Friday, July 10, 2015
PUTIN HAS OVEREXTENDED HIS AIR FORCE
The flights began last year. The government of Russian President Vladimir Putin, eager to send a message, began flying nuclear bombers on training missions near the United States and its allies around the world. The message was one of intimidation and defiance: Russia is still a power to be reckoned with, and meddling in the Ukraine, Syria, and Russia itself — particularly on human rights issues — is not appreciated. Now, after months of aggressive flying, Russia's overworked air force is falling out of the sky. On July 5, a Su-24M tactical bomber crashed during takeoff at Khabarovsk in the Russian Far East. The plane banked sharply after takeoff and hit the ground. Both pilots were killed. Five Russian combat planes have crashed in the past month. Russia's attempt to demonstrate strength has backfired spectacularly and demonstrated weakness instead. In the past year, Russia has sent nuclear bombers to the borders of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Poland, the Netherlands, and Japan. In May, a pair of Su-24 bombers made a low pass over the destroyer USS Ross in the Black Sea, and Russian fighters have demonstrated "reckless" and "unprofessional"behavior near American spy planes over the Baltic Sea, prompting protests from the Pentagon.