For the first time in 11 years, U.S. fighter pilots were able to get an up close and personal glimpse of Russian air force bombers in the air last week.

That’s because, during a so-called “military exercise,” Moscow had ordered four of their nuclear-capable long range bombers to probe U.S. and NATO defenses around Iceland and Norway — just like they used to do on a regular basis during the Cold War.

Russia ordered two Tu-95 prop-driven “Bears” and two sub-sonic, jet-powered Tu-160 “Blackjacks” to probe western defenses along the Icelandic and Norwegian coasts during a huge military exercise they had called, ironically, “West 99.” Besides launching Norwegian fighters, western allied air commanders managed also to get four U.S. F-15s in the air to “escort” the Russian planes as they made their required “training runs.”

In this season of Independence Day, this latest incident ought to give pause to Americans who have been fast asleep during the Clinton years and have not noticed how much more at risk of attack our country is now than it was in 1992. That risk has not only been compounded by China’s theft of our nuclear secrets, it has been worsened by Russia’s continuing threats.

Moscow’s increasing belligerence towards the United States is one of the most underreported stories of the latter 1990s. Despite their assurances that they are now friends of the West — after opposing the West and NATO for over 70 years — the truth is Russia has remained a communist nation at heart. That they were anything else was bogus when it was first proclaimed, and it is bogus now. The only difference is now Moscow’s flirtation with western democracy and western-style economic reforms is in its death throes.

Several examples — both recent and past — should demonstrate this:

Russia has been using western and U.S. IMF aid not to dismantle and deactivate their huge nuclear arsenal but to instead maintain and improve it. Since 1993 Moscow has spent billions developing and deploying new nuclear weapons systems, including the most recent deployment of the road-mobile Topol-M ICBM. Ten of these MIRV giants have been deployed, and Moscow has plans to deploy at least ten more per year over the next several years.

Russia is currently engaging in building a huge underground “command and control” complex outside Moscow. Ostensibly, Russian officials have said that the bunker is needed to “maintain control” over the country in an emergency. Defense intelligence experts know better, however. Designed to hold some 35,000 people for months on end, there is a railway leading directly from Boris Yeltsin’s Dacha to the facility. And as far as our side can tell, this bunker is being built to make sure the Russians have a command and control apparatus in the event of nuclear war. The question is: Why do they still worry about nuclear war if they’re so chummy with us?

Russia and China have signed increasingly mutually cooperative agreements which include, but are not limited to, defense. Russia is allowing China to purchase state-of-the-art warplanes, is going to let China build them under license, and has sold China top of the line warships and, some think, China’s first aircraft carrier. This is a unique development, considering China and Russia were stationing scores of combat troops on each other’s border just two or three years ago.

Though quickly retracted last fall, it is believed that Russia now has a version of a stealth fighter. Whether that’s true or not, it is known that Russia, with the help of Czechoslovakian designers, now have a radar system that is capable of locating our stealth fighters.

Russia is still building state-of-the-art surface-to-air missile systems, has a new class of nuclear powered submarine under construction, is upgrading all of their most recent fighter planes, and plans to put more emphasis on readying Russian troops over the next several months.

While it is true that any nation has the right to modernize and upgrade their military forces, it just doesn’t make sense for Russia to do so, if we are to believe the mainstream press and the Clinton administration.

For instance, the mainstream press is forever telling Americans how broke Russia is, how politically unstable the country is, and how endangered Boris Yeltsin is. And yet Moscow is, for all the world, acting exactly like a nation that feels strong and even threatened, even though nobody is visibly threatening her and even though the United States and other western countries are supposedly lending Moscow a helping hand.

Keeping this in mind, it doesn’t make sense for Russia to act belligerent. And yet, she is.

Like the China scandal, perhaps the truth is Russia isn’t the helpless, hapless and toothless superpower the Clinton administration would have us believe. After all, virtually everything they have told Americans about the Chinese has been incorrect at best and an outright lie at worst. Why should anyone believe them about Russia, considering how Russia is behaving?

Nations that feel comfortable — really comfortable — with their global neighbors don’t fly long range bombers into their neighbor’s territory, and certainly not to the point as to trigger a defensive response from that neighbor. After 11 years something has caused Russia to feel the need to reassert herself to the West and, in essence, to the world. This is coming on the heels of so much advanced military development in the country of Russia’s newest partner — China. Something’s wrong with this picture of “global peace.”

Whatever it is, I believe it’s a safe bet for Americans to presume that Russia’s honeymoon with the West is all but over.

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