09 August 2007

Russian Provocation

Tu-95 bomberOn Monday, two Russian "Su-type" jets launched a missile that landed just outside the Georgian village Tsitelubani, 60km north-west of the capital Tbilisi, though did not explode.

Yesterday Russia resumed its Cold War practice of flying long-haul missions to areas patrolled by NATO and the United States, with one of its Tu-95 "Bear" bombers undertaking a 13 hour sortie to an American military base on the Pacific island of Guam, where they "exchanged smiles" with US pilots who had scrambled to track it.

Last month, two Russian Tu-95 bombers briefly entered British air space but turned back after British fighter jets intercepted them. Norwegian F-16s were also scrambled when two Tu-95s headed south along the Norwegian coast in international air space.

Coming on top of Russia's "conquering" of the Arctic seabed and desire to restore its permanent base in the Mediterranean, its withdrawal from the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, threats to aim its missiles at European targets, and debates with the West over Iran's nuclear programme, Kosovo's possible sovereignty, and America's missile defence plans, can anyone now deny that a new Cold War has begun?

The question is, how should we respond? To what extent should we turn a blind eye to Russia's deliberate and calculated challenges?