Cold War Redux?

Another Russian plane buzzed the Nimitz earlier this week—the second such incident in a month. As Pavel Podrig noted, this one wasn’t actually a Tu-95 bomber; it was a naval recon aircraft (Tu-142), with an almost identical airframe as the Tu-95 (“Bear”). But the end result’s the same: heightened tensions. And don’t let the propellers on these things fool you. The Tu-95 is the only turboprop strategic bomber in existence; it’s still fully capable of flattening cities. (In fact, it was a Tu-95 that dropped the largest nuclear device ever detonated, back in the early 60s. Yeah, the early 60s. This thing’s old. Hey, so is the B-52.)

To set all this within the larger context: last year the Russian navy and air force resumed their Cold War patrol routes. Russian bombers routinely conduct exercises over the North Pole nowadays, and have the range to keep going if they wanted to. This is classic sabre-rattling, and reflects the extent to which Russia feels like it has to assert itself against U.S. encroachments—in particular, the plans to base missile shield components in Poland and the Czech Republic. Also, the goal of domestic consumption shouldn’t be minimized: Putin gets a bad rap in the West, but in Russia he’s extremely popular, all the more so as he’s seen as attempting to reverse the humiliations that Russia suffered in the 90s. So announcements in Moscow of carriers being subjected to faux attack runs play pretty well.

Of course, were this actually a hostile attack, the recon craft would be a hell of a lot higher, and they’d be accompanied by (and directing) swarms of bombers in from every direction, all of them with one thing on their mind: becoming the first pilots to bag a U.S. carrier since the Second World War. But let’s put things in perspective: Russia’s current military resurgence still leaves them well below the superpower status of the U.S.S.R. However, the Russians are clearly sending the message that they intend to claw back some lost ground, and we can thus expect more such incidents in the near future.

One Response to “Cold War Redux?”

  1. Yuri Gagarin Says:

    Asked what message he thought the Russians were sending, Roughead said, “I think what we are seeing is a Russian military, a Russian navy that is emerging, particularly in the case of the navy, desiring to emerge as a global navy.”