FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Brinksmanship, but by Whom? Russia…or the US?

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.”

More articles by:

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
March 27, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Bailouts for the Rich, the Virus for the Rest of Us
Louis Proyect
Life and Death in the Epicenter
Paul Street
“I Will Not Kill My Mother for Your Stock Portfolio”
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The Scum Also Rises
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Stimulus Bill Allows Federal Reserve to Conduct Meetings in Secret; Gives Fed $454 Billion Slush Fund for Wall Street Bailouts
Jefferson Morley
Could the Death of the National Security State be a Silver Lining of COVID-19?
Ruth Hopkins
A Message For America from Brazil’s First Indigenous Congresswoman
Kathleen Wallace
The End of the Parasite Paradigm
Anthony DiMaggio
Misinformation and the Coronavirus: On the Dangers of Depoliticization and Social Media
Andrew Levine
Neither Biden Nor Trump: Imagine Cuomo
David Rosen
God’s Vengeance: the Christian Right and the Coronavirus
David Schultz
The Covid-19 Bailout: Another Failed Opportunity at Structural Change
Evaggelos Vallianatos
In the Grip of Disease
Edward Leer
Somebody Else’s World: An Interview with Kelly Reichardt
Robert Fisk
What Trump is Doing in the Middle East While You are Distracted by COVID-19
Daniel Warner
COVID-19: Health or Wealth?
Thomas Klikauer – Norman Simms
Corona in Germany: Hording and Authoritarianism
Ramzy Baroud
BJP and Israel: Hindu Nationalism is Ravaging India’s Democracy
Richard Moser
Russia-gate: the Dead But Undead
Ron Jacobs
Politics, Pandemics and Trumpism
Chris Gilbert
Letter From Catalonia: Alarming Measures
Richard Eskow
Seven Rules for the Boeing Bailout
Jonathan Carp
Coronavirus and the Collapse of Our Imaginations
Andrew Bacevich
The Coronavirus and the Real Threats to American Safety and Freedom
Peter Cohen
COVID-19, the Exponential Function and Human the Survival
César Chelala - Alberto Luis Zuppi
The Pope is Wrong on Argentina
James Preston Allen
Alexander Cockburn Meets Charles Bukowski at a Sushi Bar in San Pedro
Jérôme Duval
The Only Oxygen Cylinder Factory in Europe is Shut down and Macron Refuses to Nationalize It
Neve Gordon
Gaza Has Been Under Siege for Years. Covid-19 Could Be Catastrophic
Alvaro Huerta
To Survive the Coronavirus, Americans Should Learn From Mexicans
Prabir Purkayastha
Why the Coronavirus Pandemic Poses Fundamental Challenges to All Societies
Raouf Halaby
Fireside Chatterer Andrew Cuomo for President
Thomas Drake
The Sobering Realities of the American Dystopia
Negin Owliaei
Wash Your Hands…If You Have Water
Felice Pace
A New Threat to California’s Rivers:  Will the Rush to Develop Our Newest Water Source Destroy More Streams?
Ray Brescia
What 9/11 Can Teach Us About Responding to COVID-19
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
The Covid-19 Opportunity
John Kendall Hawkins
An Age of Intoxication: Pick Your Poison
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Propaganda Virus: Is Anyone Immune?
Nicky Reid
Fear and Loathing in Coronaville Volume 1: Dispatches From a Terrified Heartland
Nolan Higdon – Mickey Huff
Don’t Just Blame Trump for the COVID-19 Crisis: the U.S. Has Been Becoming a Failed State for Some Time
Susan Block
Coronavirus Spring
David Yearsley
Lutz Alone
CounterPunch News Service
Letter from Truthdig’s Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer to the Publisher Zuade Kaufman
CounterPunch News Service
Statement From Striking Truthdig Workers
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail