We keep hearing that Russian President Vladimir Putin is operating from a position of weakness and that sanctions are having an effect — or something like that. Well, it seems Obama’s “flexibility” promised to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev includes some frequent flier miles for Russian military aircraft — REALLY close to our airspace.
As reported by USA Today, “For the second time since June, Russian nuclear bombers escorted by fighter jets have flown near U.S. and Canadian airspace around Alaska in recent days, prompting precautionary intercepts by American warplanes. The encounters come amid Russian war games along the border with eastern Ukraine, raising Western concerns that Moscow might invade to support pro-Moscow separatists battling the Kiev government since spring.”
In the military we call this a “probing attack.” The purpose is to see how far your adversary can be pushed and of course what its response will be. And at a strategic level it’s not just the response of “scrambling” interceptors — Russia expects that. It is a matter of gauging the response of the media outlets and the populace. And I can tell you simply, Putin is masterful and sees this isn’t being heavily reported and therefore, no one is paying attention. I’m quite sure the average American on the street could tell you more about the latest Hollywood scandal.
USA Today reports that “ U.S. air command official acknowledged at least 16 Russian forays around Alaska and northern Canada in the past 10 days, describing them as routine training missions. One intercept spotted a Russian spy plane among the Tupolev Tu-95″Bear” bombers and Tu-142 reconnaissance and anti-submarine aircraft. Over the past week, NORAD has visually identified Russian aircraft operating in and around the U.S. air defense identification zones,” Maj. Beth Smith, of the U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, toldThe Washington Free Beacon. Russian bombers have regularly flown along thesensitive airspace between Russia, Alaska and Arctic Canada, but Smith called the latest missions “a spike in activity.”
Commanders are taught not believe in coincidences, but rather to look for indicators and warnings, and make proactive assessments. So one has to ask, why is it this “spike” is happening at this time? Could it be Russia is keeping the U.S. looking at this while they continue to build up a force along the Russia-Ukraine border? As well, is it possible that Russia is positioning assets as a demonstration to create a confrontation if they do cross into Ukraine?
Some U.S. military officials feel the excursions carry echoes of the Cold War, when Soviet nuclear bombers tested U.S. air defenses. There is no doubt we are in a Cold War. There is also no doubt that we are reacting — and you never win reacting, or on defense. My assessment is that Putin’s actions are more about displaying belligerence and an act of defiance before the United States to elevate his appeal and power before his own people. It also serves to mock President Obama to say, “your sanctions are not effective and Russia is not intimidated.” This is classic KGB psychological operations.Putin knows America is reducing its military and Obama as president continues to tell EVERYBODY that there is “no military solution.” And I just gotta tell ya, it’s like telling a bully after he hits you and is preparing to hit you again, that fighting back is not an option for you. Guess what the bully will continue to do?
USA Today says “Russian Air Force Chief Commander Lt. Gen. Viktor Bondarev called the Arctic drills “the top goal” of air exercises in Russia’s southern Astrakhan region. In July, Tu-95s bombed simulated naval targets in the Black Sea. In response to the overthrow of the Moscow-backed president of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea in April. The July drills came a month after U.S. F-22s intercepted four Tu-95 Bears over the far western Aleutian Islands. Two of the strategic bombers then flew within 50 miles of the Northern California coast before turning away.”As history teaches us, Hitler did lots of “drills” as well before his actions — and an appeasing world did nothing as he took over the Rhineland without firing a shot.
To this point, Vladimir Putin has gotten away with annexing sovereign territory of another state, Crimea. He has gotten away with supporting separatist insurgent forces in Ukraine. He has fired rockets and artillery from Russia against Ukraine. And, he has successfully backed the shooting down of a civilian airline killing 298 people.
And his response? He has massed over 20,000 combat troops at the Ukraine border and increased flying nuclear bombers and fighters VERY close to sovereign American airspace. What should we do? Stop telling bullies there is no military option for starters.