Ominous Warning: Russian Air Power in Ukraine

30 Hours Earlier. Ukraine Crisis

All the elements are already in place for miscalculation and the nightmare scenario for the West: a shooting war with Russia.
11-Apr 2016: We have had another series of American/Russian incidents in the Baltic. Our old friend the USS Donald Cook (DDG-75) was buzzed repeatedly for 2 days by Russian maritime Su-24 aircraft off the coast of Poland near the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. The Americans are filing a formal protest while the Russian practice their attack profiles against USN Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers.
The USS Cook was 70 mi (dotted line) from the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. Its exact location has not been released. This is some of the stupidest behavior on both sides we've seen in a while. Both the US and Russia need to stop their provocations. Yes, the planes were unarmed  - but both are acting like children. You are both going to run out of luck one day. And when that day comes it will signal the end of NATO – it is a guarantee - as the alliance members of 1987 will not go to war with Russia to protect the alliance members of 2016. They will not risk absorbing the incineration of say a Frankfurt or Brussels, or Copenhagen to save a Tirana, a Vilnius, or even an Istanbul. They're not. The Americans are overplaying their hand regarding both NATO expansion and in Ukraine. Just stop.
13-Apr 2015: There has been a second incident (made public) over the Baltic Sea between an American RC-135 'Rivet Joint' SIGINT (signal intelligence gathering) aircraft and a Russian interceptor. Details are unclear, but reportedly the Russian fighter came from behind and flew up the longitudinal axis of the American aircraft. The RC-135 was most likely operating out of RAF Mildenhall, UK. We have repeatedly warned (and history tells us) that NATO/Russian forces in close proximity near the Russian border is inherently dangerous (and is actually worse now than during the Cold War) and can start an unintended sequence of events, that no one wants and cannot control. You are going to run out of luck one day.

01-Feb 2015: Major upsurge in fighting in the last 2 weeks. Ukrainian defenders are facing encirclement around the city of Debaltseve (Donetsk Oblast of Ukraine) by Russian/Pro-Separatist forces. Debaltseve is a city of some 25,000. Russian/Pro-Separatist forces are on the offensive in eastern Ukraine in the middle of winter. What remains of the UkAF (Ukrainian Air Force) remains grounded and ineffective.

Again...miscalculation is going to start a war - as this video of 02-Dec 2014 demonstrates:

19-Nov 2014: Large movements of man and material to the front by both sides. Major fighting appears imminent in Ukraine's Luhansk region. Russian involvement in the conflict is no longer in dispute. We may spawn a new post.[Below] Unusual video (reportedly of separatists) using a quad-copter remotely piloted vehicle (UAV) for artillery fire correction. Fighting can be seen:

As NATO attempts to "respond" to events in Ukraine we will write a new post on the shift of gravity in American-Russian relationship that began in the late 1980s - and is now on full display.
[Above] this photograph appeared in early Oct-2014 [just days ago] over the Baltic. A Russian Su-27P gets within meters of a Swedish SIGINT (Signal Intelligence) S-02 'Korpen' Gulfstream IV aircraft. The Russian pilot has deployed the Flankers speed brake.
[Above] widely published photos taken over the Baltic in late-June 2014 by NATO Typhoons - of a Su-27SM or P 'Flanker' carrying R-27 and R-73/74 class missile rounds. The four Russian aircraft were on a training mission and were escorted away without incident. 
During our hiatus - a Malaysian airliner was shot down in a horrific accident with heavy loss of life by a Buk SAM at around the same time an American RC-135 'Rivet Joint' aircraft was chased into Swedish airspace by Russian Flankers. Unfortunately, civilian passenger aircraft shoot downs are not as unprecedented as one might believe.

The possible intended target may have been an American RC-135 reconnaissance/SIGINT aircraft [below] rather than Malaysia MH17 Boeing­ 777. American RC-135 aircraft have been in the area for weeks before the Malaysia flight shoot down. What frightened an RC-135 aircrew enough to enter Swedish airspace after being denied permission to enter by Swedish authorities - is not yet known. As tensions increase - more incidents may occur. This is how wars get started because if Ukraine joins NATO treaty alliance now and Ukrainian eastern territories are involved in fighting with Russia - this will produce (NATO) war with Russia. Let us hope American/Russian generals impress this - upon their countries leadership respectively.
[Above] An American RC-135U. There exist a confusing variety of RC-135 series aircraft - all with various designations. All are highly secret and kept away from the public eye.

The American government has issued very pointed statements on events in eastern Ukraine and with regard to Kremlin behavior. Indeed, it is now an open secret that the Kremlin is defacto directly involved. There could be as many as 15,000 Russian troops in some form now in Ukraine.

Unfortunately, the United States is going to be of little assistance - as Washington is off shipping attack helicopters to a military dictatorship in Egypt - a dictatorship that includes over 41,000 in detention and death sentences to its political opposition

In addition, current US Assistant Secretary of State (Victoria Nuland) spouse is Robert Kagan - a neoconservative-imperialist and co-founder of the disastrous PNAC (Project for a New American Century). He also advised former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and is on the Council of Foreign Relations. PNAC Neanderthals (who pushed the Iraq war under Bush II) have proven capable of killing hundreds-of-thousands of people, of torture, and costing trillions $. This doesn't guarantee direct influence in State department behavior - but it remains a concern. ANY action(s) advocated by Mr. Kagan - today - will later prove costly, reckless, or worse. 

14-July 2014: [Below] Images have appeared of a (newly?) downed Ukrainian An-26 turboprop purportedly hit by a more advanced SAM than rebels possess. Ukrainian authorities say the aircraft was hit at an altitude of 6,500m (21,325ft) which would appear to be slightly beyond the engagement range of the SA-13 "Gopher" SAM that rebels have been photographed with. The prevailing view is that only Russia could have shot down the aircraft. In fact, it could have just as easily been an 'own-goal' kill by Ukrainian Air Defenses who possess system that can hit aircraft at 6,500m (21,325ft)? Historically 'own-goal' IFF losses are a neverending and persistent factor of war.

[Above/Bwlow] It is un
[Above] Ukrainian T-64BV photographed on 10-July 2014. Reportedly government forces are now pushing into Luhansk.
[Above] Ukrainian T-64BV photographed on 10-July 2014.

07-Jul 2014: In another dramatic development first three (now seven) bridges were blown up in the east of the country. [Below] One over the main road leading into Donetsk.

 [Below] Second bridge down over the Seversky Donets River, Luhansk region.
[Below] Third bridge down. Luhansk region.
[Below] Pro-separatists on the move in Donetsk. They do have (at least) one 9K35 Strela-10 mobile SAM system (NATO name: SA-13 "Gopher").

05-Jul 2014: According to news outlets Ukrainian forces routed rebels from Slovyansk. [Below] Remains a shattered separatist BMP.

03-Jun 2014: Persistent reports from European sources of approx 400 American mercenaries from Greystone/Academi "Blackwater" operating in eastern Ukraine supporting the Kiev government. Greystone is denying. However, there are persistent independent reports from Slovyansk residence of mysterious soldiers speaking American. Some suggest these are private security forces of oligarchs running eastern Ukraine. If Russia decides that there is 'too much American involvement' (whatever the facts) - this could get ugly.
02-Jul 2014: [Above] Images from Twitter – an unidentified pro-separatist vehicle reportedly in Luhansk. Might be SA-13 “Gopher” light anti-aircraft SAM. The Twitter feed asserts the vehicle came in from Russia. Again these kinds of wild claims cannot be trusted as the Ukrainian army had approx 150 examples of the SA-13. Right now we do not know where this SA-13 came from. But it is indeed in the hands of separatists.

30-Jun 2014: Heavy fighting reported around Karlivka, Slovyansk, Kramatorsk, Izvarino, Gukovo, and Snizhne. In Karlivka, there are reports on tank versus tank fighting on the road leading to the international airport controlled by Ukraine. Ukrainian airstrikes are also underway. Heavy shelling by Ukraine in Luhansk.

26-Jun 2014: Separatists supported by 2 to 8 tanks, attacked Ukrainian checkpoint near Slovyansk - 5 Ukrainians KIA, four Ukrainian BTR wheeled vehicles destroyed. Rebel losses - 1 KIA, 2 WIA. In Artemovsk separatists, supported by 1 tank, attacked a government base there. The attack was repulsed and in the process, the Ukrainians claim to have captured the separatist T-64 used in that attack [below]:
[Above] Ukrainian authorities released this photo of the separatist tank captured in Artemovsk. According to Ukraine the serial number corresponding to a T-64BV from the Kharkov Tank Plant (in Ukraine, 20 miles from the Russian border) and released in October 1987 to a military unit stationed in Russia. Ukraine says this vehicle was never registered to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Ukraine inherited some 2,350 T-64 examples alone. We strongly urge Ukrainian authorities to publish (release) the serial number for this tank (photographic video of all identifiers) and have the vehicle inspected by UN authorities. There is too much conflicting information for this not to be done. (update: NOT DONE).

26-Jun 2014: Thousands of Ukrainians flee into Russia as cease-fire nears its end.

24-Jun 2014: Another Ukr Mi-8 was lost. At approx 17:00 a Ukrainian Mi-8MT of the 16th Brigade (aircraft # 2595 ?) supporting a Ukrainian army checkpoint near the mountain Karachun was shot down after contact with the enemy. The aircraft was reportedly struck just after takeoff, caught fire and crashed - of the 9 people on board there were no survivors.
Information control is simply another tool of armed conflict. Indeed, the US State Department/NATO produced what they claim is proof that Russian T-64 tanks and other hardware have crossed (and are crossing) into Ukraine from Russia.
NATO included this photograph [above] of a Ukrainian T-64BM 'Bulat' operated by the Ukrainian Army to show its dissimilarity [below] to this vehicle photographed on 11-Jun 2014 in Snizhne, Ukraine - operated by Pro-Separatists.
[Above] A Ukrainian Army T-64BM versus [below] a Ukrainian/Russian Army T-64BV series. The BV machines are easily distinguishable because of the ERA (Explosive Reactive Armour) boxes fitted - among other differences.

It is an established fact that Ukrainian T-64BV machines are already in and operated by Ukraine. Here is proof as large numbers of Ukrainian T-64 are loaded-up and shipped out of Crimea (back to Ukraine) in March/April. That some of these Ukrainian machines found their way to separatists (?) - is unknown. 

But look closer. [Below] A Ukrainian Army T-64BV MBT. Note green/reddish brown paint scheme and white vertical stripes.
[Below] Note national flag and white vertical stripe on turret of this Ukrainian BTR.
If these were Russian T-64s and tanks carriers - it would require an elaborate hoax to paint them (and fit them) to look like Ukrainian spec machines. The second T-64BV in the above video has the number "272" or "772." The T-64s in the video are Ukrainian operated. We'll continue to look for Russia-supplied armor - however, evidence that Russia is supplying T-64 tanks to separatists in Ukraine - to date - can be challenged.

These T-64(BV)s are indeed being operated by pro-Russian separatists. Where they got them is the question. A more plausible explanation is these machines were acquired from a place like this - the tank plant/repair depot [below] in the town of Kharkov in the Slobozhanshchyna region of eastern Ukraine - just 20 miles from the Russian border. Even the color appears more consistent with the depot at Kharkov? There are reportedly over 400 abandoned examples at this location alone. It is obvious that Ukraine is awash in stagnant Soviet Bloc/Russian heavy weapons that are ripe for resourceful groups and individuals to exploit. Ukrainians history of weapon repair/refurbishing in the east would give them the intimate knowledge to coax some of these machines back to life? Soviet tanks are notoriously rugged.
photos: Pavel Itkin

[Below] Watch the reanimation of this old WWII era ISU-152 Soviet tank destroyer - that had been sitting in a Ukrainian village for perhaps some 60 years.


19-Jun 2014: New reports of heavy fighting in the east.

14-Jun 2014: Reports of two more Ukrainian aircraft downed. A Su-24 and/or a Su-25 over the Donetsk region. No confirmation. Could be the same aircraft. Varied accounts and reports are expected.
[Above] Ilyushin Il-76MD 'Candid' #76777 (pictured) was hit by heavy flak guns during its approach to Luhansk Airport on the night of 13-Jun. It crashed with heavy loss of life - no survivors. Just days before an An-30 turboprop (initial reports were an An-26 like the example in foreground) was lost to a missile on 06-Jun.

13-Jun 2014: Ukrainian IL-76 crashes on approach to Luhansk airport to resupply the 95th Airmobile at Lugansk. No survivors. We are perplexed by Ukrainian authorities to attempt to fly combat troops into Luhansk without further protection from the very real anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) and MANPAD threat?
[Above] The remains of Ilyushin Il-76MD 'Candid' #76777 of 13-Jun 2014.

Information control is simply another tool of armed conflict. NATO and the US State Department are asserting that these are T-64s from Russia. Both Ukraine and Russia operate the T-64. Our sources believe these tanks are captured Ukrainian examples.
[Above] This BMP-21 artillery rocket launcher is said to show it is indeed from Russia. We're trying to determine if it could be captured Ukrainian, ex Russian, or sent in from Russia. Identification issues extend to all combatants and indeed to all observers. Misinformation-Disinformation is on full display. This link claims that this vehicle is indeed from the Russian 18th Guards Motorized Brigade, then this link [link now dead] says they are Ukrainian.

As the fighting continues IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) will be a persistent issue especially for Ukrainian forces. Indeed IFF will contribute to casualties on all sides. [The IFF issue also extends into national intelligence agencies as well. ] To illustrate the ever-present IFF issue in war - see video below. Also, we have seen no reports or footage like this in the American press - which is perhaps an even larger concern and could facilitate this whole mess spinning further out of control.

09-Jun 2014: [Above] Ukrainian military releases video of  fighting near Slovyansk.
06-Jun-2014: [Above/Below] Ukrainian Air Force An-30B twin-engine turboprop is hit by what appears to be a SAM over Sloviansk. There is also the sound of what sounds like a jet aircraft heard before the missile hit. The AN-30B was on a surveillance mission. 3 of 8 crew members survived, 5 KIA.
[Above] A Ukrainian AN-30B
According to Ukrainian sources, their aircraft was downed at an altitude of 4500 m (14,700 ft) by a Russian SA-24 / 9K333 / IGLA-class man-portable antiaircraft system. The latest in the “IGLA” series started production in 2004. There is an active debate as to what weapon brought down the An-30. If it was an SA-24 this would point to more direct Russian involvement - however, if an SA-14 or SA-16 then that linkage is not as strong. These subtleties are important in shaping public opinion and policy. And remember - information control is simply another tool of war.

Regardless of the weapon used - with the sophistication of this attack - the new Ukrainian government is in way over its head - and semi-autonomous region(s) in the east will likely be the only solution.

02-Jun 2014: Rebels (100-500) attacked Ukrainian Border Station in Lugansk (about 70 defenders). Repeated airstrikes. Heavy fighting through the day. 5-7 rebels KIA, 5 civilians KIA, about 30 WIA. Ukrainian loses - 13 WIA.

We've added this video (below) for balance as foreign own media outlets can at times be very instructive. The underlying issue not discussed in the West is Ukraine's ruined economy - which is the real driver of the crisis.

29-May 2014: Video of what is reportedly a Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopter shot down by Pro-Russian forces near Sloviansk. 12 KIA (6 National Guard and 6 Interior Ministry officers) including General Serhij Kulczycki. There are also rumors of Pro-Russian factions fighting each other in Donetsk.

26-May 2014: Separatists capture Donetsk airfield. Ukrainian forces counterattack. Heavy fighting. UkAF Su-25, Mig-29, and Mi-24 are in action. Ukraine has almost no combat capable aircraft as vividly demonstrated by this Fulcrum of the Ukrainian aerobatic display team being pressed into service. More images should become available. Ukraine's economy is in complete ruins.

22-May 2014: Donetsk sees deadliest attack on government troops to date. Someone carried out a surprise assault on 55 National Guard soldiers manning a checkpoint in the village of Olginka. 15 KIA, 33 WIA.

19-May 2014 [Below] This video is reportedly from somewhere in Ukraine with separatists firing an Antitank Guided Missile (ATGM). We have no confirmation of what this actually footage is, where, or when:

16-May 2014: This video appeared purporting to be a nap-of-earth flight of a Ukrainian Su-24 'Fencer' - however, there is no way to verify this. It could just as easily be a Russian aircraft in Russia. Russian/Ukrainian Su-24s are almost indistinguishable. The Su-24 'Fencer' is a powerful interdiction/strike aircraft in the same class as the Panavia Tornado and American F-111. A Russian Fencer repeatedly buzzed the USS Donald Cook Aegis guided-missile destroyer the Black Sea on 25-April 2014.

09-May 2014: Another long dangerous day. Putin visits Crimea as more serious fighting erupts in the east of Ukraine. NATO and the US State department complain about his visit.

08-May 2014: [Below] An interesting and somewhat surprising sequence showing Ukrainian Mig-29s of the 204th Combat Aviation Brigade captured at Belbek AB in the Crimea being disassembled by Russian personnel for return back to Ukraine. The aircraft are to be trucked to Nikolayev/Kulbakino airfield outside of Mykolaiv. Of the 46 MiG-29/MiG-29UB and L-39M1 aircraft at Belbek - by 2014 the number of flyable examples had dwindled (decayed) to only three MiG-29s, one MiG-29UB and one L-39M1. Ukraine's economy remains in complete ruins.

08-May 2014: New questions as to the western assertion(s) that Kremlin is puppeteering separatists/events in Ukraine

05-May 2014: New fighting near Slovyansk.
[Above] Dozens of Russian MiG-29, Su-27, and Tu-22M3 like this one - have now landed in Crimea.

03-May- 2014: Kramatorsk. Fighting. 6 rebels KIA, 10 wounded. Parts of city under Ukrainian control. Ukrainian National Guard frees SBU building.
Donetsk - Rebels captured SBU HQ.
Crimea - Dozens of Russian Mig-29, Su-27, and Tu-22 repositioned (landing) in Crimea.
Slovyansk - Seven Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe military monitors were among the 12 people freed in Slovyansk.
Ukrainian losses so far - 5 KIA, 12 wounded, and 1 POW. Rebel losses: 20-40 KIA (fighters and civilians)
Photo: Ukraine Ministry of Defense
[Above] Ukraine reported this Mi-8MT helicopter was damaged by ground fire and is being repaired. Likely the same aircraft in the video below.

02-May 2014: Another long day. Events continue to spin out of control. [There is no way to verify some of these figures as of yet]:
Slovyansk - Heavy shootout during the night. Rebels attacked positions of Ukrainian 95th Airmobile Brigade in Andriyivka (near Slovyansk):
2 Mi-24 shot down.
1 Mi-8 damaged.
4 Ukrainian soldiers KIA and 1 POW.
6 rebel KIA and 4 POW. 2 others KIA.
Kramatorsk -National Guard attacked rebels position after dark.
Odessa - Pro-Russian groups attacked pro-Ukrainian demonstration. Ukrainian groups stormed a trade union building occupied by pro-Russians and set it ablaze:
3 Ukrainians KIA.
1 paramilitary KIA.
31 pro-Russian KIA (building fire).

[Below] Some photos circulating showing one of the downed Ukrainian Mi-24s are actually wreckage of the Russian Mi-26 shot down over Chechnya in 2002.
[Below] 25-Apr 2014: Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopter destroyed on the ground.
25-Apr 2014: Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopter destroyed on the ground by 9K111 ATGM (Anti Tank Guided Missile) in Kramatorsk. The pilot managed to escape and is wounded. Also, rebels in Slovyansk have seized OSCE representatives, who were believed to be military observers from Germany, Denmark, Poland, Sweden, and the Czech Republic.

24-Apr 2014: A busy day. Ukraine moves against Russian/pro-Russian insurgents/separatists/armed men in the east as Russia begins new military "exercises" at Ukraine's eastern border. Russian Su-25 (NATO codename 'Frogfoot') attack jets begin drills near Ukraine's eastern border.  NATO's own leaders acknowledge serious questions-implications as to NATO's ability to counter a peer adversary (read: Russia). US Secretary of State issues warning to the Kremlin.
[Below] 24-Apr 2014: Russian hardware is on the move in Novoshakhtinsk near the Ukrainian border.

23-Apr 2014: Russia issues another stern warning on attacking 'Russians' in eastern Ukraine.

22-Apr 2014: Western experts (yet again) are caught out regarding Russia and forced to rethink their assumptions. This western misread issue with respect to Russia has persisted since the Korean War. The development of the F-15 'Eagle' was a direct result of an array of false assumptions by western analysts/intelligence community regarding the Soviet MiG-25 'Foxbat.'

22-Apr 2014: “Under Russia, Life in Crimea Grows Chaotic

21-Apr 2014: "US State Department has released photos of soldiers in eastern Ukraine, which it says show that some of the fighters are Russian special forces." However, now there are questions.

20 -Apr 2014: Yet another incident near Slovyansk with three to five killed.

17-Apr 2014: Diplomats claim to have reached a deal on defusing Ukraine crisis. However, a Russian statement to "disband illegal armed groups" also is referring to the groups in Kiev - while the West and the Americans are referring to pro-Russian armed groups in the east - and not really Kiev. So we don't see this as anything resembling authentic agreement here - just more polite polarization and entrenchment.

17-Apr 2014: A false news story spins out of control (first appearing here) of a leaflet telling Jew's to register in eastern Ukraine. The US Secretary of State John Kerry treats flier as fact. Having said that the leaflet was distributed.

"Ukrainian National Guardsmen overnight on April 17 killed 3 rebels and injured 13 more when a group tried taking over their military base in Mariupol, Donetsk Oblast’s . According to Ukrainian sources, 63 rebels were captured."
[Above] 16-Apr 2014: What might be 05 Blue MiG-29C one of eight Fulcrums of Ukrainian Air Force Ukrainian Falcons Aerobatic Display Team. 05 Blue may have been forward deployed to Vasilkov AB similar to some other MiG-29s for protection of the capital.

Also, four (4) of the best Su-27P examples of 831st TAB of Myrgorod AB have been detached to Kulbakino AB and the Air Command Center of UkAF has doubled their number this past week. These are 45 Blue, 46 Blue, 100 Blue, and 101 Blue respectively. Primary role is air defense and their secondary role is CAP for Ukrainian Su-25s performing CAS.
Despite assertions from Brussels - NATO will not be able to project air power very effectively in a confrontation with Russia.

16-Apr 2014: Separatists taking victory lap in Ukrainian army vehicles in Kramatorsk. In Slovyansk, the Ukrainian army refused to shoot fellow countrymen and some Ukrainian troops defected or are returning to barracks on buses. Remarkable.

Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/AP
[Above] This UkAF Su-27P over Kramatorsk armed with three R-27s, two R-73s, fake underside canopy paint, and previously unseen dark nose.

Misinformation/disinformation are tools of armed conflict. Here appears to be a good example? The Americans are not immune from this behavior (far from it) and we will catch them out - soon enough. How committed the Ukraine military is - to actually defending Ukraine against Russia - is with near certainty being overstated by the West. 

15-Apr 2014: Ukrainian troops have reportedly retaken an airfield in the eastern city of Kramatorsk. Here are two videos of a UkAF Su-27P and Su-25S over Kramatorsk (UkAF aircraft are also reported over Slovyansk).
Video: Sergey Gakov

Video: Sergey Gakov
13-Apr 2014: Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian paramilitaries have traded gunfire in Slovyansk in mainland eastern Ukraine. Government forces were supported by at least one Mi-24 gunship. At least one Ukrainian officer KIA, many WIA on both sides. Russia has requested an emergency meeting of the UN security council.

"In the latest volume of his acclaimed biography of Lyndon B. Johnson, Robert A. Caro repeats a long-standing but erroneous myth about the Cuban missile crisis. Drawing on early accounts of the crisis, he describes a confrontation on Oct. 24, 1962, between American destroyers and Soviet ships carrying nuclear missiles to Cuba. According to Mr. Caro, the Soviet vessels were “within a few miles” of the blockade line, but turned away at the last moment.

This was the moment when Secretary of State Dean Rusk, by his own account, uttered the most memorable line of the missile crisis: “We’re eyeball to eyeball, and I think the other fellow just blinked.”

The “eyeball to eyeball” imagery made for great drama (it features in the 2000 movie “13 Days”), but it has contributed to some of our most disastrous foreign policy decisions, from the escalation of the Vietnam War under Johnson to the invasion of Iraq under George W. Bush. 

If this were merely an academic debate, it would not matter very much. Unfortunately, the myth has become a touchstone of toughness by which presidents are measured. Last month, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, called on President Obama to place a “clear red line” before Iran just as “President Kennedy set a red line during the Cuban missile crisis.”

While researching a 2008 book on the missile crisis, I plotted the positions of Soviet and American ships during this period, on the basis of United States intelligence records. I was stunned to discover that the lead Soviet ship, the Kimovsk, was actually 750 miles away from the blockade line, heading back toward the Soviet Union, at the time of the supposed “eyeball to eyeball” incident. Acting to avert a naval showdown, the Soviet premier, Nikita S. Khrushchev, had turned his missile-carrying freighters around some 30 hours earlier.

Kennedy was certainly bracing for an “eyeball to eyeball” moment, but it never happened. There is now plenty of evidence that Kennedy — like Khrushchev — was a lot less steely-eyed than depicted in the initial accounts of the crisis, which were virtually dictated by the White House. Tape-recorded transcripts of White House debates and notes from participants show that Kennedy was prepared to make significant concessions, including a public trade of Soviet missiles in Cuba for American missiles in Turkey and possibly the surrender of the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay.

While the risk of war in October 1962 was very high (Kennedy estimated it variously at between 1 in 5 and 1 in 2), it was not caused by a clash of wills. The real dangers arose from “the fog of war.” As the two superpowers geared up for a nuclear war, the chances of something going terribly wrong increased exponentially. To their credit, both Kennedy and Khrushchev understood this dynamic, which became particularly evident on the most nerve-racking day of all, “Black Saturday.”

By Saturday, Oct. 27, the two leaders were no longer in full control of their gigantic military machines, which were moving forward under their own momentum. Soviet troops on Cuba targeted Guantánamo with tactical nuclear weapons and shot down an American U-2 spy plane. Another U-2, on a “routine” air sampling mission to the North Pole, got lost over the Soviet Union. The Soviets sent MiG fighters into the air to try to shoot down the American intruder, and in response, Alaska Air Defense Command scrambled F-102 interceptors armed with tactical nuclear missiles. In the Caribbean, a frazzled Soviet submarine commander was dissuaded by his subordinates from using his nuclear torpedo against American destroyers that were trying to force him to the surface.

When it was all over, Kennedy aides sought to spin the crisis by depicting their man as fully on top of the situation. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. later praised the “mathematical precision” with which Kennedy calibrated his threats of force against Cuba and the Soviet Union and the “composure, clarity and control” the president displayed.

14-Apr 2014: A Russian Su-24 like this example [above] makes repeated low-level-high-speed passes at the USS Donald Cook (DDG-75) which had entered the Black Sea around 10-April.

The USS Cook [below] is an 'Arleigh Burke-class missile destroyer' equipped with the Aegis phased array radar (known as the Aegis Compact System). Let us hope the events regarding the USS Vincennes shootdown of Iran Air Flight 655 in 1988 - have been corrected?
The White House tapes demonstrate that Kennedy was a good deal more nuanced and skeptical, about the value of “red lines” than his political acolytes were. He saw the blockade — or “quarantine,” as he preferred to call it — as an opportunity to buy time for a negotiated settlement. But his aides came to believe their own propaganda. They thought that strategies like “controlled escalation” would work equally well against the North Vietnamese. In the judgment of Clark M. Clifford, who succeeded Robert S. McNamara as secretary of defense in 1968, they “possessed a misplaced belief that American power could not be successfully challenged, no matter what the circumstances, anywhere in the world.”

President Bush made a similarly fateful error, in a 2002 speech in Cincinnati, when he depicted Kennedy as the father of his pre-emptive war doctrine. In fact, Kennedy went out of his way to avoid such a war. Far from “ignoring” Khrushchev’s public offer of a Turkey-Cuba missile trade, Kennedy described it as a “pretty good proposition,” and sent his brother to seal the deal with the Soviet ambassador Anatoly F. Dobrynin on the night of Oct. 27. (As it turned out, the Americans were able to keep the missile deal secret for many years.)
Separatist forces in Slovyansk 13-Apr 2014.
In deciding how to respond to Khrushchev, Kennedy was influenced by his reading of “The Guns of August,” Barbara W. Tuchman’s 1962 account of the origins of World War I. The most important lesson he drew from it was that mistakes and misunderstandings can unleash an unpredictable chain of events, causing governments to go to war with little understanding of the consequences.

It is a lesson that Presidents Johnson and Bush would have been wise to ponder when considering what to do in Vietnam and Iraq, and one that remains valid today."

Michael Dobbs is the author of “Six Months in 1945: F.D.R., Stalin, Churchill, and Truman — From World War to Cold War,” the final volume in a trilogy about the cold war. A version of this op-ed appeared in print on October 16, 2012, on page A31 of the New York edition with the headline: The Price of a 50-Year Myth.

Your thoughts?


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  1. Hi there.I have been Reading your blog for some time now,but this is my first post.
    I would like to know your opinion on these topics:
    What is your opinion on the F-15SE?Would it be a good fighter for the USAF?
    What about new versions of the F-16?
    What should the USMC buy in place of the F-35B?
    Do you belive that 4th gen fighters like the Strike Eagle and the Flanker can operate against advanced SAMs like the S-400?
    Thanks for your time and sorry for the bad english but i am portuguese.
    Keep up the good work.

    1. Hi Nuno,

      Thank you for writing. Am very tired – a lot going on – please excuse my grammar

      We do not believe the F-15SE would be much better than the F-15C or F-15E because the internal weapon bay simply reduce the amount of internal fuel that can be carried. The C and E already must operate with external drop tanks – the F-15SE would fare no better than the F-15C and worse than the F-15E. Whatever stealth improvement SE has it would be negated by the use of external tanks. So no. The F-15 series is already not (not) very long range especially if it has contact with the enemy. In 1991 USAF F-15C were almost flaming out because of lack of fuel after their engagements with Iraqi interceptors.

      Yes a new F-16 would be a wonderful airplane. The USAF should build a thrust vectoring version. Even better a thrust vectoring F-16XL.

      The USMC should keep the AV-8B and have the USAF transfer half it’s A-10 Thunderbolt II (including pilots/logistics) to the USMC and the other half to US Army aviation. The USAF hates the CAS mission anyway.

      I don’t know if 4th generation aircraft can operate against S-400. If this Ukraine thing spins out of control – we might find out very soon? Low level strike aircraft can get past S-400 using terrain masking (if there is the right terrain) and CAP/Escort fighters might be able to get past S-400 with EW electronic warfare aircraft support – but it’s a gamble.

      F-117s, F-22, and F-35 also require additional EW aircraft support for them to operate – so why all the $$ for stealth fighters?

      We now know that during the 1991 Gulf war – the generals argued over allowing EF-111s to escort F-117s to the targets. The Nighthawk needed jamming support to approach its targets.

      your English is excellent!

  2. While it's not aviation related, it has to be mentioned that the Cuban Crisis comparison has some merit, as it was caused by the same US encroachment tactics against USSR/Russia. But this time there is an important difference, the ancestral home of the Kievan Rus' is in danger to be taken over by enemies. To better understand the Russian mentality, is to remember that they had to defend themselves in a few wars that threatened their plain existence as a nation, and they won't take it lightly when someone invades their back yard. The "democratic" west made probably a grave error by instigating , and supporting the demonstrations in Kiev, and the armed overthrow of the elected government, as Putin's reaction was fully predictable. Russia could, and would not afford to loose Crimea.
    The previous attack was similarly conducted simultaneously with the Olympic Games, by the puppet regime of Saakashvili in Georgia, starting with the indiscriminate shelling of civilians in South Ossetia. If then the immediate, and effective Russian military response was a bad surprise for the western instigators, this time the timing was somewhat better, as Russia was the host of the Games, and had to delay it's response till after the closing.
    After the dissolution of the USSR, initiated by Gorbatchev's treason, and accomplished by the puppet Yeltsin, Ukraine "inherited" a series of territories, and populations from neighboring states, including Russian Crimea, generously "donated" in 1954 by Khrushchev, of Ukrainian origin. That the first legal act of the new puppet regime in Kiev, was to annul the rights of other nationalities to use their own language, speaks from itself.
    Russians, and Ukrainians have very close ties, and common ancestry. The west's continuous meddling, and escalation of the current artificially induced conflict will degenerate in civil war, if not restrained. There is no question that, if a certain number citizens of Russian ethnicity are killed, the Russian army will intervene. But that's possibly exactly what the Financial-Military-Industrial-Intelligence Complex plans.

    1. Russian fascist detected.

      US encroachment tactics against USSR

      Right, because it wasn't as if the USSR had forcing communism upon the planet as its stated purpose. Those evil Westerners, how dare they resist the blessings of communism ?

      And presently, how dare the former Soviet satellites seek security against Russia ? What's not to like about having Russia for a neighbour ?

      Patton was right - the Russian are a bunch of Mongolian savages who can only be kept in place by shows of force.

  3. Hi Anonymous,

    Thank you for writing.

    Yes - the real danger that both Khrushchev and Kennedy recognized in 1962 was the inerrant danger of large militaries in close proximity. The odds of a miscalculation, mistake, misread, or other unintended act - is enormous.

    In our view it would be best if modern counties on the Russian border to declare/ratify/ invoke a neutrality policy (like Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, Ireland) and act as a buffer between Russian and NATO. Neutrality meaning: Would not join any military alliance or allow its territory to be used for attack. Not so easy for the Baltic States to do – but it must be done. If there is military incursion westward – then it is dealt with on a case by case basis and not in a vacuum.

    If the outcome of NATO expansion up to Russian borders is that it erodes East-West cooperation or starts a war – then NATO expansion does not (does not ) have any useful purpose - if deterring war is its goal. However NATO expansion would have a useful purpose for those who long for a return of war in Europe - or the Cold War.

    The larger US-Russia strategic context is at issue here. This is why American did nothing over Crimea or to help Saakashvili in 2008. The Ukrainians in Kiev will learn this same lesson. In the mean time - we must keep these large militaries apart from one another!

    Keep an eye on Moldova – the Whitehouse isn’t.

    - The Boresight

  4. Hello Boresight,

    Your description of PNAC and Robert Kagan are very interesting and somewhat provocative. "Neanderthals" is perhaps not entirely warranted?
    If indeed they were the primary driving force behind Iraq, then I would share your cause for concern; are the allegations of torture, killing hundreds-of-thousands-of people true insofar as they were done under the PNAC's direct oversight? Furthermore, what part has PNAC played in the progression in this "proto-war"?

    Cameron Bayly

    1. Hi Cameron,

      See the signatories in this letter :

      How many would be in the Bush II administration?

      I am not the only one who have huge problems with the PNAC - and come out to challenge Kagan on his reasoning and assumptions:



      The proven ramifications of arguments and policy advocated by the PNAC - is
      a matter of historical fact - and is monstrous.

      Had the United States recognized the ICC – the entire Bush II administration including the PNAC-architects of the Iraq war – with 150% certainty - would face indictments by the International Criminal Court in the Haag.

    2. The Letter to then President Clinton effectively foreshadows PNAC intent were they to get the reigns of power (which they would under Bush II). Just do some digging. Remember the Dick Cheney secret energy meetings with maps of Iraqi oil fields and their (foreign) co-sponsor. Look what the American invasion did to Iraq – unleashed a brutal civil. Cost us trillions. Kagan is an idiot.

    3. Ok...ok, sorry

      I have noticed something interesting on youtube.
      Apparently, countries with some sort of military tie with the United States is getting air time with (not in) the Raptor, without having to come to the US.

  5. Here is the link. It's too long so I will break it in half.

    Again, they might take the comment section down, so you probably won't find this in the future.

    Sorry for the grammar in the first post.

  6. Actually that's the entire link.


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