Navy Intercepts Russian Bombers

Russian bomber buzzes U.S. aircraft carrier (CNN video):
February, 2008

U.S. fighter planes intercepted two Russian bombers, including one that buzzed an American aircraft carrier in the western Pacific during the weekend, The Associated Press has learned. A U.S. military official says that one Russian Tupolev 95 flew directly over the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz twice, at a low altitude of about 2,000 feet, while another bomber circled about 58 miles out. The official was speaking on condition of anonymity because the reports on the flights were classified as secret. The Saturday incident, which never escalated beyond the flyover, comes amid heightened tensions between the United States and Russia over U.S. plans for a missile defense system based in Poland and the Czech Republic. In Moscow, the RIA Novosti news agency reported Tuesday that the head of the Russian Air Force information service, Alexander Drobyshevsky, said the Russian bombers "were carrying out their assigned flights" and in strict compliance with the international airspace rules. "We are surprised by the noise that has been raised (over the flights)," he was quoted as saying.

Such Russian encounters with U.S. ships were common during the Cold War, but have been rare since then. Russia revived the Soviet-era practice of long-range patrols by strategic bombers over the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans last August. The bombers were among four Russian Tupolev 95s launched from Ukrainka in the middle of the night, including one that Japanese officials say violated their country's airspace over an uninhabited island south of Tokyo.
U.S. officials tracked and monitored the bombers as two flew south along the Japanese coast, and two others flew farther east, coming closer to the Nimitz and the guided missile cruiser USS Princeton. As the bombers got about 500 miles out from the U.S. ships, four F/A-18 fighters were launched from the Nimitz, the official said. The fighters intercepted the Russian bombers about 50 miles south of the Nimitz. At least two U.S. F/A-18 Hornets trailed the bomber as it came in low over the Nimitz twice, while one or two of the other U.S. fighters followed the second bomber as it circled.

The official said there were no verbal communications between the U.S. and the Russians, and the Pentagon has not heard of any protests being filed by the United States. Historically, diplomatic protests were not filed in such incidents because they were so common during the Cold War era. This is the first time Russian Tupolevs have flown over or interacted with a U.S. carrier since 2004.
In that incident, a Russian Tupolev flew over the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk in the Sea of Japan on Jan. 29, 2004. Since then, however, relations between the U.S. and Russia have deteriorated to their worst point since the Cold War, largely due to the United States' plans to put a radar system in the Czech Republic and 10 missile defense interceptors in Poland. The U.S. has defended the plan as necessary to protect its European allies from possible attacks by Iran. But the Kremlin has condemned the proposal, saying it would threaten Russia's security. "We are being forced to take retaliatory steps," said Russian President Vladimir Putin, who also warned that a new arms race is under way. Japan, meanwhile, filed a formal protest with the Russian Embassy in Tokyo after Saturday's incident, saying that one of the Russian bombers crossed into Japanese airspace for three minutes. Russia has denied there was an intrusion.


Russia surprised by U.S. reaction to bomber flights

Russia expressed surprise on Tuesday that the United States had scrambled fighter jets at the weekend to intercept strategic Russian bombers, one of which flew over a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Pacific. Four U.S. F/A-18 fighters were launched after Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers flying south of Japan were detected turning towards the Nimitz aircraft carrier and its escort, a U.S. defense official said. One of the Russian bombers flew over the deck of the Nimitz, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. The U.S. fighters escorted the Russian bombers out of the area. "It is standard operating procedure for U.S. planes to escort aircraft flying in the vicinity of U.S. Navy ships," the U.S. defense official said. The Russian Air Force said the February 9 mission by four Tu-95s was part of long-distance patrols of the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans and the Black Sea begun in August last year. It said all flights were made over neutral waters, did not breach international borders and all concerned parties were notified in advance. "We are surprised by all the clamor this raised," RIA news agency quoted Russian Air Force spokesman Alexander Drobyshevsky as saying. A Russian bomber last flew over a U.S. aircraft carrier in July 2004, when a Bear flew over the USS Kitty Hawk in the Sea of Japan, the official said. Russian bombers have ramped up their flights near U.S. territory and U.S. naval assets over the past year, demonstrating their long-range strike capability. In August, Russian bombers were tracked flying a course toward Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific. Russian officials say they will revive some of the military power and reach lost following the collapse of the Soviet Union.


Russian Air Force to have new test site in North Caucasus

Russia will build a new Air Force training ground in the North Caucasus, set to be the country's largest, the Defense Ministry said on Monday. The site will be built near the Black Sea port of Taganrog for the North Caucasus Air Force and Air Defense Army. The facility will have state-of-the-art equipment to provide combat support to all types of aviation and antiaircraft systems, and will also be used to train Emergency Situations and Interior Ministry air forces. A Russian Air Force spokesman contacted by RIA Novosti declined to specify when the site will be opened.


In related news:

U.S. military assessing if Russia in Cold War pose

Washington is trying to gauge whether Russia's recent bomber mission near a U.S. aircraft carrier indicated Moscow's return to a Cold War "mind-set" and is considering how the Pentagon should respond, a senior U.S. military officer said on Tuesday. But other senior U.S. defense and Navy officials stressed they did not see Russia's weekend bomber flights south of Japan as provocative. Four U.S. fighter jets were scrambled on February 9 to escort Russian bombers that approached the USS Nimitz south of Japan. One Russian bomber flew over the deck of the aircraft carrier, escorted by a U.S. fighter jet.

Adm. Gary Roughead, U.S. chief of naval operations, downplayed the incident and said it reflected Russia's emerging naval power. "I think what we are seeing is a Russian military or Russian navy that is emerging and, in the case of the navy, desiring to emerge as a global navy," Roughead told reporters at the Pentagon. "I do not consider it to be provocative," he said of the bomber mission. But on Capitol Hill, another top U.S. military officer -- Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright -- said the Pentagon was trying to assess the implications of Russia's actions. "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," said Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The incident happened in neutral international airspace, Cartwright said. "We're just trying to go back and look at what message was intended by this overflight," he told a Senate panel. U.S.-Russian relations have become testy, with Washington concerned that Russian democracy is being eroded and Moscow complaining of U.S. interference. A dispute over U.S. plans to place missile defense assets in former Soviet-allied territory has also raised tensions. Russian officials have said they will revive some of the military power and reach that was allowed to collapse with the Soviet Union. "Russian long-range aviation has started to ramp up the number of sorties and the routes that they fly similar to the activity that they did during the Cold War," Cartwright told the committee.

The Russian Air Force said the mission by four Tu-95 bombers was part of long-distance patrols in the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans and the Black Sea that began last August. A Russian news agency quoted Air Force spokesman Alexander Drobyshevsky expressing surprise at "all the clamor this raised." The last time a Russian bomber flew over a U.S. aircraft carrier was in July 2004, and Russian bombers have increased their flights near U.S. territory to demonstrate their long-range strike capability. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat who raised the issue during the Senate hearing, said the Russian maneuver "sounds pretty provocative to me." Nelson said the Senate Armed Services Committee, of which he is a member, would look into the incident as well.


Air Force keeps eye on Russia, China

A new strategic plan for the service warns against 'ascendant powers' even as many within the military urge a focus on unconventional threats like terrorism and insurgencies.

The Air Force's top officer on Thursday presented a new strategic plan for the service that warns the U.S. cannot ignore "ascendant powers" seeking to challenge American military superiority as it fights low-intensity wars elsewhere. In his new plan, Gen. T. Michael Moseley, the Air Force chief of staff, did not name specific countries as potential challengers. But at a formal presentation, Moseley singled out military spending in Russia and China, noting both are rising at a rapid clip. Air Force officials said the new strategic plan, an 11-page "white paper," was the first since the early 1990s. It was presented at the Air University, the Air Force's premier war college. "Ascendant powers -- flush with new wealth and hungry for resources and status -- are posturing to contest U.S. superiority," the plan states. "These adaptive competitors are translating lessons from recent conflicts into new war-fighting concepts and doctrines specifically designed to counter U.S. strengths and exploit vulnerabilities."

In an interview, Moseley insisted he did not intend the new paper as an argument for shifting resources toward more conventional weapons systems, such as more F-22 fighters, that could be used against nation-state adversaries. He said the plan also cites a wide range of unconventional threats facing the U.S. in the future, pointing to a list that highlights both violent extremism and the rise of terrorist and criminal organizations as key challenges. "I think you have to deal with all of the above," Moseley said. "I think you have to be prepared to offer the president in our world sovereign options across a full spectrum, from humanitarian assistance all the way out to nuclear deterrence."

At the same time, Moseley argued in his Air University speech that some U.S. officials have ignored the importance of securing the skies, lulled into a false sense of security because recent conflicts have not involved air-to-air combat. "It is an interesting assumption in the world of Washington right now that the dominating piece of the air domain, air superiority, is somehow a given, is somehow a birthright," Moseley told the crowd of more than 1,200 military personnel, most of them Air Force officers. The new strategic plan, released at the midpoint of Moseley's four-year term as Air Force chief of staff, comes as the entire U.S. military engages in an increasingly intense internal debate over how it should be structured when the war in Iraq comes to an end.

Several senior officials, including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, have argued that the U.S. is likely to fight similar guerrilla-type enemies in the future and should weight its new organizations and funding toward irregular warfare and counterinsurgency priorities. At the same time, other officials, concerned about the rise of China and the renewed militancy of Russia under President Vladimir V. Putin, have warned against investing and training too heavily in low-grade warfare skills, concerned that more traditional war capabilities are eroding. In the interview, Moseley said he believes the Pentagon should continue focusing on counterinsurgency missions. But he said the military cannot afford to ignore other, more conventional contingencies.

"I believe the probability of having to fight nation-state to nation-state is low, [but] I think there's 100% probability we will have to fight their equipment," he said, noting that many of the sophisticated air defense systems and fighter planes being produced by China and Russia are being bought by militaries throughout the world. The strategic plan is even more explicit. It argues that an overemphasis on planning for wars like current conflicts could open up the U.S. military to an unwanted surprise. "We should not assume that future conflicts will resemble the current fight in Iraq or Afghanistan -- lest we lose the ability to project global power [and] deter nation-states," the paper says.


U.S. Intelligence Uncovers ‘Russian Threat’

Moscow is charged with energy arm-twisting and computer espionage

U.S. Congress held annual hearings on security issues, based on the report by National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell. Along with al-Qaeda, Iraq, and Iran, U.S. intelligence officials listed Russia and China among the outer threats. Moscow and Beijing are charged with using their growing economic influence in the world for advancing their own political goals, and with cyber-terrorism. Kommersant’s special correspondent Dmitry Sidorov reports from Washington. U.S. Senate Select Committee On Intelligence held annual hearings on national security issues, attended by top intelligence officials, including National Intelligence Director, Admiral Michael McConnell; CIA Director, General Michael Hayden; FBI Director Robert Mueller; Defense Intelligence Agency Director, Major General Michael Maples; and Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research Randall Fort. McConnell was the main speaker, presenting his 45-page-long report on the situation in 15 countries.

This year’s hearings are notable for the unexpected unanimity displayed by intelligence chiefs when discussing McConnell’s report. Covert competition among different agencies of U.S. intelligence passed into a proverb long ago. It is no secret that CIA officers are reluctant to share information with their colleagues from the National Intelligence, and vice versa. Also, the FBI always disliked people “across the river” (the CIA), and the latter reciprocated. This time, however, intelligence chiefs seemed to have undergone drastic changes: they did their best to display readiness for constructive cooperation. So, CIA head Michael Hayden underlined the recently-appeared progress in special services’ cooperation, which did not prevent him from making a cautious reservation, though. He said that overcoming the in-house code of conduct “will take certain time”. Meanwhile, McConnell’s report was as surprising as the climate at the hearings. Although the part devoted to Russia was not as extensive as the parts about Iraq, Iran, and al-Qaeda, it was the most sensational one. It is for the first time that the leading U.S. intelligence service listed Russia among chief threats to U.S. national security.

However, it turned out the U.S. special services believe it is not the only threat coming from Russia now. The second threat is cyber-terrorism. “We assess that nations, including Russia and China, have the technical capabilities to target and disrupt elements of the US information infrastructure and for intelligence collection,” said McConnell. “The assessment is based on the analysis of Russia’s last-year cyber-attack on Estonia at the height of the Bronze Soldier conflict, and some other actions of Russian special services,” explained a source close to the U.S. intelligence. The source refrained from giving specific examples, though. Speaking of the political situation inside Russia and its possible scenarios, the U.S. intelligence chief estimated it the following way: “In March, Russia is set to reach […] the first on-schedule change in leadership since communism and the first voluntary transfer of power from one healthy Kremlin leader to another.” By the way, McConnell avoided using the word ‘election’ when describing the upcoming authority change in Russia.

Moreover, McConnell said the process is “clouded, however, by President Putin’s declared readiness to serve as prime minister under his hand-picked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, a move that raises questions about who will be in charge of Russia after Putin’s presidential term expires in May”. “The Medvedev-Putin ‘cohabitation’ raises questions about the country’s future and the implications for Western interests.” “While many of the essential features of the current system are likely to endure, including weak institutions, corruption, and growing authoritarianism, we will be alert for signs of systemic changes such as an indication that presidential powers are being weakened in favor of a stronger prime minister, McConnell summed up the political situation in Russia. The report focuses on analyzing the instruments of Russian diplomacy’s pressure for the nearest four years, including energy-trade and military capabilities. U.S. intelligence services see the threat to U.S. and its western partners’ national security in Moscow’s energy policy as well. “Aggressive Russian efforts to control, restrict or block the transit of hydrocarbons from the Caspian to the West—and to ensure that East-West energy corridors remain subject to Russian control—underscore the potential power and influence of Russia’s energy policy,” said McConnell.

The official also noted teething changes in the Russian army which is overcoming “a long, deep deterioration in its capabilities that started before the collapse of the Soviet Union”. At the same time, McConnell believes the Russian army has not yet reached “Soviet era operations”, and “still faces significant challenges”, such as “demographic, health problems, and conscription deferments”. “Strategic nuclear forces remain viable, but Russia’s defense industry suffers from overcapacity, loss of skilled and experienced personnel, lack of modern machine tools, rising material and labor costs, and dwindling component suppliers,” adds McConnell. While discussing Russia, senators also touched upon Moscow’s relations with Iran. Senator Evan Bayh wondered why Russians supply nuclear fuel for atomic power plants to Iran. “Russians are in talks with Iran, using the supplies of fuel for its peaceful nuclear program to show that Moscow is keeping everything under control,” replied McConnell. “Russians also explain to Iranians they can expect a lot if they agree to the international community’s offers,” he added. “I hope the matter is precisely so,” replied Bayh. In his turn, Christopher Bond, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, evaded the question whether the U.S. regards Moscow’s military-equipment cooperation with Iran and Syria as a threat to its national security as well. “There is a whole range of threats,” said Bond evasively. “Each of them is quite serious, and I wouldn’t select any of them as the top one,” he said.

Meanwhile, a source close to the U.S. intelligence said the threats list includes a suspicion that Moscow-Tehran nuclear cooperation might be beyond the framework of current international agreements. Beside Russia, the Senate Committee also heatedly discussed Iraq, al-Qaeda, and special services’ methods applied against international terrorism, questioned not only by human rights defenders, but also by congressmen. Chief news was that U.S. intelligence top officials acknowledged facts of using the so-called water torture during the questioning of terrorism suspects. The torture makes a suspect feel as if they are drowning. When asked whether these prohibited methods were used, CIA Director Michael Hayden had to admit the practice indeed took place. However, he stressed that water torture was applied only to three high-ranking Al-Qaeda members, and not recently, but over five years ago.


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Dear reader,

Arevordi will be taking a sabbatical to tend to personal matters. New blog commentaries will henceforth be posted on an irregular basis. The comments board however will continue to be moderated on a regular basis.

The last 20 years or so has also helped me see Russia as the last front against scourges of Westernization, Globalism, American expansionism, Zionism, Islamic extremism and pan-Turkism. I have also come to see Russia as the last hope humanity has for the preservation of classical western civilization, Apostolic Christianity and the traditional nation-state. This realization compelled me to create this blog in 2010. Immediately, this blog became one of the very few voices in the vastness of cyberia that dared to preach about the dangers of Globalism and the Anglo-American-Jewish alliance, and the only voice preaching the strategic importance of Armenia remaining within Russia's orbit. From about 2010 to 2015 I did monthly, at times weekly, commentaries about Russian-Armenian relations and Eurasian geopolitics in general. It was very difficult as I had no assistance in this endeavor. The time I put into this blog therefore came at the expense of work and family. But a powerful feeling inside me urged me to keep going; and I did.

When Armenia finally joined the EEU and integrated its armed forces into Russia's military structures a couple of years ago, I finally felt a deep sense of satisfaction and relaxation, as if a very heavy burden was lifted off my shoulders. I finally felt that my personal mission was accomplished. I therefore felt I could take a step back, as I really needed the rest. Simply put: I have lived to see the institutionalization of Russian-Armenian alliance. Also, I feel more confident now that Armenians are collectively recognizing the strategic importance of Armenia's ties with Russia. Moreover, I feel satisfied knowing that, at least on a subatomic level, I had a hand in the outcome. As a result, I feel a strong sense of mission accomplished. I therefore no longer have the urge to continue as in the past. In other words, the motivational force that had propelled me in previous years has been gradually dissipating because I feel that this blog has lived to see the realization of its stated goal. Going forward, I do not want to write merely for the sake of writing. Also, I do not want to say something if I have nothing important to say. I feel like I have said everything I needed to say. Henceforth, I will post seasonal commentaries about topics I find important. I will however continue moderating the blog's comments section on a regular basis; ultimately because I'm interested in what my readers have to say and also because it's through readers here that I am at times made aware of interesting developments.

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