This make believe threat about Russian bombers is no different than the conversion announcement of BCE on the heels of the Telus announcement, both of whose conversions would have meant BILLIONS more in tax revenue for the government, but those who opposed the superior trust model and who control the press, spun it into a make believe threat. The Toronto Star included, the source of this article of today about “Russian bombers a make-believe threat” Commercial interests are behind most if not all make believe threats. Just ask the folks who control the Toronto Star who control the paper through the abuse known as multi-voting shares (like Frank Stronach of Magna), which was being threatened had Torstar acceded to its public shareholder wishes that it convert to an income trust.
Russian bombers a make-believe threat
August 30, 2010
Don Quixote is famous for attacking windmills that he imagines are giants. Stephen Harper and Peter MacKay have been tilting at make-believe enemies too, in the form of Russian planes in international airspace.
Last Wednesday, Harper’s communications director sent an email to journalists informing them that a pair of Tupolev TU-95 bombers had been intercepted by Canadian CF-18s some 30 nautical miles (56 kilometres) from our Arctic coastline.
“Thanks to the rapid response of the Canadian Forces,” Dimitri Soudas wrote, “at no time did the Russian aircraft enter sovereign Canadian airspace.”
Soudas was right about Canada’s airspace, which extends just 12 nautical miles (22 kilometres) from shore. But he was wrong to suggest that the Russian bombers were headed there.
His efforts at sensationalism were quickly short-circuited by a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command. “Both Russia and NORAD routinely exercise their capability to operate in the North,” Lt. Desmond James explained. “These exercises are important to both NORAD and Russia and are not cause for alarm.”
Indeed, earlier this month Russian, American and Canadian military personnel partnered in an exercise designed to coordinate their responses to possible hijackings of international flights.
Arctic foreign relations have never been better. Two years ago, ministers from all five Arctic Ocean countries publicly accepted the application of the law of the sea to their few remaining boundary disputes. Russian, American and Canadian diplomats are currently negotiating a multilateral treaty on search-and-rescue. And just last week, Russian Embassy spokesman Sergey Khudyakov reaffirmed that his country respects Canada’s “territorial integrity, including the vast Arctic territories under Canadian sovereignty.”
Yet the Harper government continues to mislead Canadians about the threat from Russian planes.
In February 2009, Peter MacKay waited nine days before revealing that two TU-95s had come within about 192 kilometres of Canada’s Arctic coastline. He carefully pointed out that the incident had occurred just one day before U.S. President Barack Obama visited Ottawa, and said: “I am not going to stand here and accuse the Russians of having deliberately done this during the presidential visit, but it was a strong coincidence.”
Later, when the Prime Minister was asked about the matter, he suggested that the Russian planes had actually entered Canadian airspace. “This is a real concern to us,” he said. “I have expressed at various times the deep concern our government has with increasingly aggressive Russian actions around the globe and Russian intrusions into our airspace.”
Then, as now, the inaccurate accusations were clearly not appreciated by the United States. NORAD commander Gene Renuart took the unusual step of publicly correcting the Canadian ministers. The four-star U.S. general told journalists: “The Russians have conducted themselves professionally; they have maintained compliance with the international rules of airspace sovereignty and have not entered the internal airspace of either of the countries.”
The public slaps on the Canadian wrist are indicative of the importance placed on improved U.S.-Russian relations by the Obama administration.
Obama has taken risks to promote that relationship, unilaterally revoking plans for U.S. missile defence installations in Poland and the Czech Republic and becoming the first American president to chair a meeting of the UN Security Council. The gamble paid off, with a unanimous resolution recommitting all five “declared nuclear weapon states” to negotiate toward the elimination of their nuclear arsenals.
In April, Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a treaty committing their countries to massive reductions in nuclear weapon stockpiles as well as new verification measures. The U.S. president then hosted 37 heads of government — including Stephen Harper — at a summit meeting on nuclear proliferation, securing commitments to safeguard nuclear material used in bombs, civilian nuclear reactors and power plants, and to strengthen international efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear arms.
Seen in this light, NORAD’s public corrections of Canadian statements take on much greater importance. By pretending that Russian planes pose a threat, Harper and MacKay are running interference against the United States — our largest trade and defence partner — in a major geopolitical game. Which raises the question, whose side are they on?
If anything, they would seem to be partnering with the Russian military, which is not above trying to stir things up — against the wishes of the Russian foreign ministry — by sending bombers over the Arctic Ocean at politically sensitive moments. Just as the Canadian Forces desire expensive new stealth strike-fighters, the Russian military seeks increased budgetary allocations for new ships and planes.
In Soudas’s email about the Russian bombers, he touted the “new, highly capable and technologically advanced” F-35s as “the best plane our government could provide our forces, and when you are a pilot staring down Russian long-range bombers, that’s an important fact to remember.”
Of course, the PM’s spokesman forgot to mention that Russia’s TU-95s are twice the age of Canada’s existing fleet of CF-18s.
The same ploy was used last month when, just after the announcement of the untendered F-35 purchase, the Conservatives first linked the new planes to a threat from Russian bombers. MacKay rejected accusations that the connection was made for political purposes. “I find it astounding there could be any suggestion that we would manufacture Russians approaching our airspace,” he said. “That’s bordering on ludicrous.”
But Don Quixote, instead of seeing windmills where there were none, chose to perceive their presence as threatening. Harper and MacKay have made a similarly choice — as they desperately seek to justify spending $16 billion we don’t have, on planes we don’t need.
Michael Byers holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of Who Owns the Arctic?
Monday, August 30, 2010
Posted by Brent Fullard at 9:20 AM