Issue Research: Election 2008 | Globalisation | National Security

Tension Rising Between Russia and U.S.

Alex Newman
John Birch Society
February 21, 2008

Four U.S. fighter jets scrambled to intercept a Russian bomber that turned toward a U.S. Naval fleet last week off the coast of Japan.

According to Reuters, the plane actually flew over the deck of the USS Nimitz before being escorted out of the area by U.S. fighters. A spokesman for the Russian Air Force expressed surprise at "all the clamor this raised," saying that the flights were made over neutral waters and all concerned parties were given advance notice.

Recently, Russian officials have expressed a desire to bring back some of the nation’s cold war military strength. Perhaps to prove this, Russia has been increasing the number of air force flights near U.S. territory and Navy ships in a strategy analysts say is designed to project its military might, even at long-range. But, some U.S. officials tried to downplay the significance of the trend.

"Do we believe that the Russians have a hostile intent against the United States? I don't think that anyone feels that that's the case," a senior defense official told Reuters. "It is standard operating procedure for U.S. planes to escort aircraft flying in the vicinity of U.S. Navy ships." By contrast, Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) said the Russian action sounded "provocative," to him.

Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted before a Senate panel that the military was trying to determine the implications of the event. "Now, what we're concerned about is what are the indications of this return to a Cold War mind-set, what are the implications of that activity and how do we best address that," he said.

Russia recently blasted both the continuing expansion of NATO and talks that Ukraine, a former part of the Soviet empire, could be brought into the cold war-era military alliance. While Ukraine’s Constitution specifically forbids U.S. bases there, Ukraine’s leader, Viktor Yushchenko, insisted that the nation must be allowed to decide its own foreign policy. But Russian President Vladimir Putin held a press conference during which he threatened Ukraine’s leader with "retaliatory actions" if the country decided to join NATO.

"It's frightening not just to talk about this, but even to think about," Putin said, referring to the possible deployment of U.S. anti-missile defenses on Russia’s border. "Russia will have to point its warheads at Ukrainian territory."

Russia, essentially, has also withdrawn from some international treaties relating to military affairs, including the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. "The loss of the CFE system of limitations, information and verification would be detrimental to all and could have security implications for all of Europe," wrote Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos shortly after the decision became effective. These strategic withdrawals allow Russia to build a new generation of medium-range nuclear missiles capable of striking Western Europe.

In addition, Russia and China have now joined forces with a number of central-Asian countries, mostly former Soviet republics, in an "intergovernmental mutual-security organization" called the "Shanghai Cooperation Organisation." Among other areas of "cooperation," the nations participate in "joint military operations." Iran and Pakistan have joined as "observers," for now.

"Growing ties between Moscow and Beijing in the past 18 months is an important geopolitical event that has gone practically unnoticed," wrote Asia Times reporter Jephraim Gundzik. "Like relations between China and Russia, and China and Iran, Russia's relations with Iran have also advanced considerably." Russia has agreed to supply Iran’s nuclear power plant with fuel, leading to speculation that it could be diverted for other uses. With Washington’s rhetoric aimed at what critics suspect is starting a "pre-emptive" war with Iran, the prospect of a confrontation with Russia and even China becomes increasingly real.

Russia is unilaterally backing out of treaties and agreements limiting its military capabilities. Wouldn’t it be wise for the U.S. to do the same? With Iran involved in complicated alliances with Russia and China, is it really wise or prudent to even consider launching a "pre-emptive" strike on Iran as some top U.S. officials have suggested?

International military forces and alliances should never be relied upon to protect America. Neither should we allow our elected officials to enter into yet another unconstitutional, undeclared war at our expense. It behooves us now to remain constantly ready and vigilant, especially in light of these developments, with the strongest national defense corps in the world.

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