U.S., allies scramble jets almost daily to repel Russian incursions

Russian military provocations have increased so much over the seven months since Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine that Washington and its allies are scrambling defense assets on a nearly daily basis in response to air, sea and land incursions by Vladimir Putin’s forces.

Not only is Moscow continuing to foment unrest in Eastern Ukraine, U.S. officials and regional security experts say Russian fighter jets are testing U.S. reaction times over Alaska and Japan’s ability to scramble planes over its northern islands — all while haunting Sweden’s navy and antagonizing Estonia’s tiny national security force.

The White House months ago leveled economic sanctions on several Russian businesses and political players, and recent weeks have seen President Obama intensify his rhetoric toward Moscow. But many in Washington’s national security community say the response is simply not firm enough and that, as a result, Mr. Putin actually feels emboldened to push the envelope — Cold War-style.

“What’s going on is a radical escalation of aggressive Russian muscle flexing and posturing designed to demonstrate that Russia is no longer a defeated power of the Cold War era,” says Ariel Cohen, who heads the Center for Energy, National Resources and Geopolitics at the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security in Washington.

“The more we retreat, the more we are encouraging Russia to behave in a more aggressive way,” Mr. Cohen said. “We need to be engaging more deeply with our Central Asian allies, but instead we are in the process of abandoning turf to Russia, and it’s wrong — it’s against our interests geopolitically to let Russia feel that they all of a sudden have won all the turf without firing a shot.” Continue reading