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Cold War Revival?: Hackers, Harassment, and Nuclear-Equipped Bombers

Are we heading into a new Cold War with Russia? Secretary of State John Kerry says it's even worse.

"The Cold War was easy compared to where we are today," Kerry said yesterday at a forum in Washington, D.C. It's a dramatic turnaround from the United States' position several years ago when Hillary Clinton, who held the secretary of state position just before Kerry, symbolically "reset" American-Russian relations in what was supposed to a newly amicable era.

This week reports emerged of American diplomats in Russia having their tires slashed, computers hacked, and experiencing break-ins. Kerry confronted his counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov over the reported harassment. But that's just the tip of the iceberg.

The Washington Post on Tuesday broke news that White House computers were breached by hackers believed to be working for the Russian government. "Russia is regarded by U.S. officials as being in the top tier of states with cyber-capabilities."

Furthermore, "Russian bombers may be flying nuclear strike drills over the Atlantic Ocean and North Sea, current and former U.S. Air Force officers believe," states The Daily Beast:

Since Oct. 28, NATO air defenses have detected and monitored four groups of Russian combat aircraft over the Baltic Sea, North Sea, Atlantic Ocean, and Black Sea. Norwegian F-16 fighters intercepted one particular group of Russian aircraft on Oct. 29 that included four, nuclear-capable Tupolev Tu-95 Bear H strategic bombers and four Ilyushin Il-78 aerial refueling tankers. Once intercepted, six of the Russian aircraft headed for home while the two remaining Tu-95 bombers continued southwest, parallel to the Norwegian coast, before eventually turning back towards Russia.

The giant, propeller-driven Tu-95 is a launch platform for the 1,600 nautical mile range Raduga Kh-55 nuclear-tipped cruise missile. The weapon carries a 200-kiloton nuclear warhead; by comparison, the bomb that destroyed Nagasaki was a mere 21 kilotons. …

The foray into European airspace by the Tu-95 Bear bombers is cause for concern. That's not just because of the Bear bomber's long-range nuclear weapons capability, but also because of the Russian's general disregard for international air traffic norms. Not only did the Russians not file a proper flight plan, they also did not have active transponders—which would allow civilian air traffic controllers to see them. The situation could lead to a serious accident where an airliner might collide with a Russian bomber.

The combination of hacking and dangerous flying represent the old and the updated techniques of Cold War signal-sending," suggests The New York Times' David Sanger. "In the Soviet era, both sides probed each other's defenses, hoping to learn something from the reaction those tests of will created."

NATO, for which the U.S. is the largest supplier of troops and funding, has essentially broken off relations with Russia, and is pushing for a greater military presence in Eastern Europe since Vladimir Putin began a bloody, brutal invasion and annexation of parts of Ukraine earlier this year.

Poland, a NATO member, isn't taking any chances with Russian aggression in its backyard. The nation announced this week that it may move thousands of troops to its eastern border to ward of Putin. Nearby, Sweden spent part of October hunting down what it believed to be a Russian submarine lurking in its waters, prompting a sudden shift in popular support for joining NATO. 

Russia is returning to Cold War practices at home, too. Half the nation's people fear Soviet-style mass repression will happen again in their lifetime. Reason has talked to several Russian libertarians about the domestic crackdown on political opposition and the press. 

Photo Credit: cc

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  • Clown Hunter||

    Public Service Announcement (last one, I promise):

    This is my new handle.

    Love,

    R C Dean f/k/a MegaloMonocle

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    I demand an explanation.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Are you going to get even more tiresome with this iteration or less?

  • Swiss Servator, spare a franc?||

    We are just so pleasant today, aren't we?

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    R C Dean is/was MegaloMonocle?

    I can't keep up.

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    It's all very tiresome

  • Swiss Servator, spare a franc?||

    Are you saying his story has become tiresome? Is it now time to dance?

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    It's a meme. Warty called him tiresome a while ago, and it took on a life of its own.

  • Idle Hands||

    I am still Idle Hands guys.

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    Me too.

  • PapayaSF||

    I am still the me I have been for many years. (And for many years longer than that stupid woman who decided she'd be PapayaSF on Twitter without doing a moment of Googling to discover someone else had been using that handle online since she was a toddler.)

  • Pro Libertate||

    There's a whole blogger with my handle. The rat bastard.

  • ||

    Did you just call the Urkobold a rat bastard?!? I'm telling on you!

  • Pro Libertate||

    Dear Lord, no. I value my taint too much for that.

    I meant Will Grigg.

  • Robert||

    I just use my real name. Easy to remember.

  • Hugh Akston||

    That sound you hear is the popping of all the zippers that are simply no match for the warboners they are meant to contain.

  • ||

    Oh my!

  • Steve G||

    +1 Engage warp drive

  • Swiss Servator, spare a franc?||

    Who is advocating war with Russia??

    I would want to be at their involuntary commitment hearing.

  • Counterfly||

    You know who else advocated a war in the cold with Russia...

  • Lord Humungus||

    something, something... the Finns?

  • Swiss Servator, spare a franc?||

    Ahmed Khan?

  • Gilbert Martin||

    Napolean?

  • Clown Hunter||

    oooh, I know this one!

    Napoleon, amirite?

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Vote for Pedro.

  • ||

    BWWWOOOOOOONNNGGGGGGGG

  • ||

    I imagined it as more of a

    SCREEEIINK!

  • ||

    Well, I'll defer to your expertise and knowledge in the sound boners make ripping through cloth and zipper, Zenon. I imagine you're second only to Hugh in that.

  • ||

    I didn't go to college fer nothin'

  • ||

    Yeah, but that was clown college! When did you learn about zipper boners? Did you take a course at the Learning Annex?

  • Almanian!||

    Zenon's girlfriend's mother learned about zipper boners at home on her computer! Find out how

    www.zipperbonerschool.de/ripthis/boingggg

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    2014: "The Cold War was easy compared to where we are today,"

    2012: That crazy Mitt Romney, babbling about Russia being such a threat to the U.S.!

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    Here we go:

    "Gov. Romney, I'm glad that you recognize that al-Qaida is a threat, because a few months ago when you were asked what's the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia, not al-Qaida. You said Russia ... the 1980s, they're now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War's been over for 20 years,"

    http://www.politifact.com/trut.....itical-fo/

  • Clown Hunter||

    Mitt may have been a charisma-challenged cronyist squish, but goddam he had a better grip on things than the guy who got more votes counted for him.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    I can see the 2016 Republican ads already, assuming Putin keeps up this stuff until then.

  • Swiss Servator, spare a franc?||

    Showing that goofy picture of Hillary with that idiotic grin, holding the "reset button" that really said "mince two cloves garlic" or somesuch?

  • John Titor||

  • Bam!||

  • John Titor||

    I am utterly disappointed that it didn't end in bear-wrestling.

    Nowadays 'bear' would be a micro-aggression against large hairy homosexuals and would not be tolerated in our Just and Glorious Society.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    Hey, that ad was spot-on!

    It says we don't know Soviet intentions, so be better stay strong.

    After being re-elected in 1984, Reagan talked to the Soviets about arms control, and he realized Gorbachev was a new kind of leader. Then a year after Reagan left - nay, earlier - the Soviet Bloc began its collapse.

  • Restoras||

    Do we actually know that they were nuclear-equipped, or just assuming because they can be?

    Any former SAC people out there in the commentariat?

  • Swiss Servator, spare a franc?||

    I think they were saying a drill for when they would be nuke equipped. I doubt the Russian Air Force has that much faith in the quality of maintenance on those old, tired planes.

  • Timon 19||

    Hey, we still fly B-52s and KC-135s WAY more than anyone ever expected.

    In fact, both airframes have long outlived even the wildest expectations of DoD (of course in the case of the KC-135, it's more to do with the complete inability of Lockheed, Boeing, and Airbus/Northrup to quit whining about each other's bids on the new tanker contract - BTW, anyone know where it stands now? I've lost track entirely).

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    Those B-52s still have 30 more years of service life ahead of them.

  • Timon 19||

    The maintainers of those beasts are truly amazing.

    IIRC, the Pentagon was looking at retiring the airframe after Vietnam.

  • Swiss Servator, spare a franc?||

    We do take better care of our planes than the Russians....but they are due to go. Last I had heard, the renewed bidding was going on and was tilted toward Boeing...go TEAM USA!

  • Timon 19||

    Geez, that's what I heard last, which was a LONG time ago. Those fucking weasels. EADS/Northrup were going to build a MASSIVE plant in Alabama for this. I guess the 50+% share of the Ex-Im Bank's subsidies wasn't enough for them.

    Now, evidently the current maintainers of the KC-135 are more in favor of Boeing, mostly due to parts issues and familiarity (according to an acquaintance who maintains for the ANG).

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    B-52s are essentially worthless at this point. Their defensive suite is gone and the only place they will be dropping bombs is in a completely mundane environment or in a standoff role.

    They should have been retired 20 years ago.

  • Timon 19||

    I know you're an AF guy, Francisco, but with so many of the weapons going toward standoff capabilities, I don't see what the problem there really is.

    And doesn't the H-model have a rather comprehensive ECM/ECCM suite?

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    And doesn't the H-model have a rather comprehensive ECM/ECCM suite?

    Hasn't for years. No money to replace and nobody makes electronics with tubes anymore to repair.

  • Steve G||

    I dunno. I think the modernization has limped along trying to give is some semblance of relevance. It's been about 17 yrs since I was in a buff unit, but as I recall it had enough offensive ECM to fry a small town if it wanted to, otherwise why even have an EWO sitting back there? ...Granted, it ain't sneaking in or or shutting down the more advanced stuff with much ease.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    They scrapped it in 02-ish. Unless something happened since 2010, it's got nothing.

  • PapayaSF||

    I disagree. They're great for dropping lots of bombs or missiles on targets that can't effectively shoot back. That's come in handy in recent years.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    For both of you.

    Why would you support funding two weapon systems when you can have one that can fly in both environments?

    We use the Buff now only because there aren't enough B-1s to support the load.

    One new bomber. Scrap the rest.

  • Steve G||

    My prediction: the next bomber will make the B-2 look cheap. The price will spiral, we'll reduce the buy, the price/copy will go up further and we'll end up with a few dozen LRS-Bs, ...and still have the buff, the bone and the B-2.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    If the politicians get their way, I'm sure you're right.

  • Restoras||

    Do the companies competing for the bid take on the development burden, or does that fall on us taxpayers too?

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    If you were Boeing, would you trust the government to follow through on their promises?

    Not that defense contractors aren't sleezy. It's just that the government is even worse.

    Everything is cost plus on the taxpayers dime.

  • Steve G||

    That's a better answer than I had planned.
    "LOL"

  • Timon 19||

    I'm not supporting it. What gave you that impression?

    I just think that with the standoffishizing of the weapons inventory, BUFFs could conceivably keep going a while longer.

  • Steve G||

    There's nothing wrong with the airworthiness of the platform, it's the enemies capabilities that are the problem.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    I just think that with the standoffishizing of the weapons inventory, BUFFs could conceivably keep going a while longer.

    It will, as it will take 20 years to field the next generation bomber.

  • Steve G||

    Boeing won the tanker contract several years back. The KC-46 is coming...

  • Timon 19||

    Ah, so they did bitch their way to a win.

    Assholes.

  • Timon 19||

    Only the Russian aircrews and groundcrews know for sure. IIRC, Tu-95s, like all massive long-range strategic bombers carry their ordnance internally, so the intercepting aircraft wouldn't be able to even hazard a guess.

    (Not SAC, but worked in defense for years and have always been a bit of a military aviation buff)

  • Steve G||

    If you're saying were they flying with nukes? No. Are the planes capable of dropping nukes? Absolutely, that's the point of the drills.
    The article wants to imply that the ruskies were flying nuke armed bombers into Europe, when that didn't take place. Either its unintentional since the author doesn't know the inner workings of the nuke forces or they're deliberately trying to mislead to fan the flames of the "cold war" narrative.

  • Restoras||

    The headline implies that yes the planes were flying with nukes - which unless there is some information the author has and isn't letting on he has then he has no way of actually knowing that.

    I assume that every country with any military capability whatsoever drills as much as possible - including the Russkies. I'd be more interested to know if the number of flights has increased, decreased, or not changed over a certain period of time over a prior period, and where those flights are originating from and where they are flying to.

  • Steve G||

    1st paragraph: that was my point. The art. is conflating nuclear-capable with nuclear-armed. Actually flying with nukes is highly unlikely--too much risk, if not outright banned by treaty.

    2nd paragraph: that's the big takeaway. The russians are ramping up their training, whether to knock the rust off old plans and/or part of geopolitical posturing. Is that mean 'aggression'? I dunno, was it aggressive when we plopped a few squadrons of aircraft in Poland to "exercise" on their doorstep?

  • Restoras||

    That's a good point - we have been meddling in their neighborhood so what better way to respond than to conduct exercises/training with their own stuff.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    Why would anyone pay any attention to what John Kerry has to say on any subject?

    If one were to peer into one of Kerry's ears, he or she would have an unobstructed view of the scenery on the other side of his head.

  • Pro Libertate||

    The Russians are about a quarter of the power they were during the Cold War, and can no more afford to sustain a massive military now than they could then.

    Best way to deal with them is to continue being stinking rich. So I suggest we stop strangling our economy.

  • Clown Hunter||

    No doubt, but it matter less how much power the Russians have compared to the '70s, than how much power the Euros/NATO have relative to Russian

    And much less than what kind of balls the Euros have to call their bluff.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Europe craves domination, anyway. Why not Russia?

  • Restoras||

    I think individual European ethnicities/nationalities crave domination - just not by some other inferior ethnic/nationalist group.

    Not that any European country could do anything about Russia if it wanted to dominate militarily.

  • Swiss Servator, spare a franc?||

    "For the first need in war is for unlimited money"

  • Hugh Akston||

    Look ProLib, strangling the economy is the only way the government can get off, okay? And even though the economy was gagging and crying, afterward it said it totally didn't mind if that's what it took to make the government happy. So quit being so uptight.

  • ||

    ProL, come on. This is a great new opportunity for pants-shitting, this time about "the Russian threat". Why aren't you shitting your pants like a good pants-shitter? Are you not wearing your Depends?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Well, okay. OHDEARGODHELPUSOHSHIT.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I don't?

  • Bardas Phocas||

    "If the Russians love their children too."

    But the Russians have stopped having children.

    So, what is the status of the mineshaft gap?

  • Clown Hunter||

    I've always wondered:

    What would happen if a flight of Russian bombers crossed into German airspace illegally, were challenged, refused to turn back,

    And so the Germans shot them down.

    What would the Russians do? Go to war?

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    IF they did *that,* it would indicate that they were *looking* for a pretext for war.

  • Timon 19||

    They'd first have to get through Poland's or Finland's airspace, or the Baltics'.

    Poland would seriously be having none of that. I have a feeling the Poles would make short work of them before the first Tornado/Eurofighter even started his taxi.

    The Finns are not as powerful, but they do not like the Russkies being assholes. The Baltics would either respond with their own F-16s or would call up the Poles.

  • Bam!||

    Well listen, how do you think I feel about it?... Can you *imagine* how I feel about it, Dmitri?... Why do you think I'm calling you? Just to say hello?... *Of course* I like to speak to you!... *Of course* I like to say hello!... Not now, but anytime, Dmitri. I'm just calling up to tell you something terrible has happened... It's a *friendly* call. Of course it's a friendly call... Listen, if it wasn't friendly... you probably wouldn't have even got it.

  • Timon 19||

    +1 liter precious bodily fluids.

  • jmomls||

    A man of the people, but also a man.

  • The Other Kevin||

    My first thought is this is just one more in a series of excuses the Obama administration is using to cover its failures.

    Economy not recovering? That's because it was far worse than we ever imagined!

    Foreign relations not doing well? That's because the Russians are SO much worse now than they were for Reagan. He had it easy!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I guess what I'm trying to say is, if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change.

  • Counterfly||

    My prediction is pain.

  • John Titor||

  • Almanian!||

    I must break you

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    My wife's favorite movie character

  • Steve G||

    As a blond/blue aryan-looking child of the 80s, he was my god.

  • John Titor||

    Just before I was horribly atomized by nuclear fire, I would laugh my ass off if the back-and-forth between Putin and Obama resulted in the doomsday scenario that everyone feared before the 'end of history'.

    Who am I kidding, I live in the middle of nowhere, I'm more likely to be killed by horrible radiation poisoning. And everyone knows nuclear war will really come from the Chinese invading Alaska in 2077.

  • paranoid android||

    Just before I was horribly atomized by nuclear fire, I would laugh my ass off if the back-and-forth between Putin and Obama resulted in the doomsday scenario that everyone feared before the 'end of history'.

    *Looks at handle*

    Don't you have some experience in this regard, future man?

  • John Titor||

    Hey man, nuclear war already happened in the mid-2000s in my worldline. You weirdos are on your own, I'm off to the worldline where Einstein was killed as a child and Oppenheimer died from chain smoking.

  • ||

    Greg Stillson: Put your hand on the scanning screen, and you'll go down in history with me!

    Five Star General: As what? The world's greatest mass murderers?

    Greg Stillson: You cowardly bastard! You're not the voice of the people, I am the voice of the people! The people speak through me, not you!

  • Counterfly||

    I can see Russian cyberspace from my back yard.

  • Clown Hunter||

    I can see it from my bunk.

  • Lord Humungus||

    "The Cold War was easy compared to where we are today," Kerry said yesterday at a forum in Washington, D.C.

    Because an off-chance of a full-scale nuclear was peanuts compared to uh...

  • Cytotoxic||

    The only part of America that should be worried about Russia is Canada. Russia is trying to take out Arctic. Other than that, it's hard to take Kerry's fretting seriously. I mean, harder than usual. Russia has barely any of the capability the USSR had. Russia is a sad broken POS that will not only lose all of its apparent 'strength' with the next drop in oil prices, it might actually disintegrate like the USSR did.

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    What do you have against Alaska?

  • Cytotoxic||

  • Clown Hunter||

    Unfortunately, just the kind of situation that can lead an endangered government to think war might be their salvation.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Yeah, but I doubt they'll war on America. Poland & Co. might want to start getting serious. Apparently they are increasing military spending.

  • Timon 19||

    AFAIK, Poland is already pretty capable both overtly and covertly. I think we get the bulk of our on-the-ground intelligence on Russia from Poland. They also have a pretty decent-sized fleet of F-16s.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Great. Lets leave.

  • Timon 19||

    I gots no problem with that.

  • grrizzly||

    There's no doubt that the Russians do not want or consider a war with America. The danger is that they may do something stupid/aggressive that will be interpreted much more seriously in the West than the Russians had in mind. Think of the Cuban crisis, when Khrushchev thought that Kennedy was so weak that he would do nothing if the US succeeds in installing rockets in Cuba. Of course Khrushchev didn't plan to bomb the USA. It was just a retaliation for US nuclear weapons in Turkey. But...

  • GILMORE||

    FEAR NOT!

    We must heed the words of the Wisest and Strongest among us, who will help mend the rift between our great nations and ensure that we progress together to help build a better tomorrow

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    That was very enlightening. Looks like Seagal has Domino's on speed dial again.

  • ||

  • GILMORE||

    converting to my "most sincere" mode...

    (sound of rusty gears, chattering engine, creaking superstructure)

    ... uh, probably the best thing to do regarding Russia? is let them rattle their sabres until they either crash a bomber into an iceberg or one of their submarines springs a leak. At which point we can all point and laugh. *Works Every Time*

  • Pro Libertate||

    Let them spend their money on stupid stuff. They aren't a whole lot more sophisticated than the other oil countries that blow through their wealth.

  • Every Cop is a Criminal||

    Apparently, Reason has a hard-on for Sylvester Stallone.

  • Aresen||

    Russia is following the path of 17th Century Spain. The government is thuggish and the kleptocracy is stealing the resource money.

    Meanwhile, the intelligentsia and productive people are fleeing in droves for better economic opportunity (and more freedom) elsewhere.

    Further, the population is shrinking and ageing.

    By 2100, Russia will be irrelevant.

    For now, it is being belligerant and thuggish because that is the only way the neo-Soviet government knows how to play to the lumpenproletariat that is their electoral base.

  • GILMORE||

    "Further, the population is shrinking and ageing."

    Technically, this is untrue

    The overall Russian population has grown due slightly to immigration from former satellite states, and they have stopped the declining lifespan trend that existed all through the 1990s and it started to improve about 2004-5 or so. Basically, people aren't smoking/drinking themselves to death *as fast* as they used to.

    The 'not having babies' part is still a problem, and is close to ZPG. but they do have growing minority populations that currently make up for it

  • Pro Libertate||

    This is a very misunderstood fact. What's actually happening is that Russians are shrinking. Soon, they will all be bearded dwarfs, carrying axes.

  • ||

    "The Cold War was easy compared to where we are today,"

    This may be the dumbest thing John Kerry has ever said, which is really saying something.

  • Clown Hunter||

    Especially for someone who built his entire career on his service in one of the Cold War's warmer engagements.

  • jmomls||

    *"The Cold War was easy compared to where we are today," Kerry said *

    And he would say that, seeing as how he fought for the losing side.

  • Robert||

    So they fear repression but loves them some Putin.

  • Merrill Hess||

    Far be it from me to defend Kerry, but he has a point.

    By the 1970s and 80s, the Cold War had stabilized to the point that both sides had a sort of hostile trust in the other's predictability. One of the main talking points contemporary liberals had against "Ronnie Raygun" was that he was eager to upset the deadlock that had kept us out of nuclear war for decades, with programs like SDI and support for the Contras.

    What's happening now is more like the standoffs in the late 40s and early 50s that gave birth to NATO in the first place. The two main antagonists haven't felt each other out yet.

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