Peter Hitchens: The Truth About the “Russian Menace”.

Peter Hitchens has written a good article on the recent hysteria surrounding Russia as the new Great Bogeyman. American liberals are desperate for any reason why they can blame Granny Hill’s election loss on something other than the obvious: that voters didn’t like her. And Neoconservatives are simply being ol’ faithful, refusing to give up on the grand dream of a cataclysmic war with Russia that can rival or even surpass the drama of World War II. What fun! Meanwhile, other conservatives cannot understand the idea that Russia is no longer the Communist empire it once was.

The point Hitchens makes is this: Russia is not a serious threat to anyone in the West – so why do we blow huge amounts of cash every year to threateningly parade troops and missiles around their borders?

From the Peter Hitchens Blog:

‘Russian aggression in the Caribbean sparks fears of new Cold War’. Sorry, no it doesn’t… but I suspect you’d be inclined to believe if it if you read the following:

‘Russia last week deployed strategic nuclear bombers in the Caribbean, while Russian naval infantry simulated an air assault nearby.

Russian heavy artillery also took part in a major live firing exercise in the Kaliningrad exclave, a few miles from Polish and Lithuanian NATO territory. This is typical of Russia’s aggressive posture in the new Cold War.’

Actually, I made all that up. Here is what actually happened, as reported in yesterday’s (June 18 2017) Sunday Times :

‘Russia’s western exclave of Kaliningrad was surrounded on three sides by Nato forces yesterday at the start of an unprecedented set of summer war games.

‘Operation Sabre Strike 2017 includes the first full deployment of America’s strategic nuclear bombers and a simulated air assault by the Royal Marines in the Baltics.

‘The “historic” deployment of all three types of US strategic nuclear bomber — B-52, B-1 and the B-2 stealth aircraft — is to show American commitment to “ready and posture forces focused on deterring conflict”, said Lieutenant-General Richard Clark, a US airforce commander.’

The report correctly points out that Kaliningrad, once the German city of Koenigsberg, is the base for Russia’s Baltic Fleet and houses Iskander missiles with a range of 300 miles and nuclear capability. But the Russian presence in Kaliningrad is long-established, and is the consequence of the war started by Hitler’s Germany in 1941 and won by Stalin’s USSR in 1945. Kaliningrad became an exclave only after the secession of the Baltic states from the USSR in 1991, a secession which post-Communist Russia has never done anything to prevent or reverse, despite the foolish mistreatment of Russian minorities in the Baltics, and their aggressive decision to join the anti-Russian NATO military alliance in 2004, after 13 years of unhindered independence. The deployment of the Iskander missiles also came *after* many years of NATO expansion on Russia’s western frontiers.

The report also notes that Moscow, in what was probably a response to this and other NATO manoeuvres in the Baltic,  for the first time sent two Tu-160 strategic nuclear bombers  on a flight through the southern part of the Baltic, along with fighters and a spy plane.  I should mention here that NATO has for some years been flying military planes close to Russian airspace in this region, an activity seldom mentioned in Western media – though Russian flights in the North Sea and Atlantic (which do not violate Western airspace, despite claims and beliefs to the contrary) are widely reported, as are Russian warships using the Channel, an international waterway open to ships of all nations.

I should also mention, in explanation of the made-up first paragraph of this posting, that Russia has a relation to the Baltic similar to that which the USA has to the Caribbean. As well as the naval base of Kaliningrad, Russia’s second city and former capital, now called St Petersburg, lies on the Baltic littoral. This city is painfully vulnerable to outside attack. Within living memory it was besieged by German troops, an episode in which unknown but huge numbers of civilians starved to death. The event is movingly described in a superb novel by the late Helen Dunmore ‘The Siege’, which I recommend to any who wish to get an impression of the importance of this event in the Russian mind.

Russia, since the fall of the USSR,  has of course abandoned any serious military or intelligence operations in Cuba and thus the Caribbean. It cannot afford them, apart from anything else.  Some years ago I was able to view abandoned Soviet electronic spying equipment in the Cuban town of Guantanamo ( not to be confused with the nearby US naval base). But some readers may remember how much the USA (quite reasonably) objected to the presence of Russian forces in Cuba in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

So what are American forces doing in the Baltic, 26 years after the USSR collapsed and the Cold war ended? What hard evidence is there of the constantly alleged Russian menace to the Baltic states?  As Vladimir Lenin would have asked , ‘Who Whom?’

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