by Whitney Pitcher
In the past month, Russian bombers have twice been involved in arctic war games near U.S. airspace around Alaska. The first time began on the same day as a meeting between President Obama and Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, on June 18th and continued until June 25th. An article at the Free Beacon notes that two key Alaskan sites may be potential targets in exercise—the missile defense base at Ft. Greely and the Trans Alaska pipeline which is responsible for transporting about 11% of America’s oil.
The article later goes on to quote Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, a former Alaska North American Aerospace Defense commander:
“The Russians continue to exercise our air defense identification zone, which shows Mr. Putin loves to let President Obama know that they still have global capability,” McInerney said in an interview. “So much for reset.”
McInerney also said the Obama administration kept the encounter between the bombers and U.S. fighters secret because “they obviously don’t want the world to know that the exercise was done deliberately to coincide with the Obama-Putin summit.”
The Free Beacon article also notes that similar exercises were performed by the Russian Air Force in 2007. An article at the American Enterprise Institute notes the same as well (emphasis mine):
Just as concerning as Russia’s building of a new bomber is its eagerness to flaunt its old ones. Since 2007, Russia’s Air Force has increased the number of exercises it conducts near U.S. air space around Alaska, and according to Bill Gertz, American and Canadian Air Force fighters intercepted two Russian bombers that crossed into the U.S.’s 200-mile air defense identification zone around Alaska on July 4. Prior to this, Russian war games held in the same area in mid-June included 30 bombers, and may have been designed to test cruise missile attacks on U.S. missile defense facilities.
The AEI article notes that a new Russian bomber will be ready 5 years earlier than anticipated and references the second time that the Russian Air Force came near Alaskan air space on July 4th in what a U.S. Defense official called “Putin’s Fourth of July Bear greeting to Obama”.
Governor Palin shared the Free Beacon article on her Facebook page a couple weeks ago, noting:
On the campaign trail four years ago I talked about Alaska’s strategic location on the globe, the potential for future conflicts over arctic transportation lanes and resources, and the crucial need to keep our eye on Putin’s activities. Later I spoke out against Obama’s egregious decision to cut back Alaska’s missile defense systems. Please take a look at this article about Russia’s arctic war game exercises earlier this month. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who was paying attention four years ago. Maybe now we should ask the President if this is what “more flexibility” means.
Indeed. Governor Palin took office in December of 2006. When Russia began to increase their exercises in 2007, she was in office. So while she was mocked for saying that Putin “rears his head” in Alaska air space during her interview with the Perky One during the 2008 campaign, she was privy to that defense information regarding Russia’s arctic war exercise starting in 2007. In fact, the Alaska Air National Guard was recognized as an Air Force Outstanding Unit in March of 2008 in part because they “maintained North American air sovereignty by detecting, monitoring and escorting 22 Russian bombers from within its area of operations”. Who was the commander-in-chief of the Alaska Air National Guard at that time? Governor Palin.
Why does this matter now? For two reasons. One, the agenda driven media mocked a Vice Presidential candidate for telling the truth about her foreign policy credentials and the importance of Alaska’s position on the globe. This should serve as a teachable moment for the willfully naïve Establishment Republicans who still wish to play nice with the media. Two, it is important to take Russia seriously today. It’s not neo-McCarthyism, nor the international overinvolvement of neoconservatism; it’s peace through strength. In her foreign policy speech in the Spring of 2011, Governor Palin outlined limited, but clearly defined for American international involvement, but she also noted that America must never retreat into isolation, and we have a responsibility to lead, as “the stronger we are, the stronger and more peaceful the world will be under our example”.
While Governor of Alaska, Palin criticized the Obama administration for cutting funding for missile defense for the very air base, Ft. Greely, that Russian war games likely target this past month. In December of 2010, she also urged the Senate to not ratify the START treaty which called for America to reduce our nuclear weapons while allowing Russia to increase their weaponry. Today, despite Secretary Clinton extending a “reset button” to Russia early in Obama’s presidency and despite Obama ‘s willingness to “be more flexible” following the election, Russia must be taken seriously in part because of the naivety or complicity of the Obama administration. Russia not only continued to ally with Syria the midst of UN sanctions , they have aimed to protect Iran’s nuclear program and provided arms to Venezuela as well (not that President Obama sees Hugo Chavez as a threat either).
This isn’t about warmongering , being the world’s policeman, or being on the offensive as a foreign policy strategy. It is about an honest recognition of threats and ensuring that your defense is a strategic deterrent. This can’t be done when the media mocks a candidate’s credentials, nor when a president is flippant towards national defense. With Russian Bear bombers creeping close to American air space, as the powerful Reagan ad noted, isn’t it important to as strong as the bear?