Friday, February 27, 2009

Crying "Bear!"

The Conservative government really is getting too silly:
'We will defend our airspace': Harper warns Russia
Two Russian bombers were intercepted near Arctic
In Saskatoon, Harper said Canada would continue to fulfil its obligations to defend North America's continental airspace.

"We will respond every time the Russians make any kind of intrusion on the sovereignty of Canada's Arctic [see below--no sovereignty intrusion]," he said. "That's our obligation and that's what we'll do."

The incident was disclosed Friday morning at a joint news conference on Parliament Hill with MacKay, Gen. Walt Natynczyk, the chief of the defence staff, and U.S. Gen. Gene Renuart, the commander of Norad.

Natynczyk said the incursions started about one and a half to two years ago "when we had not seen anything for decades."

He declined to say how often they occur or where exactly this particular incident took place.

"It's sporadic. That's the best way I can describe it," he said...
So such intercepts have been going on for a while--see here and here. So why is the Canadian government now going so bananas, with the PM and MND spouting off? Perhaps part of their perfervid effort to pose, for political gain, as defenders of our--non-threatened--"Arctic sovereignty'? Certain Arctic waters are in dispute, though I can't see the TU-95s' relevance to those issues. Once again, this government is jingoistically and shamelessly trying to take advantage of our public's and media's ignorance of the details.

Russian bombers intercepted on eve of Obama visit
CF-18s turned back planes as they approached Canadian airspace

Four Canadian and U.S. fighter jets were scrambled to meet a pair of Russian bomber planes found flying on the edge of Canada's Arctic airspace hours before President Barack Obama arrived in Ottawa for his first foreign visit, Canada's defence minister said.

Peter MacKay wouldn't say whether he thought the Feb. 18 flight of two TU-95 Bears, long-range Russian bombers, was designed to create mischief for a Canadian security system that was already stressed by the presidential visit. But he said the response of Canadian pilots operating under the command of NORAD sent a clear message to Moscow.

"I'm not going to stand here and accuse the Russians of deliberately doing this during the presidential visit, but it was a strong coincidence which we met with the presence ... of F-18 fighter planes and world-class pilots that know their business and send a strong signal that they should back off and stay out of our airspace," he told reporters.

MacKay initially said there was a single Russian bomber but a NORAD spokesman and the minister's officer later said there were two.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in Saskatoon that the incident was a real cause for concern that will not intimidate Canada.

"This government has responded every time the Russians have done that. We will continue to respond. We will defend our airspace."

The Russian planes broke no international laws [emphasis added] when they encroached on the 200-mile Canadian perimeter, 190 kilometres northeast of Tuktoyaktuk, but experts say it was a clear attempt to test defence systems in the disputed Arctic territories.

"Russia has become more active than in the past," said Ray Henault, formerly Canada's chief of defence staff.

Henault, who served as chairman of NATO's military council until last year, said the bomber flights are a "legitimate activity" [emphasis added] that have nonetheless complicated relations with other Arctic nations in recent years.

"To call it a threat is probably a little bit stronger than I would call it."

If the Arctic equation helps answer why Russia would be increasing its activity in the high North, the question of why Canada chose today to draw attention to a fairly common occurrence is less clear...

See above for motive. Pitiful. A CP video report here.

Update: Bear growls back:

This undated file photo provided by the U.S. air force shows a Canadian CF-18 escorting a Russian TU-95 Bear heavy bomber away from Canadian airspace, according to U.S. military. (U.S. air force / CP)

OTTAWA — Moscow and Ottawa are engaged in a war of words after Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced Friday that Canadian and U.S. fighter jets intercepted a Russian bomber and signalled it to "turn tail" over the high Arctic on the eve of American President Barack Obama’s visit.

MacKay suggested the timing of the incident was suspect, but the Russians called the flight routine and indicated they were baffled by the fuss.

The announcement Friday morning of the Feb. 18 encounter raised questions about why MacKay chose to highlight it. Norad said there have been about 20 such aerial contacts between Russian and American or Canadian planes since 2007.

The Russian Defence Ministry was categoric.

Russian planes have not approached Canada’s borders and Canadian authorities were informed about the flight, it said. A spokesman called MacKay’s statements "nothing but a farce."

No Russian aircraft actually entered Canadian airspace, but MacKay suggested the timing of the incident was worthy of note...

Russian air force spokesman, Lt.-Col. Vladimir Drik said the flight had been planned in advance and was part of routine patrols. His statement carried by the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency said the crew acted according to international agreements and did not violate Canadian air space.

The Russian Defence Ministry also issued a statement in response to MacKay’s claims.

"During the flight, Russian bombers strictly followed international flight regulations and excluded the very possibility of violating Canadian air space," Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Alexander Drobyshevsky said. "Border countries have been notified about the flights."..

Upperdate: As far as I can see the story, which got huge play here thanks to the government's pushing it (and our gullible media?), was treated very lightly by the US media. Guess they weren't too bothered by a routine incident--even with the Obama card played.


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