This week’s buzzing of a U.S. warship by two Russian SU-24 attack aircraft at a distance of 30 yards or less — close enough to read the fine print for rescue instructions under the pilot’s cockpit — shocked the world. It was meant to and it should have.
Two Russian jets flew approximately eleven aggressive passes near the USS David Cook in the Baltic Sea, which was obviously sailing in international waters. Flight operations with a Polish helicopter were also interrupted.
The ship had been shadowed by a Russian reconnaissance vessel for some time prior to the simulated attack runs. And yes, these were simulated attack runs. The Obama administration says the aircraft were unarmed. That may be true; however, how did the U.S. warship know that to begin with?
That question aside, the warlike Russian action while the Polish aircraft was operating off the deck of the USS David Cook was no accident. The incident was meant to send a message, not so much to the Obama administration, but to the rest of the world, specifically Eastern Europe.
Simply put, the message reads like this — America can’t protect you. America won’t protect you. Under President Obama, America is impotent and won’t stand up to Russian aggression. Therefore, you’d better come back to home, to Moscow, where you belong anyway. If you don’t, you will pay. Your dreams of freedom and prosperity were just that — dreams. Come back before somebody gets hurt.
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The rest of the world, those not in danger of angering the Russian bear, also took notice of this incident and many others like it.
An occasional B-52 flight or a U.S. naval vessel nearby has not stopped China from militarizing and threatening free trade and navigation in the South China Sea. China has deployed fighter aircraft, anti-aircraft missile systems, and continues to build man-made airstrips (which will eventually become military bases) throughout the area.
North Korea continues to develop nuclear weapons and the missiles to deploy them, all the while threatening the existence of the United States and our allies. Iran continues to develop missiles to carry an eventual nuclear weapons capability, which they will get under the “deal” cut by President Obama and Secretary of State John F. Kerry. Iran continues to buy boatloads of Russian sophisticated weapons, strengthening its military capability and the Russian economy. Iran and its Lebanon-based proxy army, Hezbollah, continue to threaten Israel. The Islamic State continues to grow and morph into a global terrorist army, threatening us all.
But, let’s get back to Russia buzzing U.S. warships. If you were the captain of the USS David Cook and responsible for the safety of your vessel and crew, what would you have done? Did you see the picture showing how close the plane was to the ship? How did the captain know the planes were unarmed? In the 1980s, the U.S. Navy shot down an Iranian civilian airliner in the Persian Gulf because the skipper thought it was an F-14 entering an attack run. That aircraft was much further away than these Russian jets. Have we lost the ability to protect ourselves, much less our allies? Was there back-up for the USS David Cook in the area if the attack was real? Or has the Obama administration purposefully not allowed the military to protect itself? Sending sitting ducks into harm’s way on purpose, for theatrical effect?
I do not know the answers to these questions. What I do know is that the next nine months will be the most dangerous this country has faced in a long time, as strongmen around the world realize they have a window for aggressive action in Mr. Obama’s final months that could be closing, depending on the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
Say what you want about President George W. Bush and his Middle East policies. What you can’t say, however, is that Mr. Bush didn’t stand for freedom and didn’t mean what he said when he said it. Mr. Obama has weakened America’s standing in the world, most likely on purpose.
And just as an aside, I haven’t seen any Russian jets entering Turkish airspace lately.
• L. Todd Wood, a former U.S. military helicopter pilot and Wall Street debt trader, is a contributor to Fox Business, the National Review and many other publications. He can be reached through his website, LToddWood.com.