to this? As often happens with this blog post, when I woke up this morning I had not intended to write all day about Russian and American military aircraft playing chicken. But, as usual, one thing led to another, and my curiosity was drawn to this topic, which I realize now, I am late in noticing.
If you’re like me, you might vaguely recall hearing something over the past few months about Russian bombers and nuclear missiles, but there is too much other stuff to worry about — right?
Well, now that I look into it, Russia successfully launched an intercontinental nuclear missile from one of its submarines in September, and it hit a target nearly 3,500 miles away. These Bulava missiles have a range of 5,000 miles and can reportedly cause a blast 100 times larger than the atomic bombs the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Another launch was completed last week, and two more are to be tested in 2015, according to a TASS spokesman.
As Bush Said After 911, Just Keep Shopping and Everything Will Be OK
In the Cold War days, when I grew up, incidents of Russian nuclear testing and bombers in US airspace would have gotten us all diving under our desks. At least there should have been some large newspaper headlines. Maybe there were and I was out in the woods. Or maybe our government is playing things down so we keep shopping, rather than making sure the nation “of the people for the people” is well aware of what’s really going on so we can direct our representatives to make good decisions on our behalf.
So, What Exactly Are the Russian Nuclear Planes Doing Over Here?
For ten days at the end of July and beginning of August, Russian strategic nuclear bombers conducted at least 16 incursions into northwestern U.S. Air Defense Identification Zones — an unusually sharp increase, according to U.S. military officials.
The European Leadership Network released a report about the Russian’s aircraft activity last month. It describes nearly 40 close encounters between Russia and the West in 2014. The report includes an interactive map so you can see where the “sensitive incidents” took place.
They include “violations of national airspace, emergency scrambles, narrowly avoided mid-air collisions, close encounters at sea, simulated attack runs, and other dangerous actions happening on a regular basis over a very wide geographical area.”
Eleven of these are considered “serious incidents of a more aggressive or unusually provocative nature, bringing a higher level risk of escalation,” such as Russian ‘mock bombing raid’ missions.
Now I’m in a vacation rental that has no cable — only paid TV service. I can’t really bring myself to pay for mindless TV, but I see there is an option to watch YouTube for free. (I wonder, why is it free? Are they watching me?) After my first selection — raw footage of the protest in NYC that sprouted after a Grand Jury decided not to prosecute police for choking unarmed Eric Garner to death — the channel just keeps advancing itself to the next show, and it soon lands on a lady dressed in black reading headlines and talking about Bible prophecy. Her topic is the Russian bomber problem. She’s pulling up articles about Russian planes with nuclear warheads flying around US airspace. I figure I better start googling…
Russian Nuclear Bombers Seen on the Edge of Alaska in August
Major Beth Smith of the U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command said in August, Russian nuclear bombers were seen just outside of United States and Canadian airspace near Alaska. The Major admitted there had been “a spike in activity” in Russian bomber sightings.
CNN: NORAD said Two US Jets Intercepted Six Russian Planes Near US Airspace off Alaska in April.
Apparently the Russian planes were part of a perfectly legal military exercise. The next day, the Canadian government intercepted two Russian bombers approaching Canada.
Politicians in Washington noted the sightings came on the days when Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was here to seal a deal for a $46 million gift from the US taxpayers to do battle with Russia. CNN posted:
“On Wednesday evening,” (Sept. 17?) “two Alaskan-based F-22 fighter jets intercepted two Russian IL-78 refueling tankers, two Russian Mig-31 fighter jets and two Russian Bear long-range bombers, according to Capt. Jeff Davis of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).”
The next morning, two Canadian CF-18 fighter jets intercepted two Russian Bear long-range bombers in the Beaufort Sea about 40 nautical miles from Canada’s east coast.
The planes have not been flying into sovereign US territory, just into the U.S. Air Defense Identification Zone that extends about 200 miles from the coast and is technically international airspace. Government planes belonging to sovereign nations are allowed to fly around in that space without having to file flight plans. The US does it all the time.
They’re coming at us from all sides with long range bombers.
In early September Russian strategic bombers near Canada practiced cruise missile strikes on the United States. The Russian aircraft stayed outside of Canada’s ADIZ but cruise missiles launched from the Labrador Sea can hit Ottawa, New York, Washington, Chicago, and the Norfolk Naval Base. See the interactive map: Near Misses Between Russia and the West.
Media reports say tension between Russia and Moscow has been escalating since March and got worse after Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was downed by a suspected surface-to-air missile on July 17, killing all 298 people on board. Ukraine and the West accused pro-Russia rebels in eastern Ukraine of firing the missile, which the Russians denied.
The next day, on July 18, a U.S. Air Force RC-135 River spy plane was in international airspace, conducting electronic eavesdropping on the Russian military, when the crew noticed the Russians had trained their radar on them. Then the Russians sent at least one fighter up to intercept the aircraft, which they chased into Swedish airspace. We probably wouldn’t have heard about the incident due to “national security,” but it was reported by the Swedish news agency Svenska Dagbladet.
Russian Long Range Bombers off the Coast of California
In May, Russia stepped up military activity in the Pacific, including sending long-range bombers near the coast of California and around Guam, according to a speech by Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Apparently some of the flights were within 50 miles of California, but still outside the 12-mile limit.
Russian and US Planes Nearly Collide
Earlier, on April 23, there was a near collision between Russian and US military planes, when a U.S. Air Force RC-135U reconnaissance plane flying on a “routine mission” over the Sea of Okhotsk (between Russia and Japan), was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 Flanker fighter jet, which flew within 100 feet of the nose of the U.S. aircraft and “showed its belly” to the U.S. crew so they could see it was armed with missiles. The maneuver “put the lives of the U.S. crew in jeopardy,” a Defense Department official said. The United States originally kept the incident secret so it could deal “privately” with Russian officials.
Russian Planes Buzz US Warship
Also in April, Russian fighter jet buzzed the USS Donald Cook, a Naval guided missile destroyer in the Black Sea, with a dozen low-altitude passes. The Pentagon called the fly-by “provocative and unprofessional.”
After that incident, CIA Director, John Brennan went to Kiev to discuss the matter, although the CIA refused to admit it. The Russian media reported the visit.
Dutch fighter jets intercepted two Russian military aircraft in April that entered their airspace.
What’s Putin Up to?
“One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off. It’s wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep.” Chekhov, letter to Aleksandr Semenovich Lazarev, November 1889
Is President Vladimir Putin recklessly posturing? Is he acting like a crazed yellow jacket that strikes out when it knows it’s time is short? Most pundits are saying his actions are that of a man backed into a political and economic corner, and so he trying to show that Russia is a major nuclear ally not to be kicked around. They say he’s trying to threaten countries like Finland and Sweden not to join NATO. And, finally, he wants to test Russia’s military strength against NATOs defenses.
As President Obama continued to bomb Syria, he spoke at the United Nations recently and lumped President Putin’s Russia in with Ebola and terrorism — as major threats facing the world. He suggested Putin is unable to “keep pace with an interconnected world.” Those statements sound like Obama would like to force Putin out of the Kremlin.To hear Putin tell it: “We want others to stay out of our affairs and to stop pretending that they rule the world.”
He may be feeling the squeeze of sanctions, and falling oil prices that some are saying are specifically being lowered to target Russia because it doesn’t want to play “New World Order.”
But those who think he will bend like a reed will be surprised to find it’s completely inconceivable for Putin to back down. In contrast, the current situation just makes him more resolute — and moves him closer to alliances with China and Venezuela.
Putin is looking at every opportunity to make Russia stronger. The ruble lost nearly thirty percent against the dollar this year, but Russia has taken advantage of lower gold prices to pack the vaults of its central bank with gold bullion as it prepares for the possibility of a long, drawn-out economic war with the West. It bought far more gold than any other nation on earth in 2014.
The US should have bought some too. Oh, that’s right. We don’t have any money.
Sanctions are squeezing Russia’s ability to acquire wares by trade, so Putin is calling for Russia to increase production and self-reliance.
That’s weird. Putin sounds like a prepper.
“The difficulties we are facing today also create new opportunities for us. We are ready to take up any challenge and win,” he said. In 2010, Russia revised its military doctrine and proclaimed the right to launch a first nuclear strike in response to aggression with conventional weapons, and the right to a preventive nuclear strike. During his 15 years at Russia’s helm, Putin has steadily invested in strengthening its military. Between 2004 and 2014, the country’s defense spending doubled. In the next year, the defense share of the budget is set to climb to 20.8 percent. Apparently, like many Americans, he believes an armed society is a polite society.
President Putin is not shy about calling the US out for its self-aggrandizing assumptions.
“Having declared itself the winner of the Cold War,” the United States, with the help of “its satellites,” promotes a “unipolar world that is simply a means of justifying dictatorship over people and countries,” he says. Putin believes Washington has been fomenting revolutions and chaos around the world, including the armed “coup d’etat” in Ukraine.
It’s crazy. Those are the same things so-called right wing radical “conspiracy nuts” are saying. A few decades ago they would have been branded left wing commie socialists.
Putin says he’s willing to talk to somebody who will listen. “We are always open to dialogue, including on normalizing our economic and political relations.”
Maybe the United States should think about diplomacy before we are second class citizens negotiating from a point of weakness.
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