Russia Saber Rattles with Nuclear Bombers as U.S. Congress votes to Arm Syrian Rebels

For three straight days this past week, Russian nuclear bombers carried out practice runs over Northern Europe and then off the coasts of Alaska and Canada. One report indicates that the flights over Europe occurred on Tuesday and that bombers came very close to the airspace of both the U.S. and Canada on Wednesday and Thursday.

According to the Washington Free Beacon, officials seem to suspect the reasons have to do with sending a message about the ongoing conflict in Ukraine:

One defense official said the Russian bomber activity appeared timed to the visit to the United States and Canada by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. The Ukrainian leader was in Ottawa for meetings with Canadian leaders on Wednesday. He met with President Obama on Thursday. Ukraine is locked in a battle with Moscow over the Russian military annexation of Crimea and continuing backing of pro-Russian Ukrainian militias in eastern Ukraine.

That very well may be the case but these flights near Alaska also took place on days that both houses of the U.S. Congress did something else Russia no doubt found problematic for their interests. On Wednesday, the U.S. House voted to arm Syria’s rebels. On Thursday, the U.S. Senate did the same thing.

Just one year ago, the Obama administration blinked when it came to launching air strikes on Syria’s Bashar al-Assad after the chemical attack that remains shrouded in mystery. In fact, as has reported, the evidence for the source of that attack points to the Syrian rebels and Turkey. The failure of the administration to produce convincing evidence of Assad’s role in that attack contributed to the fall in political will to launch air strikes.

Pressure from Russia also contributed. It was widely conceded that Putin won the showdown with Obama when it came to Syria last year. It was certainly high stakes political theater.

Now, one year later, both the House and the Senate of the U.S. Congress are giving Obama what he wants on Assad. Last year, Obama indicated that he would launch air strikes and when that became politically untenable, he said he would wait for Congress, which ultimately didn’t come through.

This year, Congress went first, voting to arm the very same rebels Assad has been fighting – on the very two days that Russia came within 70 miles of U.S. airspace.

Russia’s gestures of intimidation of NATO countries via its nuclear bombers may have been intended to send a message about Ukraine but the bicameral decision by the U.S. Congress to hand weapons over to Syrian rebels didn’t make the decision any harder.

As reported, the decision to arm the rebels is a decision to aid and abet the Muslim Brotherhood based on the hierarchy of at least one Syrian opposition lobbying group. That’s bad enough but is it really worth sticking another thumb in the eye of Russia to do it?


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