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Sunday, 1 May 2016

Russia Intercepts Another US Plane Flying Near Its Territory

[ Ed. note – This latest intercept, over the Baltic Sea, comes after:
  • the intercept of a US spy plane near Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula on April 21
  • an earlier intercept over the Baltic Sea, on or about April 18
  • the buzzing of the USS Donald Cook, also in the Baltic, on April 12
Intercepts are common, almost routine, but of course these come at a time of heightened tensions, with the US accusing Russia of carrying them out in an “unsafe” manner. At the same time, violence in the Syrian city of Aleppo has ramped up dramatically, with some 200 civilians killed in the past week, this occurring–probably not coincidentally–at the same time as the US has announced it will send some 250 additional ground forces into the country. Meanwhile, the US has rejected a call by Russia for Al-Qaeda-allied rebel groups in Syria to be designated as terrorists. Is all this a prelude to a US ground war in Syria in an effort to topple President Bashar Assad? If it is, we could be on the threshold of World War III.
A passage from an article posted Thursday at the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is worth taking note of here. Keep in mind what you’re reading is US government propaganda, so you sort of have to read and dissect between the lines:
Earlier in the year, a coalition of Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) troops, Hizballah fighters, and Iraqi Shi’ite militias fought side by side with the Syrian military to break the battle lines of the anti-Assad rebels who have held northern Syria for years. IS took full advantage of this situation and launched its own offensive, capturing large amounts of territory as its fighters pushed west from their strongholds and north toward the Turkish border. Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters to the west also launched an offensive against the struggling anti-Assad rebels, and a small group of those rebels are now trapped.
The rebels in the area east of Azaz had been making gains against IS in early April, but by the middle of the month that progress had now been reversed. While it’s dangerous to ever take the word of jihadist propaganda as truth, the presence of the A-10 in this area would suggest that the United States is providing close air support for the anti-Assad rebels as they push back against IS — a level of coordination between the United States and local ground forces typically reserved for Iraq or eastern Syria.
If the United States is conducting air strikes against IS, and in support of anti-Assad rebels, it may be an attempt to protect the Turkish border and reassure a frustrated NATO ally. However, IS is still making gains. On April 27, there were reports that IS had captured five rebel-held villages, including Dudyan, west of Al-Rai and right on the Turkish border. IS is now close to closing off and destroying the anti-Assad rebels who are defending their most important border crossing — and the only one they still control in northern Aleppo.
What the writer seems to be doing is presenting a justification–or at least it could be construed as that–for  an expanded US military role in Syria. If the Syrian government and its allies had simply left the poor “struggling anti-Assad rebels” alone, and allowed them to continue occupying Aleppo and terrorizing the local population, then none of these terrible things would be happening–this is more or less what we’re being told here, and the article also seems to ply the well-worn talking point that Assad is a “magnet” for jihadists and the that only way to bring peace to the region is by overthrowing him and setting up a “democratic” and pro-Western government in his place.
Just close your eyes, click your heels together three times, and repeat, “It’s all about democracy…” Whether it’s setting up NATO bases on Russia’s border, overthrowing the government of Syria, or sending reconnaissance flights out over the Baltic with their transponders off, just remember–“it’s all about democracy…it’s all about democracy…” ]
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‘Stay Away from Russian Borders or Keep Transponders on’: Russian Ministry of Defense
Russian Defense Ministry suggests US surveillance planes should either keep their distance from Russian borders while performing flights over the Baltic Sea, or at least keep aerial transponders switched on for identification.
There are two solutions for the US Air Force [operating in the Baltic Sea]: either do not fly near our borders, or turn on transponders for automatic identification by our radars,” Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said in an official statement on Saturday.
The statement comes after a Russian fighter jet intercepted a US surveillance plane, which was spotted in international airspace above the Baltic Sea on Friday with the transponder switched off.
The RC-135U reconnaissance plane is frequently trying to sneak up to the Russian border with the transponder off. Our anti-aircraft defense has to order our fighters off the ground simply to visually identify the type of aircraft and its ID number,” Konashenkov explained.
A Russian Sukhoi Su-27 performed a barrel roll within 25 feet from the US plane, with the Pentagon describing the move as “dangerous” and “unprofessional.”
We are already starting to get used to insults coming from the Pentagon regarding the alleged “unprofessional” maneuvers when our fighters intercept the US spy planes near Russian borders.
Yet, all flights of Russian aircraft are held in accordance with international regulations on the use of airspace,” Konashenkov states, adding that another reconnaissance aircraft  Boeing OC-135B – has landed in Ulan-Ude earlier on Saturday under an international “Treaty on Open Skies,”  and “no one raised the fighters to identify it.
Fifteen days prior to this latest incident, on April 14, another Su-27 fighter jet conducted a barrel roll over another US reconnaissance plane, and between April 11 and 12, the USS Donald Cook ship was flown over by Su-24 fighter jets, with the Pentagon releasing footage.
The deputy head of Russia’s Upper House committee for defense and security Frants Klintsevich commented on the frenzy over the latest incidents in Baltic airspace, saying the fizzbuzz has a clear goal – to put a smokescreen for NATO plans to deploy additional troops in Eastern Europe.
It is now completely clear why the United States needed a hype around the interception of the US spy plane over the Baltic Sea and the incident with the destroyer Donald Cook.
It was to prepare the information space for deploying four additional NATO battalions to the Baltic region […] On the tip from US, the North Atlantic alliance continues its strategy of encircling Russia,” Klintsevich said, as quoted by his press service. He also noted that the turmoil began immediately after the latest Russia-NATO Council meeting, throwing into question the expediency of such gatherings.
Moscow has been unhappy with the NATO military buildup on Russia’s borders for some time now, with Russia’s envoy to NATO Aleksandr Grushko stating that Moscow would definitely compensate militarily for an “absolutely unjustified military presence.
According to the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act, the permanent presence of large NATO formations at the Russian border is banned. Yet some voices in Brussels are saying that since the NATO troops stationed next to Russia are going to rotate, this kind of military buildup cannot be regarded as a permanent presence.

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