Tu-160 as a means of persuasion
The landing of Tu-160 heavy bombers at the Libertador airfield in Venezuela is the latest step in the new Cold War.
This is a clear show of force. The United States, which is deploying its own security system in Eastern Europe, should think about the risk posed by its potential enemy’s combat aircraft appearing in its own backyard. Moreover, Russian warships will soon be plying Venezuelan waters. The two countries are planning to hold joint naval military exercises.
These games started in the 19th century when global confrontation was unfolding between the Russian and British empires. Both sides used ships to fly their flags in key regions. This is how they signalled each other their readiness and ability to defend their interests.
The appearance of Russian bombers in the Caribbean can be interpreted in various ways. Geopolitically, this step is designed to remind Washington of the need to listen to what other countries have to say. After all, if the United States is deploying more and more military sites near the Russian borders, it would be strange not to expect an adequate response from Moscow. The landing of Tu-160 bombers capable of carrying considerable nuclear ordnance shows that such a response is possible.
Militarily, the landing of the Russian bombers is nothing extraordinary, but the possibility of their regular appearance in the region should compel the United States to think about its vulnerability.
Historically, the main U.S. air and missile defence forces face the North Pole, as the main directions of potential nuclear strikes pass over the Arctic Ocean. As a result, the southern direction is much less protected, and the emergence of a potential threat from the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico will come as a very unpleasant surprise, considering that the Pentagon’s budget is already overstretched.
The United States should understand that its attempts to isolate Russia through expanding NATO and deploying missile defence elements will lead nowhere. Moscow will find an adequate military response as well as the countries ready to help it overcome the NATO barrier, which is not insurmountable even now. Eventually, this understanding should prompt the United States to work for compromise. However, the messianic mentality of many American politicians, including presidential nominee John McCain, may prevent Washington from reaching compromise.
They are absolutely convinced that they are right, and do not care for the other side’s position. This attitude can only aggravate any conflict. If Mr. McCain wins the presidential elections, he is not likely to unleash a third world war, but the conflict between Russia and the United States may well backslide into the direct military confrontation of the 1960s-1980s, aggravated by the global economic crisis.
At the same time, Russia cannot accept a situation where European security architecture is being built without it, and mostly against it. Moreover, the designs for it are being made by a country that is not even part of Europe.
National security interests require that Russia’s opinion should be considered. The United States will either recognise Russia’s right to vote on European security, or will have to face totally new methods of persuasion. At one time, to have U.S. missiles removed from Turkey, the Soviet Union did not stop at unleashing the Cuban missile crisis. Soviet missiles were soon withdrawn, but the goal was achieved. Having realised the extent of threat, the United States removed its missiles from the Soviet borders.
It is very uncomfortable to live in a world where superpowers use thermonuclear arguments to persuade each other of the need to think about collective security. Hopefully, the landing of Tu-160 bombers and the appearance of warships will be enough to make the United States think about the potential risks.
[Source: The Hindu, Moscow, 13Sep08]
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