The US’ Russian “Reset” Button … A Gift that keeps on Giving

Russian President Vladimir Putin smiles during an interview with John Daniszewski, the Associated Press's Senior Managing Editor for International News during an AP interview at Putin's Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013. Putin sought to downplay the current chill in the U.S.-Russian relations and said that the two countries need to cooperate on a range of issues in the interests of global stability. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)If you’re a follower of geo-political relations between the US and Russia, then you’ve probably been following this latest in a series of Russian “tests.”  It seems that the Russians are aggressively operating their submarines and spy ships near deep sea communications cables, that carry the lifeblood of the internet data and economic activity.  Worries, reminiscent of the Cold War, are seeping through the Pentagon, that if a major conflict were to develop, given the Russians increasingly military presence globally, they would not hesitate to hack into, or cut, the cables, thus causing catastrophic damage to our infrastructure.

“I’m worried every day about what the Russians may be doing,” said Rear Adm. Frederick J. Roegge, commander of the Navy’s submarine fleet in the Pacific, who would not answer questions about possible Russian plans for cutting the undersea cables.

Cmdr. William Marks, a Navy spokesman in Washington, said: “It would be a concern to hear any country was tampering with communication cables; however, due to the classified nature of submarine operations, we do not discuss specifics.”

In private, however, commanders and intelligence officials are far more direct. They report that from the North Sea to Northeast Asia and even in waters closer to American shores, they are monitoring significantly increased Russian activity along the known routes of the cables, which carry the lifeblood of global electronic communications and commerce.

The problem here, is that while undersea cables are frequently cut through accident of anchors or other natural disasters, the Russians are operating and testing in areas that are not immediately offshore, or in places where repair crews can re-establish operations within a matter of a few days.  Instead, our own spy satellites are picking up activity in areas that are difficult to reach and at greater depths which make repairs more extensive and time consuming.

Putin marched into Crimea and annexed it, then Eastern Ukraine where a stalemate of sorts has been reached.  His ground forces are now in Syria and aircraft are bombing US-supported rebels opposing Assad.  The US reaction to the latest transgression … calls for a “deconfliction” conference.

Putin has his own longer-term problems at home,

Putin's Russia - which course will it take? (courtesy of AEI).

Putin’s Russia – which course will it take? (courtesy of AEI).

and his gambit with the China could have far-reaching effects beyond both their borders.

In the modern history of man, we’ve learned that global wars can be started with an assassin’s bullet, or in today’s world by overt nationalism caused by fears/threats, real or imagined.

The vacuum on the world stage caused by the Obama administration’s ideology that we are not an “exceptional” nation, the continued downsizing of the military by 40,000 service members, and the recent veto of the Defense bill, result in the global exacerbation of tensions and the kind of tests and incursions that we’re seeing not only by Russia, but China and North Korea.

At the moment, the Russian bear is flexing its muscles, with a new kind of “hybrid” warfare, including conventional, special operations, and new weaponry in cyberspace.

In a recent WSJ/NBC News poll, a number of voters are sharing some angst about the dangers America may face long term.

Are we on the eve of new “Cold War.”  Depends on how this Administration responds/does not respond, as well as who will be the occupant in the White House come January 20, 2017.  At this point in time, though, certainly looks like it.

 

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