Drones, Balloons, and Other Silly Distractions

Today’s news is flooded with no end of stories about the provocative actions by the “unprofessional and irresponsible” Russians in knocking our MQ-9 drone out of the sky off the southern coast of Crimea, and “lying” about it.  

It isn’t clear to me what the Russians are lying about, or why that even matters. The truth is that current Russian/US relations are very poor. The Russians and the US are each using every opportunity to bad mouth the other in a never-ending propaganda war. If lying means distorting the truth for propaganda purposes, an excellent example is the difference between saying the Russian invasion of Ukraine was “unjustified” vs. saying it was “unprovoked.” We can have reasonable discussions about the former statement. The later statement is propaganda intended to deter reasonable discussion. And of course it is a factual lie. 

Irrespective of who said what, the video shows the truth. The Russians intended to down the drone, and most certainly wanted the US to know they did it. Yes, an SU-27 dumped fuel on the drone, with the clear intent of causing the drone engine to overspeed and shut down. When that didn’t work, the SU-27 pilot clipped the propeller. Flown by a competent pilot, there was little chance that action would bring down a SU-27, which is built like a tank. The Russians do sturdy, not elegant. The Russians also certainly knew the US operators would see the planes taking out their drone on the video feed. 

Secretary Austin and General Miley are now whining at DoD briefings about how the “unprofessional” behavior of those mean Russian pilots crashed their drone. I don’t know what unprofessional means in this context. If I’ve done the math correctly, we’re wasting more than the cost of that drone every hour of every day in support of Ukraine. What we should be asking ourselves is, “What is this really all about, and why are they making a big deal out of it?” 

The US intel community has satellites to do all the imaging and targeting it desires over Ukraine, Crimea, Russia and anywhere else of interest. So, what was a US Air Force drone doing 60 miles off the south coast of Crimea, in Russia’s declared Air Defense Identification Zone, with its transponder turned off? Presumably the drone was there for a valid military purpose. There are no US Navy ships in the Black Sea. DoD is saying the drone was unarmed. Maybe. Was it just out there in international waters cruising around to show it can? Doubtful. That’s not much of a show of strength. Could it have been there for purposes that represented a potential threat to Russia’s military in Crimea? Definite possibility. The attack on the Kerch bridge last year, for example, had to have been supported by a drone from somewhere. Perhaps the Russians are just paying more attention to their Southern flank as a result. 

Whatever this episode is really about, the Russians are clearly sending the Biden Administration a message. But what is it? Let’s start with how we would react if a belligerent nation flew surveillance platforms near/over US military facilities. Oh wait, that actually happened . . . and we shot them down! Our military and Biden just looked foolish in the process because we took so long to notice and do anything about it. 

Perhaps the Russians are suggesting in their own not so subtle way that we stop poking the bear in the eye at every opportunity. But being hard of hearing is the least of the Biden Administration’s problems. Provoking war in Ukraine and continuous escalation of the conflict isn’t a sign of Biden Administration strength. It’s a sign of stupidity. The Russians view the West’s actions regarding Ukraine as an existential threat to them. 

When you have to work as hard as this Administration is to try and look strong, it only makes it that much easier for the world to see how truly impotent you are. Our longstanding issues with the Russians have dramatically escalated under this Administration. They can now only be resolved in one of two ways:  World War III or in a cushy conference room in Geneva. 

Those who think there is a third option of the Russians capitulating are either being duplicitous or dreaming. The Neocons know the Russians would never capitulate. They’re nostalgic for the Cold War and trapped in a mindset that is no longer relevant. The Progressive liberals are foolish enough to think they can prevail because of their moral superiority. They’re trapped in a fantasy mindset about how they wish the world was, not how it is. Could there be an odder pair of bedfellows? Meanwhile, Biden fiddles while Ukraine burns. 

And against who exactly has this grand theory of escalation ever worked? Did it work against England in WWII, Germany at the end of WWII, North Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, anyone at all?  World War II was the right war for the right reasons and the world was transformed after for the better because of the wisdom of our leaders at the time.  

Unfortunately, we now have leaders in the West who have never fought in any war, have no understanding of the lessons of history, and have bought into nonsensical theories about how the world should operate, and expect the world to conform to their political dogma. 

Here’s a lesson of history they might find useful.  In every conflict since WWII, all the US has proven is that it can go into smaller countries that defy its hegemony with overwhelming capabilities to subdue them, maybe . . . and they still won’t give up. They always come back after the US gets tired and leaves. The message of the Cold War isn’t one of escalation, it is one of containment. That’s how we should be dealing with Russia. Wait them out. Eventually their system will collapse of its own weight. 

Until the Biden Administration, Russia and Germany were each other’s single largest trading partner. Russia provided cheap energy that Germany used to make it an economic powerhouse, and dramatically improved the standard of living in all of Europe. In what way have the events of the last couple of years been to Europe’s benefit? Not a single action that the EU and NATO have taken at the behest of the Biden Administration has worked out. What is Europe’s response to these dismal results? To keep doubling down on failure? 

Another lesson of history to consider is Russia’s war record. Oh, wait, they’ve never lost a conflict that they perceived as existential to their survival. They have more to lose than the West does. They are more committed than the West is. They have more nuclear weapons than the West does. Only fools opine that Russia would never use them . . . when the US has! 

I recommend the Geneva negotiating table as a far better option. I do suggest that the US send people who have the gravitas to negotiate effectively with Putin and Lavrov. Shall I provide a list? 

Photo credit:

‘Russian Knights’ air force group member flies over Monino airfield on his jet SU-27 during an aerial show to commemorate the 95th anniversary of Russian Air Forces outside Moscow, August 11, 2007 REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov