Saturday, August 18, 2007

Russia Resumes International Bomber Flights; U.S. Yawns

Omigod, omigod, this is scary! The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming (insert hysteria here).

This could be World War III!

Or not.

Russia has been for some time now conducting flights over international waters and recently Vladimir Putin announced that long-range bomber flights would continue for the foreseeable fut
ure.
"We proceed from the assumption that our partners will view the resumption of flights of Russia's strategic aviation with understanding.

"In 1992, the Russian Federation unilaterally ended the flights of its strategic aviation in faraway areas patrolled by the military," Putin said. "Unfortunately, not everyone followed our example, and strategic aviation flights by other states continue. This causes certain problems for guaranteeing the safety of the Russian Federation."
Blah, blah blah. But what does it all mean, Basil?

Not a heck of a lot, Austin.
From the AFP article on the topic, the U.S. just shrugs it off as Russia dusting off some old bombers.
"If Russia feels as though they want to take some of these old aircraft out of mothballs and get them flying again that's their decision," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

"That is a decision for them to take; it's interesting," McCormack added.

"We certainly are not in the
kind of posture we were with what used to be the Soviet Union. It's a different era," McCormack said.
And the truth is, Russia has been doing this for a while and is only now making announcements and headlines with it.
"Over the last few months the Russian air force has been flying a little bit more than we've seen in the past; certainly they're ranging farther than they have in the more recent past," Renuart said in a statement.

"NORAD has intercepted them out over international waters, near Alaska, and the command continues to monitor all of their long range bomber flight activity, even today," he added.
The sorts of missions that Russia has been undertaking with these bomber runs are practice missions including navigation exercises and mid-air refueling. You know - the sort of stuff that the U.S. Air Force does every single day of the week.
(I live under the flight path of the former Pease Air Base where refueling tankers are stationed. Trust me. They are flying and filling military planes that fly over international waters in the North Atlantic. Every. Single. Day.

You can expect more Russian shows of their military capability in the months ahead, as they are obviously seeking to portray themselves as being in a position of strength for any renegotiation of arms deals, such as the CFE Treaty.

Update: A Washington Times article, actually a reprint of a UK Telegraph article) on this topic has a few quotes of interest:

Unnamed former White House Staffer:
"They were slow to see that these people are still players. My great fear is that I wake up one day soon to discover that we lost the Cold War, or rather that, like everything else, we won the war and then lost the peace."
Unnamed source, close to Condoleeza Rice:
"She wants to spend more time on Russia, but that hasn't always been possible. She said to me that she regrets the fact that she has not done enough on what is, after all, her major area of expertise."
From Alex Pravda, a Russia specialist at London's Chatham House:
"(Putin) believes in fighting for your place in the sun, and he is on record as saying that nobody appreciates weakness," he said. "They are not looking for the imperial reach of the Soviet era. What they want is an international presence."
I love how the premise of such pieces falls apart when you examine the actually facts and quotes. The Washington Times article tries to make the case that Russia has been largely ignored by the U.S. and has taken offense at that. While I think the U.S. citizenry has pretty much ignored Russia, I find that our government has been actually very aggressive towards Russia and Russian interests.

If ignoring Russia means, pushing Russia aside and taking over what used to be their sphere of influence, then sure - the U.S. has been ignoring Russia. But to the Russian side, it sure appears to be a soft war of international politics and foreign policy being waged by the United States.

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