Russia delivers a message for post-superpower America as sequestration defense cuts loom
Russia delivered a powerful message to the United States just hours before President Obama's State of the Union address, one the American people are only just now beginning to learn about, starting with the conservative blogosphere. Bill Gertz of the Washington Free Beacon reports:
Two Russian nuclear-armed bombers circled the western Pacific island of Guam this week in the latest sign of Moscow's growing strategic assertiveness toward the United States.
The Russian Tu-95 Bear-H strategic bombers were equipped with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles and were followed by U.S. jets as they circumnavigated Guam on Feb. 12 local time-hours before President Barack Obama's state of the union address.
To understand the significance of this move, consider that Guam is home to Andersen Air Force Base, a major strategic installation and home to B-52 bombers. During the Vietnam War, many Guam-based bombers were used in combat. In the strategic realignment toward Asia that President Obama is pushing, Guam plays a key role, facing China and North Korea. It functions as an "unsinkable aircraft carrier capable of hosting the largest strategic weapons in the American arsenal. And now Russia has delivered the message that it is within their gunsights, that their bombers can fly within attack range with impunity.
John Bolton, former U.N. ambassador and former State Department international security undersecretary, said the Russian bomber flights appear to be part of an increasingly threatening strategic posture in response to Obama administration anti-nuclear policies.
"Every day brings new evidence that Obama's ideological obsession with dismantling our nuclear deterrent is dangerous," Bolton said. "Our national security is in danger of slipping off the national agenda even as the threats grow."
Defense officials said the bombers tracked over Guam were likely equipped with six Kh-55 or Kh-55SM cruise missiles that can hit targets up to 1,800 miles away with either a high-explosive warhead or a 200-kiloton nuclear warhead.
The TU-95 Bear is as old a design as the B-52, dating from the early 1950s. Its swept wing turboprop configuration and ultra-long range cruising capabilities make it still useful to Russia for long range patrols, the version currrently in use dating from the 1980s and 1990s. The civilian airliner derivative, the TU-114, was the long range workhorse of Aeroflot during the days of the Soviet empire, flying to far flung destinations like Vientiane, Laos, where I spotted one at the airport in 1972. When Nikita Khrushchev made his famous shoe-pounding visit to the United Nations in New York in 1960, he was delighted that there were no air stairs available at (then) Idlewild Airport that could reach the cabin passenger door, so that he descended on a ladder to the top of the air stairs rolled out to his airplane.
The last time American military installations in Guam grabbed much domestic attention in the United States was in March 2010, when Rep. Henry (Hank) Johnson (D-GA) questioned Admiral Robert F. Willard, Commander of U.S. Pacific Command: "My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize", to which Admiral Willard replied, "We don't anticipate that."
Rep. Johnson was subsequently re-elected to his seat twice by the good voters of his district, last time in 2012 with 73.6% of the vote. Rep. Johnson still serves on the House Armed Services Committee, and so is entrusted with responsibility for our defense against this Russian signal of a more aggressive posture. Presumably he still worried about the possibility of Guam tipping over, should American forces be augmented in response.
So relax, under President Obama and his close poltical ally Hank Johnson, the country's future is in the best of hands. Maybe.