Exactly a month ago, Russia took it up a notch in Syria by deploying Tupolev Tu-95 Bears, Tu-22 Blinders, and Tu-160 Blackjacks in the fight against anti-Assad elements including ISIS and al-Nusra.
The first footage of the strategic long-range bombers in action surfaced on November 17 and served notice that Moscow is willing to double down on its commitment to the fight even if securing key cities like Aleppo proves more challenging that The Kremlin originally anticipated.
According to Gen. Anatoly Konovalov, deputy commander of Russia’s long-range aviation force, Moscow’s long-range warplanes have carried out 145 sorties against terrorist targets since mid-November. “In total, long-range aviation aircraft in Syria have carried out around 145 mission sorties, some 1,500 bombs have been dropped and about 20 cruise missiles have been fired," Konovalov said.
Those who have followed the Syrian conflict might recall that in early September (so before Moscow made Russia’s involvement “official”) the US pressured Greece to deny Russia use of its airspace on supply runs to Latakia. Subsequently, Bulgaria said it had "enough serious doubts about the cargo of the planes” to refuse overflight privileges.
Well in the course of detailing Russia’s long-range bomber missions, Konovalov noted that the Tu-160s were forced to fly from the airfield of Olenegorsk in Russia’s northwestern Murmansk Region.
Why is this notable, you ask? Here's Konovalov again: “Europe didn’t let us fly; Turkey didn’t let us fly, but we showed that even is such conditions we’re capable of coping with the task using airfields on the Russian territory."
In other words, Europe and Turkey declined to allow Russia to use their airspace on the way to conducting airstrikes against the very same terrorists that attacked Paris just four days before the long-range warplanes were deployed to the fight in Syria. "Russian pilots had to leave for Syria from Russia’s northernmost Olenegorsk military airport in order to bypass Europe and then cross the Mediterranean Sea toward Syria," Sputnik adds.
As for the EU, the refusal likely stems from the long-running dispute over Ukraine and the attendant economic sanctions which are of course part and parcel of generally frosty relations between Brussels and Moscow. As for Turkey, it's fairly obvious why Ankara is seeking to make life difficult for the Russians. The two countries are embroiled in an intense war of words following Erdogan's move to down a Russian fighter jet near the Syrian border and like closing the Bosphorus, hampering Russian bombers' path to Syria by declning overflight is just one more way for Ankara to impede Moscow's efforts to shore up Assad.
At the end of the day, this is still more evidence that when it comes to "cooperation" in the war on terror, one side isn't doing its part.