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America's Dangerous Double Standard on Air and Sea "Provocations"

November 24, 2014 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

The United States and its NATO allies are mightily agitated about the increase in Russian air and naval activity near the Baltic republics. According to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, alliance warplanes have scrambled 400 times in 2014 in response to Russian military flights, an increase of 50 percent over 2013. Western officials repeatedly denounce Moscow’s maneuvers as dangerous and provocative.

Statements by U.S. and NATO leaders, along with Western media accounts, foster the impression that Russian ships and aircraft arrogantly penetrate the airspace and territorial waters of alliance members. But when pressed, officials concede that the vast majority of incidents do not involve such illegality. Stoltenberg stated that most of the flights “are close to NATO airspace,” but he admitted that there were “a very limited number of violations.”

Reading the fine print of other Western complaints reveals similarly misleading imagery. Baltic leaders express anger that a Russian warship entered Latvia’s exclusive economic zone, but it turns out that the location was still some nine nautical miles outside the country’s territorial waters.Latvia’s Ministry of Defense fumed that Russian warships had “approached” Latvian waters some fifty times in 2014 and had “come close” to Latvian airspace some 200 times. Yet the Ministry did not cite verifiable violations of its territorial waters or airspace.

The United States needs to examine its own actions before it smugly denounces those of rival powers.”

The actual substance of other episodes likewise seems far less dramatic than the scare headlines that have become routine in the Western press. NATO F-16 jets intercepted a Russian Ilyushin transport plane over the Baltic Sea on November 12, after it “approached” Estonian and Lithuanian airspace. Similar incidents took place between NATO aircraft and Russian Su-27 fighter planes on November 15 and 17. Again, the Russian offense was that its aircraft were found “near Latvia’s territorial seas” in the former case and had “approached Estonian and Lithuanian airspace” in the latter. Despite such complaints, the encounters indisputably took place over international waters, Western governments acknowledged.

Calling the Russian actions provocative has some merit. Nations understandably become jittery when foreign ships and aircraft operate near their territory. That nervousness mounts when the foreign power has tense relations with one’s own country, and that is certainly the case, given the deterioration of relations between Russia and the NATO states in response to the Ukraine crisis. Adding …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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