Russia has begun a major air defence programme, the first step of which is a radar station near St Petersburg.
I’ve blogged in the past about Russia’s newfound confidence, partially based on the assertiveness of president Vladimir Putin but partially on its oil wealth.
The defence project, which will continue until 2015 and is in response to US plans for a missile shield in Eastern Europe, is another example of this. However, it’s ominous in the context of what else the Russian military has been getting up to.
It has resumed flights into US and NATO-controlled airspace, for instance over Guam when US jets were scrambled to intercept the bombers.
Major General Pavel Androsov said:
Whenever we saw US planes during our flights over the ocean, we greeted them. On Wednesday, we renewed the tradition when our young pilots flew by Guam in two planes. We exchanged smiles with our counterparts who flew up from a US carrier and returned home.
However, a Pentagon spokesman said:
We prepared to intercept the bombers but they did not come close enough to a US Navy ship or to the island of Guam to warrant an air-to-air intercept.
Flights toward enemy territory was standard practice for both sides during the Cold War, when bombers and jets were constantly in the air as a deterrent and to enable a rapid response to any hostilities.
It’s worrying Russia has resumed the strategy, even if it was in response to a US military exercise. In a tense situation a slight error can have catastrophic consequences.
Also of concern is the deployment along the Georgian border. About 1,500 troops have been sent to the region to tackle “bandits”. Given the history between Russia and Georgia, this could be simply more manoeuvring and sabre rattling — particularly after the missile incident near South Ossetia.by