ISSN 2330-717X

Brinksmanship, But By Whom? Russia Or The US? – OpEd

By

US news reports on an incident Tuesday in which two Russian jet fighters buzzed very close to a US destroyer, the USS Donald Cook, in the Baltic Sea, make it sound like a serious threat in which the US might have been justified in defending itself against a simulated attack on the high seas.

Nowhere in the reports in the US was it mentioned that the Cook was itself engaging in provocative behavior.

The Baltic Sea is an international waterway, bordering the countries of Denmark, Germany, Poland, Russia, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Finland and Sweden and as such, if the US wants to sail a military ship there, it has every right to do so. But honest reporting on this incident should have included that the Cook wasn’t just sailing around innocently in the open waters of the Baltic. It had moved to within a 70-mile radius of the Russian port enclave of Kaliningrad — an isolated and thus sensitive part of Russian territory located on the Baltic coast that is bounded by Lithuania and Poland and thus is separated from the rest of Russia. Kaliningrad is the site of a major Russian naval base, and is also home to 500,000 Russian people.

Here’s a map of Kaliningrad showing the 70-mile radius within which the USS Cook had positioned itself at the time of the multiple flybys by two Russian Su-24s (and where it was engaging in landing and takeoff exercises with Polish military helicopter.

The US reporting on this whole incident has been hysterical.

CNN’s Pentagon reporter said the jets were “demonstrating a simulated strafing run” and implied that it was dangerous because “if it had been a real strafing run, we wouldn’t have known it until it was too late.” Of course, Russia and the US are not at war, so why would Russia have strafed a US destroyer? The reporter didn’t say. Instead, he said the ship’s commander deserved “kudos” for keeping his cool and not loosing the ships anti-aircraft defenses on the two jets.

The Russian jets, it should be noted (but wasn’t in this report until late in the piece), were not armed, with no missiles mounted on the wings. The Cook, on the other hand, is armed not only with deadly defensive anti-aircraft weapons, but also with offensive (and potentially nuclear-tipped) Tomahawk cruise missiles, making its maneuvers in and around the Russian base and Russian territory anything but innocent.

Other US news reports were similarly breathless and one-sidedly jingoistic in their reporting about the encounter.

In fact, there was nothing dangerous about the incident at all except if the US ship’s crew had been foolish enough to respond to the harassment by shooting down the planes. (in truth, nobody on the US vessel seems to have been particularly anxious about the Russian jets zipping by them.)

A fairer reporting job might have speculated as to how US forces would have responded, had a Russian cruise-missile-armed frigate or destroyer approached within 70 miles of naval bases at Newport News, Virginia, or San Diego, or perhaps the Pensacoula Naval Air Station on the coast of Florida just east of Mobile in the Gulf of Mexico. See map below, to understand to how near the USS Cook was to Kaliningrad when it was buzzed.

Under international maritime laws, a country can claim the waters within 12 miles of its coast to be “territorial waters,” and can exclude foreign ships within that distance, but when it comes to military bases, and countries that a country views as potentially rivals, such as the US and Russia or China, ships further off from a base are liable to be surveilled and maybe even harassed if they approach. I’m guessing if a Russian warship were to get within 70 miles of a US Naval installation, it would, like the USS Cook, find itself being buzzed by US Navy attack planes, or visited by US Coast Guard vessels.

And remember, while US government officials keep referring to Russian aggression (falsely claiming, for example, the the Russian Army “invades” Ukraine and especially the erstwhile Ukrainian territory of Crimea, it has actually been the US that has been taking a very aggressive stance towards Russia. This has been true ever since the US backed a coup in Ukraine, which ousted the elected pro-Russian leader of that country and installed a fascist anti-Russian government that then launched a war against the Russian minority in Eastern Ukraine. The US lately has been moving offensive weaponry into Poland, Estonia and other countries bordering Russia in what can only be seen as threatening moves, while leading an embargo against Russia –itself an act of economic warfare.

It is in light of these aggressive US moves that the USS Cook’s incursion near Kaliningrad has to be seen, and also the Russian aerial response to it.

But that kind of reporting is absolutely absent from US corporate media reports on this incident, which instead simply parrot the Pentagon and State Department line and present it all as an example of Russian “brinksmanship.”

Click here to have Eurasia Review's newsletter delivered via RSS, as an email newsletter, via mobile or on your personal news page.

Dave Lindorff

Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. He is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective. Lindorff is a contributor to "Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion" (AK Press) and the author the author of “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press). He can be reached at [email protected]

3 thoughts on “Brinksmanship, But By Whom? Russia Or The US? – OpEd

  • April 16, 2016 at 7:22 am
    Permalink

    Sounds Like Mr Lindorff should go live with his buddies in Russia, being the traitor he is.!

    Reply
  • April 18, 2016 at 6:32 pm
    Permalink

    You can sardonically talk treason all you want with your programmed proudly ignorant mind, but you have yet to explain why the US must have 1000 bases encircling the globe and a multitude of alliances when no other nations require such expensive nonsense. Who benefits from this except the military industrial complex, the US superrich and their “hacks”? Certainly not the US soldier, since he or she is the one who will have to face the music when the corrupt politicians start a shooting war. You should be reading what a true soldier of our nation, a guy who used his noggin, Gen. Smedley Butler, said about the uses of the American imperial military:

    _______________QUOTE

    I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902–1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents. —UNQUOTE

    Smedley Darlington Butler[1] (July 30, 1881 – June 21, 1940) was a United States Marine Corps major general, the highest rank authorized at that time, and at the time of his death the most decorated Marine in U.S. history. During his 34-year career as a Marine, he participated in military actions in the Philippines, China, in Central America and the Caribbean during the Banana Wars, and France in World War I. Butler is well known for having later become an outspoken critic of U.S. wars and their consequences, as well as exposing the Business Plot, an alleged plan to overthrow the U.S. government.

    By the end of his career, Butler had received 16 medals, five for heroism. He is one of 19 men to receive the Medal of Honor twice, one of three to be awarded both the Marine Corps Brevet Medal and the Medal of Honor, and the only Marine to be awarded the Brevet Medal and two Medals of Honor, all for separate actions.

    In 1933, he became involved in a controversy known as the Business Plot, when he told a congressional committee that a group of wealthy industrialists were planning a military coup to overthrow Franklin D. Roosevelt, with Butler selected to lead a march of veterans to become dictator, similar to other Fascist regimes at that time. The individuals involved all denied the existence of a plot and the media ridiculed the allegations. A final report by a special House of Representatives Committee confirmed some of Butler’s testimony.

    In 1935, Butler wrote a book entitled War Is a Racket, where he described and criticized the workings of the United States in its foreign actions and wars, such as those he was a part of, including the American corporations and other imperialist motivations behind them. After retiring from service, he became a popular activist, speaking at meetings organized by veterans, pacifists, and church groups in the 1930s.

    My father shipped out with the USN, and with several of my family in or having served in the USMC I am quite aware of what the US military is or isn’t. But whatever it may be, what it should never be is free muscle for the corporations.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.