Provocative Fighter Jocks
Back in 2014, a Russian jet made headlines when it passed several times close to the USS Donald Cook in the Black Sea. As CBS reported at the time:
“A Pentagon spokesperson told CBS Radio that a Russian SU-24 fighter jet made several low altitude, close passes in the vicinity of the USS Donald Cook in international waters of the western Black Sea on April 12. While the jet did not overfly the deck, Col. Steve Warren called the action “provocative and unprofessional.”
The jet was one of two Russian aircraft in the vicinity — the other flew at a higher altitude. The close-flying jet came within a few thousand feet of the USS Donald Cook, a guided missile destroyer which was conducting a “routine mission” at the time. The U.S. ship tried to contact the plane’s cockpit, but received no response. The Russian plane, which the U.S. says was unarmed, made at least 12 passes. This continued for about 90 minutes. The event ended without incident.”
An unarmed plane making passes! Very provocative. Let’s briefly look at a map of the Black Sea:
Recently the same thing happened again, this time in the Baltic Sea. The Guardian reports:
“The US navy released photos and videos showing Russian SU-24 fighter jets flying low over the sea and “buzzing” the USS Donald Cook – a destroyer of the Arleigh Burke class – which carries guided missiles and which had just made a call at the Polish port of Gdynia.
According to the US European Command (Eucom) in Stuttgart, there were a number of such close encounters on Monday and Tuesday, involving both Russian fighter jets and helicopters, while the Donald Cook was in international waters in the Baltic Sea, off the coast of Poland. Those waters are also close to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.”
Assorted experts (of which we seem to have a nigh endless supply – the number of “think tanks” racking their brains over such things is astonishing) worry that such encounters could by mistake turn into something nasty. Perhaps, but we actually think the probability of that happening is negligible. Otherwise, Russia and Turkey would be at war already.
Let us take a look at a map of the Baltic Sea:
The Baltic Sea, with the USS Donald Cook in it. The red spot between Poland and Lithuania is actually Russian territory – the Kaliningrad enclave (formerly the German city of Königsberg).
These maps reveal clearly what the real problem is. The Russians have aggressively and provocatively built their country far too close to where the USS Donald Cook is sailing.
By way of comparison, here is the Russian destroyer Moskva, which is based in Sevastopol:
Russian destroyer Moskva in the Black Sea – this ship has reportedly been used to fire cruise missiles at IS positions in Syria
Photo credit: Max Delany/AFP
Obviously, the US has not been built anywhere near to where the ship depicted above is sailing. It’s all pretty obvious if you think about it.
All joking aside: imagine Russian warships cruising around in the “international waters” of the Gulf of Mexico. Do you think US fighter jets would occasionally buzz them?
Weak Russian Military?
Why should anyone even worry about this? Even if one erroneously assumes that Russia is an “enemy”, we have read countless articles stating that the Russian military doesn’t need to be taken seriously.
Here you can e.g. read that the Russian military is “deceptively weak”, resp. that it is a “paper tiger”, and anyway, all of Russia is actually weak, and its president even more so. This is quite a reversal from what we were told from the 1950s to the 1980s. Back then, Western intelligence agencies and the Western press couldn’t stop their hand-wringing over the danger allegedly posed by the Soviet military machine.
We always found this rather odd. The Soviets were regularly engaged in military exercises in Warsaw Pact countries at the time, which even civilians could e.g. watch from West Berlin. People were joking about Soviet tank crews having to run in circles every time the turrets were turned, so as not to get crushed.
The Soviets did have a huge number of tanks, but most of them were quite decrepit – the product of a socialist economy, which by the 1980s was in an advanced state of decay. The nuclear arsenal did indeed represent a potential threat, but looking back, it is rather obvious nowadays that it mainly served as a deterrent. The poor state of Soviet conventional forces became increasingly clear during the Soviet Union’s unsuccessful attempt to keep control of Afghanistan.
So in a way, it is actually quite funny that today, we read everywhere how “weak” Russia’s military is – considering Russia is no longer a socialist economy. In fact, for all its faults (such as high levels of corruption), Russia’s economy is quite free. A 12% corporate tax rate and a 13% flat tax on incomes should tell you all you need to know.
One of Russia’s new military toys – this one sports all sorts of anti aircraft guns.
Photo credit: Vitaly V. Kuzmin
To this it should be added that this allegedly weak military has succeeded in doing in Syria within a few months what the combined forces of the West had completely failed to achieve up to that point: namely putting ISIS on the defensive, and actually shrinking the territory it controls. Speaking of Syria, it seemed to us Western observers were quite surprised at the effectiveness of the cruise missile attacks launched from the Caspian. It wasn’t the first time Russian military technology has surprised someone (Google it).
We don’t think there is much reason to worry about Russia. You don’t have to like Mr. Putin to realize that his main “crime” in the eyes of Western elites is his insistence that the world should be “multi-polar” and that the US is not the only country in the world with so-called “legitimate interests”. Several trusted allies of the West are real tyrants, so Putin is definitely not vilified because he isn’t a model democrat.
The State should ideally be done away with altogether, but it is clear that this goal cannot be realistically achieved in the near term (especially not in a non-violent manner, which is what those who wish to see the emergence of a society based on voluntarism and the non-aggression principle should strive for). As long as that is the case, a “multi-polar” world is actually much better than a unipolar one – it is far more likely that a certain degree of individual liberty will be preserved in it.
We shudder to think of a world ruled by global government akin to the crypto-socialist bureaucracy in Brussels. Now that would really be scary.