Eastern Mediterranean: why do Russians "threaten" Americans?

(To Filippo Del Monte)
27/05/20

For the third time in two months, Russian pilots have intercepted US planes in the international waters of the eastern Mediterranean. The latest episode in this regard is dated May 26 when a US Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft was flanked for 65 minutes by two Russian Sukhoi Su-35 multirole fighters of the VKS (Russian Aerospace Forces). The action in question according to the press office of the 6th US Fleet endangered the safety of the crew of the P-8A since the two Russian fighters would have been so close to the wings as to prevent any type of maneuver.

Washington demanded compliance from Moscow with the 1972 INCSEA Accident Prevention Agreement by calling the Russians "irresponsible" conduct.

So far the news, but in fact the question does not stop there because it leads us to reflect on the directives of American foreign policy from Obama's last phase in the White House to the current Trump presidency.

The Ukrainian crisis of 2014 with the consequent Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula forced the USA to review the most radical aspects of the "Pivot to Asia" theorized by the Obamian strategists and which relegated Europe and Russia to second place among the US strategic priorities.

Mutual Russian-Western sanctions, the "Russiagate" and the impeachement procedure against Trump have exacerbated the already difficult relations with Moscow; not to mention that Donald Trump, just like Ronald Reagan at the time, does not respond - for training, value and political practice - to the classic pattern of American diplomacy and this casts a cone of shadow of difficult interpretation, if Trump remains president, on the future of relations with the Russians.

From the "irresponsible" actions of the Russians in the open sea, however, the shift to the south of the center of gravity of Moscow's foreign policy emerges. Having achieved the historic goal of having feet firmly in the "warm seas", the Russians are focusing on a policy - which does not exclude direct military interventions - active in Syria and Libya.

If it is improper to use the definition of "new Cold War" for this new phase of Russian-American tension because it would distort the historical significance of that global and totalizing conflict, it is not improper to observe how Russia, according to a traditional but highly pragmatic conception of the international relations, use the Armed Forces as a political tool to send signals to opponents, in this case the United States.

The Russian provocations of the last two months in international waters do not respond to an aggressive logic but are the result of that Putinian conduct that has regulated - but never broken - the very particular relationship with Washington.

It is a sign of Russian existence and presence in an area that, until a few years ago, seemed to be private property of the United States.

Photo: US Navy