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Vladimir Putin has been making headlines since he came back from the Northern Fleet tactical exercise in the Arctic
Vladimir Putin, Russian President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, has been making headlines since he came back from the Northern Fleet tactical exercise in the Arctic. While agreeing on the topics - his flight onboard a Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bomber, a cruise on the Pyotr Veliky, Russia's strongest fighting fleet flagship, and oversight of missile launches, of a supersonic cruise missile from the Blackjack and of a ballistic one from the submerged SSBN Yekaterinburg - the attitudes of Russian and Western media were different altogether, with the West accusing Russia of saber-rattling and bullying. The rationale behind this piece is to explain why this is just not true. Russia does not project military force and does not occupy lands thousands of miles away from home. All Russian forces deployed beyond its boundaries, notably in the breakaway regions of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transdnestria, are there under UN and CIS mandates or have bilateral agreements with hosting counties and their permission to deploy a military capability. That statesmen, let alone presidents who have a military commitment by definition, sometimes attend military events and sites - aircraft carriers, military bases etc. - or even fly combat jets should be hardly seen as a whim or a sign of irresponsibility. After all, why cannot Putin, a man in his prime, do what Jacques Chirac, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Spanish King Juan Carlos did many times - and what King of Jordan Abdulla II, a revered combat pilot, who has just visited Putin at the Black Sea resort of Sochi was clearly envious of? Another matter of concern has been the launch of a Kh-555, a standoff ALCM described as new but in reality derived from the Soviet Kh-55 nuclear missile in the early 1990s by the Raduga design bureau near Moscow. (By the way, Ukraine where almost all these missiles had been deployed under the Soviet Union barred Russia from pulling all of them out as the U.S.S.R. collapsed. It returned only nuclear warheads and is thought to have sold de-armed Kh-555s abroad.) Apart from the nuclear-to-conventional conversion, the improvements of the Soviet-era munition were largely about accuracy, clearly not a crucial characteristic for a nuclear warhead. The recent launch was just another accuracy test and that it was overseen by the Commander-in-Chief clearly does not make it special. Moscow has been converting its nuclear force into conventional for years. So why the ballyhoo? Maybe the ongoing Sino-Russian war games are to blame? What is so scary about 10,000 uniformed men and women learning how to repel a threat of a terrorist invasion? The U.S. did such war games with Taiwan, India with France, even Russia with France, and none of the previous events was ever seen as "throwing down a gauntlet" to the United States, as some media wrote. Maybe some people are nostalgic about the times when Russian warships were nowhere to be seen beyond their naval bases, combat vehicles were firmly locked up in hangars, and the military, underpaid and treaded-upon, fled the army in their thousands? This was too bad to last long, and now it is high time the Russian Armed Forces began doing what all other decent armies do - protect their country and its national interests. As professionally and effectively as ever
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