The Russians are probably not bluffing. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:
In the days after the June 23 incident between the UK Royal Navy’s HMS Defender and a Russian patrol vessel and military aircraft near Crimea which resulted in warning shots fired from the Russian side, Putin asserted that a US reconnaissance plane had been nearby monitoring the dangerous close-call incident as it unfolded below. Putin had cast the whole showdown as a “provocation” in which the US aircraft was present monitor Russia’s response to the UK vessel. Moscow’s position is that the UK vessel had ventured a full three kilometers into Russian territorial waters, which was met with a Su-24M dropping bombs in the Defender’s path along with the Russian patrol ship firing warning shots.
The latest charge on Sunday, however, has gone further, with Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov accusing Washington and the UK of essentially engineering the dangerously close military encounter in order to probe and test Russia’s defense of its borders.
“I think our intelligence certainly knows who made a decision there [in the situation with the British destroyer]. But certainly I think such operations are basically planned by senior partners from overseas,” Peskov was cited in TASS as saying.
Given Putin’s prior words pointing the finger directly at Washington during his annual televised Q&A last month, this latest Kremlin statement is also no doubt a clear reference to the US (in terms of the provocative reference to “who made the decision here”). Presidential spokesman Peskov elaborated further in his Sunday statements that “in this case the destroyer was just a tool of provocation.”
These latest statements came with a warning, following the earlier summoning of the British ambassador and military attaché in Moscow quickly after the event. Peskov said Russia will continue to “respond harshly” to any future provocations in a similar way. This after UK officials expressed “surprise” at how rapidly the sea encounter devolved in a ‘live fire’ incident.
Vladimir Putin talked to Russia and he had a few things to say about Crimea and Ukraine. From Israel Shamir at unz.com:
The Russian Direct Line is a unique exercise in direct democracy: Russian citizens call up their president and he answers their queries and solves their problems, like a Nordic konung a thousand years ago. Russia came into being as a chain of Nordic princedoms that practiced this sort of direct access to their ruler; early Russian princes and Tsars posed themselves as an instance of last appeal and immediate access. Twenty years ago, Vladimir Putin resurrected this ancient practice, and once a year every Russian can appeal to him on any subject matter at all. A man of power and authority, he can override any regulation, cut through the bureaucratic red tape, and solve any conundrum by his almost-royal grace. In the heavily bureaucratised country, such an omnipotent yet benevolent ruler provides excellent solutions to problems that should never have arisen in the first place.
The majority of questions and answers deal with everyday Russian life; with the supply of gas, with water drainage, with prices for vegetables, or communal charges. But Putin also answered questions that dealt with real world politics, and provided a few scoops for us. (Here is the full transcript)
The HMSDefender raid into Crimean waters is still fresh in memory, so Putin was asked whether this confrontation could have led to the Third World War. “No”, said Putin. “Even if we had sunk that ship, it wouldn’t put the world on the brink of a third world war because they know they could not win the war. We would also suffer, but we were in the right, and on our own ground.” This means that Russians are perfectly able to sink or capture the next NATO ship if she were to enter Russian waters.
The question of sovereign recognition does not come into the equation at all. Possession and recognition are different. The US refused to recognise (from 1940 to 1991) that the Baltic States were part of the USSR, but prudently the US Navy never tried to visit Riga port, even equipped as it was with a permit from the Latvian government-in-exile. Argentina would not recognise the British claim of sovereignty over Malvinas (Falklands) and boldly sailed within 200 miles of it. Their cruiser General Belgrano was sunk with all hands by the British RN submarine Conqueror. The law of the sea advises seafarers to pay heed to reality, not to claims however legally impressive.
The answer is probably yes. From The Saker at unz.com:
The HMS Defender Runs
To begin, let’s recap what just happened in the Crimean waters. First, the HMS Defender deliberately entered the Russian waters under the pretext that the Brits don’t recognize what they call the “annexation” of Crimea. The Brits deny it, but after seeing 4 bombs explode ahead of the HMS Defender, they altered their course as the Russians demanded.
Next, before looking into this deeper, let’s also keep in mind the following fact: the entire Black Sea is a de facto “Russian lake” meaning that Russia has the full military control of the Black Sea. For those alternatively gifted, let me explain what this means:
The Bal and Bastion coastal defense missiles can sink any ship in the Black Sea in minutes.
The Black Sea Fleet has seven advanced diesel-electric attack submarines, arguably the most advanced on the planet.
The HMS Defender was operating without any air cover but detected over 20 Russian military aircraft overflying it.
For a more detailed discussion of this reality, please see these four (here, here, here and here) articles by Andrei Martyanov. For a more detailed discussion of the laws of the sea, please see this discussion by Nat South.
In other words, the HMS Defender was a sitting duck with no chance of survival had the Russians decided to fire in anger. General Konashenkov, who is in charge of contacts with the media, had this to say about the outcome of the British provocation: (emphasis added)
“The epic fiasco of the provocation of the British destroyer Defender in the Black Sea, which abruptly changed course from Russian territorial waters after the warning shots of the patrol ship, will remain a fragrant stain on the reputation of the Royal Navy for a long time”
(-: Thereby suggesting that the Brits soiled their pants and ran for their lives
Speaking of anger: I have been parsing the Russian media over the past couple of days and I will only say that there are A LOT of commentators who are mad at the Kremlin for NOT opening fire in earnest and sinking the Defender.
As the man said in Scarface, “don’t get high on your own supply.” The American and British government believe their own propaganda to the point of delusion. From Ron Paul at ronpaulinstitute.org:
Less than two weeks after NATO members reaffirmed allegiance to Article 5 – that an attack on one member was an attack on all members – the UK nearly put that pledge to the test. In a shockingly provocative move, the UK’s HMS Defender purposely sailed into Crimean territorial waters on its way to Georgia.
Press reports suggest that there was a dispute between the UK defense and foreign ministries over whether to violate Russia’s claimed territorial waters with a heavily armed warship. According to reports, Prime Minister Boris Johnson himself jumped in to over-rule the more cautious Foreign Office in favor of confrontation.
As Johnson later claimed, because the UK (and the US) does not recognize Russian sovereignty over Crimea, the UK was actually sailing through Ukrainian waters. It was an in-your-face move toward Russia just weeks after the US and NATO were forced to back down from a major clash with Russia in eastern Ukraine
This time, as was the case in eastern Ukraine, the Russians took a different view of the situation. Russian coast guard vessels ordered the HMS Defender to exit Russian territorial waters – an order they punctuated with rare live fire of cannon and dropping of bombs.
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