Busy Bombers

Russian bombers buzz NATO, a lot.

I guess what I find interesting here is not so much the activity itself, but the dearth of reporting on it in the US mainstream media.

I bet you didn’t know that the day Moscow announced the breakthrough in negotiations on the New START treaty – 24 March – Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers buzzed Alaska.  The US Air Force scrambled fighter jets to intercept and escort them.

The Russians have been diligent (if selectively so) about reporting their bomber fleet’s activities in the Pacific, but they’re getting no love from the US MSM.  Bear bombers conducted a Pacific flight back in January during which, the Russian media announced, the aircraft “successfully completed patrol tasks over the Aleutian Islands in the Pacific Ocean.”  UPI ultimately picked the story up, giving it 108 words plucked from the RIA Novosti original.  Silence reigned in the flagship media outlets of the US.

Silence from European media hasn’t been quite so deafening, but reporting on the parallel bomber patrols being conducted by Russia’s air force in the North Atlantic was generally desultory, until a UK Defence announcement last week (on 25 March).  The Brits disclosed that during a 10 March patrol by Russian Tu-160 Blackjack bombers, RAF Tornado fighters were scrambled to intercept them as the bombers reportedly took four hours (note:  that’s unusual) to approach and depart the airspace of Scotland.

Russian Tu-160 Blackjack escorted by RAF Tornado 10 March 2010

RIA Novosti’s man in the Russian Defense Ministry, Lt. Col. Vladimir Drik, had given them the early scoop on that flight, and Turkey’s press picked it up too.  But although the British media have been more Johnny-on-the-spot than ours in their coverage of the increasing bomber flights, the UK Defence chiefs’ announcement on 25 March seems to have been a wake-up call for them.

The US media were all over this Russian bomber story in Bush’s last year in office.  Russian bomber flights and US/NATO intercepts made the hot-list at all the major news outlets in late 2007, when Putin announced the resumption of such flights, and in 2008.  Readers will, of course, remember the overflight of USS Nimitz (CVN-68) in the Western Pacific in February 2008.  And who could forget the role of Russian bombers in the media vetting of vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin?

Russian Tu-95 Bear escorted by USS Nimitz Super Hornet 11 Feb 2008

But the bomber flights aren’t making the MSM-reporting grade in the Age of Obama. A few US outlets did pick up the Russian bomber pair that buzzed Canada over the Arctic the day before Obama’s first visit there in February 2009.  But none picked up on the buzzing of Alaska by three Bear bomber flights during Obama’s visit to Moscow in July 2009.  The remarkable aspect of that development was its break with the longstanding tradition in which Russia and the US tacitly agreed to suspend such flight profiles during summit meetings.  One such close approach to Alaskan airspace during a summit would have been decidedly odd.  Three of the same kind of incident had to send an unmistakable message.

There had been 13 bomber flights off Alaska in 2009 when the Air Force general spoke in July; there were more by the end of the year, in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters.  The British Defence sources cited by UK media last week gave a total of 20 such flights in the Atlantic from January 2009 to March 2010.   A sampling of (non-US) media reporting can be found here, here, here, and here.  (Yes, Pravda seems to be Russian for “National Enquirer” these days.)

We can say a few things about this.  One, the Russians really, really want us to know about it.  Lt. Col Drik shows up like the cuckoo in a Swiss clock to report the latest flight to RIA Novosti.  It must be a little frustrating that word isn’t getting out more effectively in the US MSM.

This in turn is an indication that the Russians aren’t worried about being seen as confrontational.  Besides the flurry of flights during the Obama-Medvedev summit, there were at least half a dozen during the Russians’ series of major military exercises, conducted in Eastern Europe, the Arctic, and the Far East, in August and September.   Last fall’s exercises were the largest conducted by Russia since her Soviet days, involving tens of thousands of troops in Belarus and Russia’s northwestern province – and a particularly fraternal conclusion to the exercise scenario with a Strategic Rocket Forces attack on Poland and Lithuania.  Russian and US analysts have traditionally seen these things the same way:  if the Russians emphasize global-airpower bomber flights during a major theater exercise, such flights can at any time carry an import beyond the “training” or “housekeeping” explanations with which they are often dismissed.

Obama, of course, as readers will remember, wandered into this month-plus of pointed Russian saber-rattling with his 17 September announcement that the US would abandon previous missile defense plans in Poland and the Czech Republic.  His remarkably ill-timed statement reminds one of nothing so much as the stock character in farce: the doofus who meanders, blissfully unaware, through a scene of mayhem, adding to it with no idea what he’s doing.  The Russians have to be wondering if anything gets through to this guy.

A notable aspect of the 10 March bomber flight near the British Isles is the four hours the NATO fighters had the Blackjacks under escort (Norwegian fighters were involved as well).  The Russian bombers – Blackjacks are jets capable of supersonic flight, not turbo-prop bombers like the Tu-95 Bears – spent substantial time in a relatively small area, one they could have been in and out of much faster.  The Ministry of Defence may indeed have announced this flight to the public on the 25th in part because it was clearly not just a navigational tag-and-go.

Photos obtained by the Tornado pilots show a Blackjack with wings “clean” – no air-to-ground missiles mounted – which is how the Russians have performed these flights since their resumption in 2007.  But the Blackjack was designed to carry the long-range air-to-ground cruise missile known by the NATO designation AS-15 KENT, which, with a range of about 1800 statute miles (3000km), can reach all of Europe from a launch point north of Scotland. The Tu-95M Bear is capable of carrying the AS-15 as well.  The two types form the Russians’ strategic bomber force – the delivery platforms that are limited under the START series – like the B-2 bomber and the B-52 in the US inventory.  Given the hundreds of other square miles where Russian bomber pilots might go to practice their skills, flying their force’s premier airframe into the area north of Scotland could, quite obviously, only be considered politically meaningless by the disingenuous or foolish.

Russian bombers do get bombing (if not missile-launching) practice in a less freighted environment, as this item picked up by StrategyPage indicates.  Bombing ice dams actually sounds like fun; certainly something you hope they’re getting video of.  Meanwhile, we can be thankful for independent media, which get us the information the MSM doesn’t, and put the Obama administration’s progress with that “Reset” button in perspective.

30 thoughts on “Busy Bombers”

  1. Wow! It’s great you retired from active duty because you can give your perspective to the rest of us. I think people who studied Russia used to call the Russian people and their reaction to their forms of governance enigmas. I’ve always had this goofy idea that the Russians endlessly look for the “strong man” similar to Ivan Terrible, and maybe it’s the weather. It’s such a harsh environment that the people figure that only aggressive leaders can guarantee their survival. So they’ve dropped Communism and yet the strong man bit continues on. Creepy.

  2. Yes it must get a little frustrating when the media doesn’t take you seriously.
    I’m sure that you must know how the Russians feel.
    Here they are, gearing up to bomb Alaska, and it’s just you with a knot in your knickers!!
    It’s everyone else just being all doofussy and not realizing how superbly trained and equipped the Russian is at present.
    Wow is it great that you’re retired. That way you will escape the initial slaughter as our military is savaged by the might of the Russian Bear.

    1. Russia “flying their force’s premier airframe into the area north of Scotland could, quite obviously, only be considered politically meaningless by the disingenuous or foolish.” J.E.

      “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt” attributed to Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln and others

      Congratulations fuster!

      Not only have you removed all doubt but proven yourself to be “disingenuous and foolish” too!

  3. J.E.,

    Russia flying their force’s premier airframe into the area north of Scotland is, quite obviously, politically meaningful.

    Putin appears to believe that he, at the least, stands a chance of intimidating Obama. Not full on domination but inducing in Obama perhaps a ‘hesitancy to offend’.

    Equally obviously, Russia is not going to attack the US or our allies. But, by pulling a “crazy Ivan” he may be able to intimidate Obama and thus ‘persuade’ Obama that the Russian’s are, in their own way, unpredictable and volatile. And so must be handled with ‘kid gloves’ to avoid the heightened possibility of conflict.

    Frequently, what an opponent believes of us is more important than the actual reality.

    As perceptions form what we all, including our opponents, believe the reality of the situation to be.

    I did NOT know that on the very day Moscow announced the breakthrough in negotiations on the New START treaty, Russian bombers buzzed Alaska.

    I find the timing significant and as elaborated above, I can only surmise that it’s intended to place pressure upon Obama. And specifically, the nature of the reaction, that pressure is likely to elucidate from Obama.

    It’s my understanding, limited in depth, that Obama and Putin’s START treaty reduces strategic nukes on both sides but leaves the disparity in tactical nukes alone, a disparity that greatly favors Russia.

    If so, then I would speculate that Obama would react to Russian ‘unpredictability’ with a push to disarm even further. In effect, reacting in a appeasement-minded fashion, which I liken to, “we should put these nasty weapons down before someone gets hurt”.

    Nothing would please Putin more than the US unilaterally disarming but he’s too much of a realist to give that eventuality much credence. But, if he can get Obama to disarm enough… we will lack the credible strength to deter Russian aggression.

    Putin is playing chess and Obama appears to think, its a game of checkers.

  4. GB: you give Emir Obama too much credit. It’s not even checkers for him. It’s: can’t I bend over even further?

    To understand the Emir’s attitude towards nuclear weapons, you need to understand his mother’s attitude: she was a died-in-the-wool pacifist and unilateral disarmamentist. So is he.

    What do you think his “lost” senior thesis at Columbia was about? Nuclear disarmament, of course.

    Health care is the first leg in the Emir’s three-legged legacy stool. Nuclear disarmament is the second. Crippling the US’s ability to act as a superpower is the third.

    A very ideological and dangerous man.

    1. Obama is trying to economically cripple the US. There’s simply no other explanation for a man in his position, pushing for the catastrophic deficits with which he’s burdening the country.

      The CBO just rated his 2011 budget and it raises the debt by 9.7 TRILLION. To put that in perspective, the TOTAL debt from 1789 to 2008 was 5.8 trillion. The CBO estimates that by 2020… Obama’s budget will lead to a level of debt equal to 90% of the nations GDP.

      That is mathematically unsustainable and will lead to the economic collapse of the US. That’s not an opinion, that’s a statement of economic fact.

      It’s not a matter of mere irresponsibility, because it’s intentional, it rises to the level of the behavior of a traitor. That’s because, on a national level, his behavior amounts to ‘malice a forethought’, which is defined as the “knowledge that through an action or omission, the result will be someone’s death” ‘someone’ being the nation and the ‘death’ being the economic collapse of the US. Which will certainly lead to the deaths of, at the least, thousands.

      I do not believe however that he will be able to unilaterally disarm the US. Even trying to accomplish that would result in impeachment.

      Which is not to say that he can’t do great harm to us before his term is over. He’s already accomplished that and I suspect he’s just getting started.

      1. I don´t think those 90% of GDP would include the debt load of states? We will have to pay for that, too.

  5. Sully — good point. A pedant would remind us that what the Russians suffer from is xenophobia more than paranoia, but who needs pedants, except for reviewing your Latin homework? (Yeah, yeah, I know: the theme of this paragraph would demand making that “Greek homework,” but that’s why we have a strict No Pedants policy here at TOC.)

    GB — I think Putin’s proximate objective is to remind Europe, in particular, of how close it’s snuggled to the Russian strategic forces. Obama ought to pay attention to that, as he should to Russia’s similar reminders to Canada.

    (Russian encroachment on the Arctic and Russian bomber flights near Canada’s Arctic airspace are one of the biggest national security issues north of the border. Since Canada is one of our closest allies, and we essentially share any continental fate, it would only make sense for our news media to pay more attention to that. But they don’t, and most Americans aren’t even aware of it.)

    Obama, however, abetted by his friendly media, disdains to notice any of these things.

  6. J.E.

    Off topic but please consider a post addressing what’s happening with Karzai. This is the third time and recently, that’s he’s dissed the US, there’s a pattern emerging, which could have far reaching implications.

  7. The Russians and ourselves do these flights to train our aircrew (Yes, we carry out this sort of “reconnaisance/interception” too) It’s a big juvenile game carried on by big juvenile military types on both sides to well understood rules of (non) engagement and has been going on for decades at different levels of activity. Of course, it has no particular significance in the real world – less still, threat. It is rather strange, however, that in this silly duet the Russians should be considered threatening and malevolent and our President considered effete for authorizing exactly the same thing. The triumph of prejudice over logic?

    In the meantime, Europe doesn’t exactly share the hysteria that seems to be consuming our poor agitated KH. I suppose it is because anyone with reasonably critical faculties cannot fail to notice that we live in a world where even a medium sized nuclear power like France or the UK could reduce the Russians to the stone age (and make the Northern Hemisphere rather inhospitable for the rest of us), and that the supposedly mighty Russian military is making heavy weather of keeping the lid on an insurgency in tiny Chechnia. (Mind you, we shouldn’t gloat. The greatest military power the planet has ever known is still bogged down in zillion-dollar wars in two medium sized third-world countries that have almost bankrupted our nation for no discernable purpose other than to provide our troops as target practice for Iraqi insurgents and the Afghan resistance).

    1. Russia “flying their force’s premier airframe into the area north of Scotland could, quite obviously, only be considered politically meaningless by the disingenuous or foolish.” J.E.

      “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt” attributed to Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln and others

      Congratulations peterwise!

      Not only have you removed all doubt but proven yourself to be “disingenuous and foolish” too!

      Europe doesn’t share the “hysteria” because they anticipate that if appeasement doesn’t work, we’ll come to their rescue. After all, we always have before. If Russia launched a first strike, France would present no threat whatsoever of retaliation.

      The CBO just rated Obama’s 2011 budget and it raises the debt by 9.7 TRILLION. To put that in perspective, the TOTAL debt from 1789 to 2008 was 5.8 trillion. [note; that includes the cost of Iraq and Afghanistan under Bush]

      The C.B.O. estimates that by 2020… Obama’s budget will lead to a level of debt equal to 90% of the nations GDP. That is mathematically unsustainable and will lead to the economic collapse of the US.

      That’s not an opinion, that’s a statement of economic fact.

      As for our troops acting as target practice in Iraq and Afghanistan, yes we could bring them home and in a remarkably short time, American’s would be target practice for Al Qaeda.

      And, if it wasn’t for all the innocent American lives that would be lost, I’d vote to let gullible fools like you have your way, just to reduce the gene pool.

  8. As to the national debt: What you say is an opinion. It is not a statement of economic fact because the principle factor which will determine the level of indebetdness in 2020 will be the rate of real economic growth in the interim.

    As for the hysterical notion of a Russian “first strike”. They didn’t do it when they had three times the number of nukes and 4 time the number of main battle tanks as they presently have, so common sense suggests that a Russian attack on Western Europe is just an itsy bitsy small bit improbable for those of us who live in the real world. It is rather sad that some Americans seem unable to grasp the fact that Europeans are no longer dependents of the US who need rescuing from the Russians or anyone else. As for the French deterrent – roughly 300 submarine launched MIRVed thermo-nuclear warheads. There is no technology, existing or envisaged, that would hope to stop more than a fraction of these from reaching their targets, and the risk of just one megaton yield weapon landing on a major population area is an unacceptable price for the Russians, French, or anyone else.

    Your unpleasant closing remark says much about you as a person.

    1. p.s. Dear GB,

      How exactly do you think the Western Europeans are “appeasing the Russians, and perhaps you might suggest actions the Europeans should take right now that you wouldn’t consider “appeasement”.

      Over to you.

      1. You’re full of BS peter-not-wise. The CBO came out with that prediction and it was based on obscenely low-ball figures, that was a pie-in-the-sky, wildly optimistic projection that they had to pretend was legit.

        The reality is going to be much worse. We don’t have till 2010. The economic collapse Obama is engineering is going to happen much sooner, likely within the next two years.

        Even if the economy doesn’t collapse near-term, the economy is going to be in the toilet for years to come. By the time it starts to pick up its going to get derailed by the mounting interest payments on the debt your President and party are imposing on this nation and its posterity.

        Your implied denial that the Western European’s aren’t appeasing the Russians shows just how deep into denial you are, the Euro’s appease everyone but those not so inclined to threaten or unable to do so. They appease Russia, China and Iran. They appease Saudi Arabia.

        All cowards are capable of is appeasement. There’s a reason why they’re called eurowienies and it isn’t because they like baseball.

        They could start to show some backbone by telling the Iranians that they are in full violation of the IAEA agreement and have 24 hours to fully suspend their nuclear enrichment program till IAEA inspectors have full, independent and unfettered access for inspections to all sites within Iran…or face immediate military strikes against those facilities by NATO.

        Had Obama any balls he’d say the same thing.

        The French have the nukes, they don’t have the cojones to use them, if given an ‘out’ and the Russians would allow them to save face in a way that strategically weakened the French. The French would give up almost anything to get out of a war, including strategic and tactical positioning that would slowly result in their gradual capitulation. They’d keep feeding others to the crocodile until they had no one left to feed the croc and then they’d run. And when they couldn’t run anymore… they’d surrender.

        I spoke harshly to you because I don’t suffer fools gladly. Pacifist fools like you led to 50 million dead in WWII. Head-in-the-sand fools like you were the majority of the Jews in WWII who couldn’t believe that even Hitler would pursue genocide against an entire people.

        Fools like you will be responsible for millions dying in the coming, (yes, they’re coming) nuclear terrorist attacks because you refuse to face the predictable consequences of the policies you advocate.

      2. You’re full of BS peter-not-wise. The CBO came out with that prediction and it was based on obscenely low-ball figures, that was a pie-in-the-sky, wildly optimistic projection that they had to pretend was legit.

        The reality is going to be much worse. We don’t have till 2020. The economic collapse Obama is engineering is going to happen much sooner, likely within the next two years.

        Even if the economy doesn’t collapse near-term, the economy is going to be in the toilet for years to come. By the time it starts to pick up its going to get derailed by the mounting interest payments on the debt your President and party are imposing on this nation and its posterity.

        Your implied denial that the Western European’s aren’t appeasing the Russians shows just how deep into denial you are, the Euro’s appease everyone but those not so inclined to threaten or unable to do so. They appease Russia, China and Iran. They appease Saudi Arabia.

        All cowards are capable of is appeasement. There’s a reason why they’re called eurowienies and it isn’t because they like baseball.

        They could start to show some backbone by telling the Iranians that they are in full violation of the IAEA agreement and have 24 hours to fully suspend their nuclear enrichment program till IAEA inspectors have full, independent and unfettered access for inspections to all sites within Iran…or face immediate military strikes against those facilities by NATO.

        Had Obama any balls he’d say the same thing.

        The French have the nukes, they don’t have the cojones to use them, if given an ‘out’ and the Russians would allow them to save face in a way that strategically weakened the French. The French would give up almost anything to get out of a war, including strategic and tactical positioning that would slowly result in their gradual capitulation. They’d keep feeding others to the crocodile until they had no one left to feed the croc and then they’d run. And when they couldn’t run anymore… they’d surrender.

        I spoke harshly to you because I don’t suffer fools gladly. Pacifist fools like you led to 50 million dead in WWII. Head-in-the-sand fools like you were the majority of the Jews in WWII who couldn’t believe that even Hitler would pursue genocide against an entire people.

        Fools like you will be responsible for millions dying in the coming, (yes, they’re coming) nuclear terrorist attacks because you refuse to face the predictable consequences of the policies you advocate.

      3. You are such an angry person. With the single exception of yourself we have all of us – (some like myself with very minority opinions around here) – managed to argue our very different viewpoints while keeping within the bounds of civility.

        You fling around wild claims and wild abuse with equal abandon. Not only is our President intentionally bankrupting our nation (presumably because he is an American-hating commie mole who was really born in Jeddah), but you confidently claim that the US will undergo economic collapse within two years. Read the latest edition of the “Economist” – an impartial and authoritive weekly with a habit of getting its economic predictions right. Their experts believe that the US will register growth of 3% this year and is set fair to lead the West out of the recession that was bequeathed to this Administration by GW Bush and Co. I am unfair. Having made your claim, you then actually contradict yourself and hedge your bets.

        From your remarks I discern that your litmus test for appeasement is the reluctance of the Europeans to launch a pre-emptive attack on Iran. Given that the people advocating this course of action are the exact same crowd who got us all into the ongoing zillion-buck Iraq mess on the basis of untruths about WMD is it difficult to blame their lack of enthusiasm? You have heard the story of the little boy who cried wolf, haven’t you? Well, you can be sure that the Europeans are going to be rather more wary when it comes to getting involved in future foreign adventures. The neo-cons who ran GW Bush have done inestimable damage to US credibility among our allies. In any case, the Europeans seem to have decided that pre-emptive attacks on Saudi Arabia, Russia, and China are not likely to be in their best interests at this time. Such wimps!

        Oh, and the insults! The Europeans are “cowards” because they see the World differently from you. This is the sort of invective, popular within the previous administration, which was used to such counterproductive effect in its dealings with the only people in the planet who actually share our values and strategic interests.

        You particularly hate and scorn the French. For your information, you should read a bit about the Crimean war and see how the French rather out-performed their British allies in that engagement. (The French threw the Russians out of Sebastopol. The British highlight was the risible charge of the Light Brigade). The French did most of the heavy lifting on the allied side in the Great War. They paid a dreadful demographic price too in bearing that burden against the Central Powers. If you visit France you will see a cenotaph in every town and village carrying the names of these alleged “cowards”. Americans have never ever fought in battles which even approached the intensity (or body-count) of the fight for the fortresses of Verdun. In 1939, while my own country sat on its hands and turned the other way when its assistance was sought by its fellow democracies, the French actually fought. It was the French and not the British who first declared war on Hitler. They lost to a better armed, better prepared, and single-minded foe. But they at least fought. We in the US were rather fortunate in 1940 that we didn’t have a belligerent despotism with a larger population on our borders. Perhaps, having been rather late to row-in on the side of the righteous in the first and second world wars, you are anxious that we should be in early for the next one.

        None of us have the “cojones” to use nukes against another nuclear armed state because none of us (the sane majority, that is) accept the risk of millions of deaths of our own populations by way of retaliation. That goes for us, the French, the Russians, and the Chinese. The non-nuclear part of the Russian military is a shambles if their efforts in the Caucasus are anything to go by. Russia is in a bind with Western Europe. Far from having designs on conquest, it needs Western Europe as a market for its commodities. You don’t shoot your customers. However, Russia, having undergone a period of territorial and economic decline is certainly telling the world (and its own demoralized citizens) that it is still a force to be reckoned with, and that it intends holding on to what it has. What it has is a really big insurgency problem in the Caucasus. It is welcome to it.

        As for the remainder of the imaginary Russian threat to the West – let me put it this way: The military needs threats in the same manner as social workers need poverty.

        If terrorists ever get their hands on a nuke – and in the highly unlikely event they would be able to detonate it efficiently, its source would most likely be Russia. We and the Russians are presently co-operating in securing these devides (and destroying most of them). I fail to see how ramping up a confrontation with the Russians would do anything other than making this co-operation less forthcoming and nuclear material less secure. Perhaps it’s because I’m such a fool?

        Now, please try to be civil.

  9. Actually, peterwise, we don’t carry out the same kind of flights under discussion here. Please don’t bother lecturing us on this. The particulars are a matter of fact, not opinion.

    For the general group, these are the facts. If US forces were to perform the same kind of provocative flight profile as the Russian bombers off of Europe, our strategic bombers — B-2s and B-52s — would have to fly into the Barents Sea and remain there for several hours.

    We didn’t even do that during the Cold War, and we don’t do it today. We didn’t NEED to do it during the Cold War, but neither did the Russians need to fly profiles like the 10 March 2010 approach, either then or now. We are both capable of perpetually signalling our strategic defensive readiness without operating our strategic bombers that way.

    For the most part, after negotiations to stabilize our strategic condition began in earnest in the late 1960s, both we and the Russians stood down from provocative strategic bomber operations.

    Both sides sometimes used the strategic bombers in theater-level (i.e., not global-strategic) exercises, and this sometimes brought each side’s bombers into comparatively close proximity to the other’s territory. But politically confrontational “close approaches,” conducted under no ulterior pretext, were quite rare. The image of Yanks and Russkies out buzzing each other with our strategic bombers in a game of Superpower Chicken is a concoction of Hollywood, not a reflection of reality.

    Similarly, although our strategic bombers still conduct training over the Arctic today, they don’t make close approaches to Russian airspace like the Russian approaches to Alaska and Canada since late 2007.

    To the extent that the Russians had a regular pattern of close approaches — with strategic bombers — before 1991, it was in the Arctic. Since 2007, they have resumed close-approach flight profiles there, but have also started them off the British Isles.

    It matters that the Russians are now using their STRATEGIC bombers for the Norwegian Sea/Atlantic flight profile. What they’re doing in this regard is unprecedented.

    During the Cold War they often operated their theater-level bombers (Tu-16 Badgers and Tu-22 Backfires) off the UK and Norway. These bombers were designed for use in battlefield support, and whenever the old Soviets had a “Northwest TVD (theater of operations)” exercise, they would come out. About this kind of activity it’s essentially accurate to say that we — the US and NATO — “did the same thing.” We didn’t fly the FB-111 up into the Barents, by any means — that wasn’t in the operational concept for using it — but we operated it over Western Europe when we had NATO exercises focusing on defense of the old “Central Front.” For the respective theater battle plans of the Warsaw Pact and NATO, there were tactical reasons to practice operating the bombers where each side flew them during exercises.

    ALL of these exercises, and everything else we did with bombers in the Cold War, both theater and strategic, predated the START I treaty, in which we and the Russians defined what a “strategic bomber” is.

    Once that was defined, we couldn’t operate the strategic bombers anywhere without there being a latent signal, in terms agreed on by both sides, about strategic intent. When the USAF operates B-2s in a “defense of South Korea” exercise, or the CENTCOM commander incorporates strategic bombers in the invasion of Iraq, deliberate care is taken to avoid an operating profile that would come off as provocative to the Russians.

    Until 2007 the Russians tacitly observed a similar discipline, although they weren’t getting out much anyway. Since 2007, they have engaged in the unprecedented pattern of operating bombers defined by treaty as “strategic” weapon systems in provocative proximity to the territory of NATO’s membership. They also deployed Tu-160 Blackjacks — strategic bombers as designated in the START I treaty — to Venezuela in late 2008.

    To be doing even close to the same thing, we would have to be flying B-52s into the Black Sea, which we have never done at all, and deploying B-2s on mil-to-mil visits to India or Thailand, which we also don’t do.

    The argument that “we do the same thing” is false. Perhaps you should try another one.

    1. So why would an opponent do what you have described above? I realize that neither you nor any one else outside Russia really knows their intent, but in terms of military strategy do opponents do such maneuvers to test their opponent or just establish a pattern that the opponent might get used to and therefore dismiss eventually as irrelevant?

  10. It could be both, Orcas. But either way, it’s done in full knowledge that it is, inherently, provocative. How the opponent reacts is information about him.

    In the militaries of the West, the mindset is typically very resistant to provocation for the purpose of testing reactions — unless it’s in accordance with a prior plan to ramp up tensions for an objective in which there’s a DECISIVE military element.

    An example of what the military does NOT like is the old “exciter” missions (aircraft and ships operating close to shore) conducted off Korea and Vietnam during the McNamara days in the 1960s. The avowed purpose was to provoke a reaction that could then be studied.

    McNamara also conceived of using intel/reconnaissance assets for these missions, as a means of sending a “signal” about our determination and firmness of purpose while supposedly being less provocative than it would be to use combat platforms. The result was the USS Pueblo incident with North Korea in 1968.

    Contrary to the asinine image portrayed by Hollywood, military thinkers strongly dislike making provocative but empty gestures with armed force. It’s irresponsible to pull it and wave it around if you don’t intend to use it — or to all but demand to be chased if you don’t intend to exploit the resulting situation to your own benefit. It’s political-level decisionmakers who come up with ideas for empty saber-rattling. The military doesn’t like them.

    The great majority of the time, America’s senior civilians have been in sync with this military preference. It was that way through most of the Cold War and in the years since 1991. “Don’t be provocative unless you intend to make good on the implied threat” has been a pretty well-agreed rule of thumb, with a few notable exceptions.

    As to the Russians, they and we had developed a set of protocols for military encounters by the last third or so of the Cold War, and at the military level their professionalism was quite reliable. It can be hard to gauge the military’s relationship to the political leadership at times, because their paradigm is different from ours. I’ve never seen a reason to suspect that the Russian military is more fond of brinkmanship or provocation than the American or any other Western military.

    That said, I suspect Putin’s proximate reason for ramping up long-range flights after 2007, but on a new profile with the STRATEGIC bombers loitering off Western Europe, is to use the main means available to Russia to demonstrate offensive might.

    I don’t by any means think it’s a signal that strategic attack is imminent. But with Russia’s conventional armed forces in an improving but still poor state, she doesn’t have the means to send signals of offensive power — the ability to project power outside her region — with conventional displays alone. The strategic forces are what Russia has that can make a big statement about the ability to project power, and not just to defend herself.

  11. Slightly OT but I am concerned by GB’s prediction re nuclear terror attacks. Unfortunately, I see truth in the prediction and it seems entirely unavoidable.

    I’d like to know how long you think we have before such an act takes place, and where you think it’d happen.

    Iran and her proxies concern me much more than Russia at this point. At least the Russians are sane and profess no desire to bring about a religious, apocalyptic, end-times scenario.

    Also, I don’t think the troll is worth your time. You can’t convince a person who is read enough to post here yet so foolish as to suggest the GWOT is bankrupting our country. Especially in light of the current administration’s mind-bending budget outlays. I mean specifically the paragraphs gratifying his desire for attention. The information you’ve provided in response is enlightening and I’m grateful for it.

      1. Rodney,

        It sickens me to make that prediction.

        I give us 5-10 years, perhaps a bit more.

        As you pointed out, barring unforeseen circumstance, the Russians are highly unlikely to get into a fight with us. China doesn’t want a fight either but scares me a bit more for two reasons; Taiwan and the potential for a misunderstanding. I suspect that the Chinese understand us little better than we them. In my view, Iran isn’t going to attack us directly either. Ahmadinejad heads a faction potentially fanatical enough to precipitate nuclear conflict but fortunately he’s not in charge. The Grand Ayatollah Khamieni is the top dog and while he’s a religious nut, he’s not a suicidal religious nut.

        No, the greatest danger centers around the interaction between several factors; Iran getting the bomb. The resultant greatly increased nuclear proliferation that Iran getting the bomb leads too. Russia has been and is actively promoting and facilitating the spread of nuclear weapons among unstable third world nations. Islamic terrorist groups who eagerly await the opportunity to strike us with the most horrific weapon. Once enough unstable third world nations have the bomb, it’s just a matter of time before a terrorist group gets their hands on one.

        As for where it will happen, we’re the most target rich environment in the world. See: http://www.usnews.com/news/slideshows/six-vulnerable-potential-terrorist-targets

        Chemical plants (think Bhopal) near major population centers. Natural Gas facilities (a big bomb) near major population centers. 100,000 dams across the US, many with cities downstream of the dam.

        Many of those targets would require transporting explosives across long distances, making them a greater challenge to hit. The most vulnerable targets for a nuclear strike are our port cities. Of our 20 most populous cities, 16 have major port facilities. That means: Boston, NYC, Providence, Washington DC, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Savannah, Jacksonville, Miami, Tampa, New Orleans, Houston, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Chicago, St. Louis and Honolulu are all highly vulnerable. And that’s just the major population centers. There are 53 major ports in the US that receive over 10 million tons of shipping per year and 145 that receive over a million tons per year.

        Just put a nuke in a shipping container, load it on board a cargo ship and sail it into port and then detonate it. An air burst would kill far more but it isn’t the number of dead, it’s the psychological effect of vulnerability to nuclear attack, that’s the terrorist’s goal.

        But you don’t even need a nuke. See: http://www.fpri.org/enotes/20050321.americawar.husickgale.seaborneterroristattack.html

        This doesn’t have to happen, in that we have the capabilities to stop it.

        It’s the consensus and will to act preemptively, we lack.

        The longer we wait to act, the less likely we are to prevent attacks. So, given all of the geo-political dynamics at work, it’s predictably inevitable. We won’t respond seriously to the threat, until we’re hit hard and by then it will be too late. Even if we respond effectively, the psychological damage will be done, the economic impact will be catastrophic and America will change in fundamental and negative ways.

  12. Provocation works by convincing the other guy you may be crazy. Back in the day a particular Russian trawler made a real pain in the neck of himself at Yankee Station, lying too where he was in the way when we came to course for flight ops. Until the day we bore down on him at 30 knots, continuously adjusting our course to aim at his sternpost until he got underway in a panic. We passed a couple of hundred yards aft of him. He stayed well away after that.

    1. Sully,

      What ship were you on?

      I was stationed aboard the Connie, USS Constellation CVA/CV 64.

      Served 69-73

      1. I was in Enterprise (CVAN-65) from 70-72 and then went to Epperson (DD-719) from 73-74 to decide if I wanted to make the Navy a career, Geoffrey.

        The incident I described occurred while I was on watch as OOD of Enterprise in the latter part of 1971. It was great fun and very satisfying because the Russki had been making a real pain in the neck of himself for a couple of weeks.

  13. peterwise,

    You are such an angry person.
    Yeah, the unnecessary deaths of millions has that effect on me.

    You fling around wild claims and wild abuse with equal abandon.
    They only seem wild because you’ve so deeply into denial. That level of denial demands being hit right between the eyes, nothing less will suffice.

    Our President is intentionally bankrupting our nation. That’s an observation. Improbable as it is, it’s the only explanation that fits the observed data.

    ”Barack Obama believes that strengthening weak states at risk of collapse, economic meltdown or public health crises strengthens America’s security. Obama will double U.S. spending on foreign aid to $50 billion a year by 2012.” Source: Campaign website, BarackObama.com, Aug 26, 2007

    Economic collapse is mathematically certain. Argue with the CBO, they’re a bit more ‘authoritative’ than the “Economist”.

    Here’s a news flash, the President doesn’t set the budget, Congress does. So from 2006 on it was your 2006/2008 Democrat 2006 majority that created the mess, not Bush.

    Your inability to accept any responsibility and attempts at deflecting accountability make your disingenuous distortions offensive. Or are you just ignorant?

    Here’s some more for you; the Carter 1977 Comm. Reinvestment Act and the actions of Barney Frank and Chris Dodd were major factors in the financial debacle Obama ‘inherited’. Both Bush and McCain tried to warn and stop the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mess but your Dems are on record stopping them.

    I am unfair. Having made your claim, you then actually contradict yourself and hedge your bets.
    You’re ‘bearing false witness’. I stand by the claim I made of ‘likely’ provided Obama and crew don’t impose a VAT tax on us and/or just start printing money, which will kick-start inflation with a vengeance. That will make the collapse even worse but it will delay it.

    Litmus test? No, just an example of manning up to the challenge. The Euro’s are going to get just what they’re sowing, as are we. They have even more fools than we do and they’re even further down the road to ruin than us.

    “The exact same crowd who got us all into the ongoing zillion-buck Iraq mess on the basis of untruths about WMD…”

    Nice try on trotting out the old canard, troll.

    If Bush lied, so did Dianne Feinstein, Barbara A. Milulski, Tom Daschle, John Kerry, Harold Ford, Tom Lantos, Tom Harkin, Arlen Specter, Madeline Albright, Sandy Berger, Barbara Boxer, Robert Byrd, Wesley Clark, Jacques Chirac, Tom Daschle, John Edwards, Patty Murray, Ex-Un Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter, John Rockefeller, Henry Waxman, Ted Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi, Bill Clinton, Al Gore and Hillary Clinton.
    They’re ALL on record stating their belief that Saddam either had WMD or was actively working to develop them.
    If The Bush Administration Lied About WMD, So Did These People

    The Europeans are “cowards” because they see the World differently from you.
    No, they’re cowards because they’re running away from the issue.

    You particularly hate and scorn the French.
    I’m half French and they’ve earned my scorn. Fortunately my French ancestors came over here in the 1600’s. In WWI, the dreadful losses were because monumentally idiotic generals kept throwing troops across open ground, at entrenched machine gun positions and zeroed in artillery.

    And the moral cowards to which I referred were the ones of today, not 4-5 generations ago. Starting in WWII is when the French revealed just how weak and morally bankrupt they had become. First with the Vichy French and then with the actions of de Gaulle. With some brief exceptions, it’s been all downhill from there.

    Americans have never ever fought in battles which even approached the intensity (or body-count) of the fight for the fortresses of Verdun.
    Gettysburg, Chickamauga, Antietam, Battle of the Bulge, Guadacanal, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa…

    It was the French and not the British who first declared war on Hitler.
    You have it backwards, it was Hitler who declared war on France, they merely acknowledged they were at war.

    The military needs threats in the same manner as social workers need poverty.
    That statement alone proves what an utter fool you are and, just how unworthy of their sacrifice you are. Just the type who speaks disparagingly of the cops but then screams with outrage, if they’re not there when you need one.

    If terrorists ever get their hands on a nuke – and in the highly unlikely event they would be able to detonate it efficiently…
    Denial, denial, denial, la,la,la, I’m not listening, says the fool with his fingers in his ears.

    Now, please try to be civil.
    Civility got us such as you. A fool supporting other fools, who will end up killing millions and then deny it because his moral cowardice won’t allow him to face the truth.

    Once in a while, we stumble upon the truth, I see that you have decided to pick yourself up and hurry along, as if nothing had happened.

    Peterwise, meet your spiritual ancestor; Neville Chamberlain:

    “We should seek by all means in our power to avoid war, by analyzing possible causes, by trying to remove them, by discussion in a spirit of collaboration and good will.

    I cannot believe that such a program would be rejected by the people of this country. Even if it does mean the establishment of personal contact with dictators, and of talks man to man. On the basis that each, while maintaining his own ideas of the internal government of his country, is willing to allow that other systems may better suit other peoples.” –Neville Chamberlain, explaining Munich

  14. Historical fact: The French declared war on Nazi Germany after the Nazis invaded Poland. The British joined the French declaration on the following day. Hitler declared war on the US (rather than visa versa) after Pearl Harbour in accordance with his pact with the Japanese. Perhaps that’s the source of your confusion.

    Historical Fact: Antietam and all the other skirmishes you mention total a smaller body count than suffered by either Germans or French at Verdun.

    However, I do concede your “la la la” “argument” is completely watertight and reveals an intellect as keen as your sense of civility.

    We should leave it there.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: