The Mystery Of The Russian Planes That Never Were

Authored by Paul Rogers via,

Most analysts blame Vladimir Putin’s aggressive political stance for the renewed hostility between Russia and the western states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). The deteriorating relationship has been evident for a decade and more. The fallout from Moscow's interventions in Georgia / South Ossetia (2008), Ukraine / Crimea (2014), and Syria (2015), as well as its reported disruption in the United States presidential election (2016), are but the main episodes. Lesser ones include displays of military strength that attract wide coverage in the western media.  

Before looking in more detail at the latter, it is worth offering a touch of historical perspective on great-power interference. In particular, at a time when Moscow's role in the US election is hotly disputed, a certain degree of hollow laughter is appropriate given Washington's (and London's) own dedicated efforts to influence elections and other political processes in many countries over many decades.

One person involved in a Congressional investigation into CIA activities is Loch K Johnson, an experienced intelligence analyst at the University of Georgia. He characterizes Russia's recent election endeavor as simply a cyber-age version of past US activities:

We’ve been doing this kind of thing since the C.I.A. was created in 1947.  We’ve used posters, pamphlets, mailers, banners – you name it. We’ve planted false information in foreign newspapers. We’ve used what the British call ‘King George’s cavalry’: suitcases of cash" (see Scott Shane, "Russia Isn’t the Only One Meddling in Elections. We Do It, Too.", New York Times, 17 February 2018).

US actions have gone much further than merely trying to undermine elections – as indeed have Britain’s in the Middle East, including the overthrow of Iran's prime minister in 1953. These actions were memorably described by the much-decorated marine corps major-general, Smedley D Butler, in his memoirs:

I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

The bigger picture

All this puts Russia's own numerous machinations, past and present (including in its incarnation as the Soviet Union), in the larger frame of routine great-power politics. In this light too, another view is possible on Russia’s recent media-heightened projection of military force.

A case in point is the deployment of the aircraft-carrier Admiral Kuznetsov to the Mediterranean in January 2017, which provoked a great ruction in Britain's media. The vessel is in reality an ageing warship more than thirty years old, prone to repeated propulsion mishaps and apt to have much of its plumbing freeze up, including toilets. Since its home port was on Russia’s Arctic coast, this alone was a bit of a drawback (see "Britain's military: costs of failure, symbols of vanity", 26 January 2018).   

On the rare occasions when the carrier actually went to sea, it would be accompanied by an ocean-going tug in case it broke down. Indeed, when it finally got to the eastern Mediterranean in its recent deployment it lost two of its twelve strike-aircraft due to malfunctions. Most of the rest were eventually flown off to conduct their bombing raids from a Russian airbase within Syria, thus not from the Kuznetsov itself. In spite of all this, the ship's advance near to the UK's territory was still heralded in the British press as proof of a Russian threat and of the consequent need to increase military spending. 

The frequency of Russian probes towards British airspace is further cited by Britain's defense lobby as an even scarier indication of that threat. Regular reports of near incursions by those Tu-95 bombers, complete with accompanying videos, were offered as additional proof of Russia’s steady rise to global power (see "Russia and the west: risks of hype", 6 October 2016).

Russia may present many dangers, it may have plenty of nuclear weapons, and may have a leader determined to take risks to make Russia great again – but such reports of its frequent air incursions are anything but true.

A recent freedom-of-information request to the UK defence ministry, reported by Jane’s Defence Weekly, shows a rather different state of affairs. In each of the years 2013, 2014 and 2015, the RAF scrambled fighters on seventeen, twenty, and twelve days respectively: but many were not in response to Russian sorties, which stood at just eight for each of the years.

Moreover, in 2016 only five of the twelve days of "QRA" launches involved Russian aircraft, and in 2018 the incidence was only three out of six days (see Gareth Jennings, “UK notes marked decrease in number of days QRA intercepts flown against Russian aircraft", Jane's Defence Weekly, 12 February 2018).

Such results are starkly different from public perceptions, as cultivated by the media. They remain one of the sustained planks in the narrative of a new threat from Russia. Even the data on the Russia flights only came to light through dedicated inquiry to unravel the information. Meanwhile, alarmist defense sources say next to nothing about the huge cost overruns on Britain's own new aircraft-carriers, its nuclear-attack submarines and Trident replacements. The imbalance of attention is extreme.

Perhaps the best way to look at the big picture is with another of Smedley D Butler’s choice quotes, dating from 1935:

A few profit – and the many pay. But there is a way to stop it. You can't end it by disarmament conferences. You can't eliminate it by peace parleys at Geneva. Well-meaning but impractical groups can't wipe it out by resolutions. It can be smashed effectively only by taking the profit out of war.”


new game purplewarrior Thu, 03/01/2018 - 03:55 Permalink

i was thinking about this exact subject yesterday. what went though my mind was the spotting of russian subs and these air incursions.

all fuking bullshit. preparation for war with russia.

i hear putin is amassing chemical weapons and may trade around the petro dolla.


the cocksuken media fuks need their buildings  wtc7'd- fox cnn cbs abc. gone , mere symptoms

of the highest order of crime - manipulate, fleece, imprison for non-compliance.

nice future to look fwd to...

In reply to by purplewarrior

BennyBoy new game Thu, 03/01/2018 - 05:30 Permalink


"...take the profit out of war."

Take the banks out of war.

If you do go to war (declared or undeclared) immediately all bankers, bank employees and bank stock holders/bond holders go to the front. Age, sex, political connections don't matter. All within 1 week they go to the front being a grunt, nothing else, no medical excuses. Let them enjoy the profits of war


In reply to by new game

chinoslims Thu, 03/01/2018 - 02:31 Permalink

Without a boogeyman,  why would u need sdo many weapons that never attacked a first rate military?  


The Al Qaeda and ISIS thing got old lets shift to Russia.  The US dear not be hawkish towards the Chinese because that would be economic suicide and the US would probably finally lose its World Reserve Currency status. 

OverTheHedge chinoslims Thu, 03/01/2018 - 03:05 Permalink

Private MIC corporations produce weapons and munitions, which they sell at a profit. They have a huge incentive to have a theatre in which these weapons are used. All their shareholders (lots of politicians in that group) also have an incentive to have a war. And we expect the politicians to make peace? Politicians, who are the most thoroughly bought-and-paid-for people on the planet, beholden only to their bribers.

And we expect politicians to make peace.

The money is too much, the numbers too insanely high, and the control too complete. Even if / when a collapse comes, the impoverished people will be squeezed to keep the MIC churning along. Unless it is a total collapse, and then warlordism is the new democracy, and what does a warlord need?

Hard to be positive this morning. Sorry.

In reply to by chinoslims

Koba the Dread Thu, 03/01/2018 - 03:16 Permalink

" Most analysts blame Vladimir Putin’s aggressive political stance for the renewed hostility between Russia and the western states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)."

Those aren't analysts; they're propagandists.

swmnguy lakecity55 Thu, 03/01/2018 - 09:20 Permalink

The South Ossetia/Georgia incident was particularly egregious.  Israel and the US loaded Georgia with "advisers" and egged Saakashvili into an insane adventure.  When Russia was waiting and kicked Saakashvili's ass and killed a bunch of Israeli mercenaries, the US called Putin the aggressor.

For his loyalty, the US helped Saakashvili set up shop in Ukraine, where he had no business ever being, being fascist adventurers tend to flock together.  Even Poroshenko and the Ukie fascists had enough of Saakashvili's bullshit recently, so now he's hiding in Poland.

Eventually the Poles are going to get their hands on an atlas and realize that making alliance with an Empire on the other side of the world to piss off the Empire on their doorstep wasn't a brilliant idea.  Especially if the Poles also get a history book, and see how the US Empire treats its tools.  They could look up the sections on Noriega, Saddam Hussein, Diem and South Vietnam; the disposal heap of loyal US vassals is a deep, high, and stinky one.

In reply to by lakecity55

lakecity55 Thu, 03/01/2018 - 04:05 Permalink

"Minister, the Russians just launched a sortie from their own territory!"
"How dare they fly within a thousand miles of the UK! Scramble our fighters!"

shovelhead squid Thu, 03/01/2018 - 10:22 Permalink


Greenbacks. As long as the govt. can borrow from a bottomless pit of issued T bills and people buy them, then the song remains the same.

That is the fundamental flaw in the system. The limitless credit card not controlled by the people who will pay for it.

In reply to by squid

messystateofaffairs Thu, 03/01/2018 - 06:12 Permalink

WWIII is already underway. It is presently being manifested in propaganda war, proxy war, and economic war. Preparations are being made for direct conventional war in Syria and Ukraine and attempts to adjust weapon technology to win a nuclear war in the west and assure MAD in the east are underway. The intentions are clearly there and there is every likelihood that WWWIII will reach nuclear confrontation if the west doubts the reality of MAD.

geekz_rule Thu, 03/01/2018 - 06:24 Permalink

#HostLife - The people have been turned into "hosts" (a food source - rent payers) for the 1% inbred parasites (leeches - rent collectors) by the re-establishment of the "West Virginia Coal Mine Experience"™ (circa 1900). By incrementally monopolizing necessities (food, water, shelter, utilities), by debt expansion, and by wage suppression: we now work in the company "mines" (cube farms, whatever), live in the company housing (mortgage), shop in the company store (credit card debt), pay MONOPOLY prices for necessities. Cradle to grave slavery to a small collection of "Nanny" Transnational Corporations (all owned at the top by a handful of banksters)

Sandmann Thu, 03/01/2018 - 07:35 Permalink

British and US aircraft used to land and take off from Soviet airfields in early-1940s. RAF planes bombed Tirpitz from bases in USSR.

Soviet planes even bombed Tirpitz in Norway.


Rex Andrus Thu, 03/01/2018 - 08:40 Permalink

Media awareness makes the drums of war sound like the arab man beating off with intent at every stupid shiksa tourist out of burka. Might want to use more photoshop, spooks. We've seen your catalog so many times its on Nickelodeon. Considering how much they fleeced us for all this bullshit it's amazing how low grade their actors & material is. Gallows await.

LaugherNYC Thu, 03/01/2018 - 11:28 Permalink

Thanks for the info, Russian troll.

Look, we can sort this shit out for ourselves. We dont need your propaganda bullshit.

Please spare us the Russia is a victim garbage. Vlad is the king of the kleptocrats, and one of the chief reasons your economy is the size of Widdle France. Maybe if your leaders stopped stealing ALL of the money, there’d be some left for you. I mean, our leaders only steal about HALF of the money, so there’s plenty left to grow.

Really, stop invading our space with your propaganda and lies. The MIC doesn’t need to invent reasons to spend more. Russia, like every big power since the beginning of mankind, is a virulent, aggressive, imperialist nation again after the latest iteration failed in the early 80s. Until you get rid of the kleptocrats, it will fail again, or nuke the world. Either way, you lose.