Russia’s Putin making aggressive moves near Alaska

Published 5:42 pm Friday, May 7, 2021

By Ray Mosby

“They’re our next-door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.”—Sarah Palin

ROLLING FORK — No, the idiot former governor of Alaska and worst vice presidential choice since Thomas Eagleton did not say she could see Russia from her house (that was Tina Fey in an SNL skit making fun of her), but did answer what’s quoted above to ABC’s Charlie Gibson when he asked her about her foreign policy experience, and specifically, Russian adventurism, and the difference is pretty much without distinction.

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Having been born at the beginning of and having grown up throughout the Cold War, my ears were always prone to perk up at any mention of the old Soviet Union and still do at any contemporary reference to Russia, primarily I suppose because I know that Vladimir Putin’s greatest wish is to bring his country back to what he perceives as its glorious Soviet days and that he still views the United States as nothing short of his mortal enemy.

Of all the things I disliked about Donald Trump (and they were/are legion), I think the one that galled me the most was his sidling up to Putin and the prevailing notion that there were puppet strings leading all the way back to the Kremlin.

But, as someone most constructively pointed out the other day, Trump is out of office now and the necessity to bash him is hence, diminished.

But Putin’s Russia remains, and with it what I think may be an underestimated threat. Oh, yes, I know about the gathering of troops at the Ukrainian border and how Putin supposedly “backed down” at U.S. insistence. But what if that were but diversion? What if that were but a feint to see how the new American president might react?

What if Putin’s sights are really trained on another target altogether—one a lot closer?

First, a little time travel.

It is late January and early February, 1982 and the NBC television network is airing a mini-series (remember them?) called “World War III.” That was still the height of the Cold War in fiction, as well, and this production was set at a remote NORAD station in Alaska where the Soviets, having laid the groundwork for such, were launching a secret incursion led by paratroopers into the American state to capture and control a pumping station critical to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline in retaliation for an American grain embargo. A little far-fetched, but not as much then as it might seem now (to our peril?)

In both the movie then and in real life today, northern Alaska is not exactly teeming with American troops and heavy weaponry, so the initial phase of the Soviet plan went fairly well, but after the perfunctory firefight in the Arctic, things escalate way out of control in both Moscow and Washington, leading the viewer with the unsatisfying and disturbing thought of inevitable thermo-nuclear war. (I never said it was a good mini-series.)

Now flash forward to the present. It is a pleasant early-April late afternoon and I am scanning my newsfeeds before closing up shop when the headline on a CNN story gave me a nasty jolt of déjà vu: “Satellite images show huge Russian military buildup in the Arctic.”

Huh? Why had I not heard more about this? Why have I not heard more since?

And so, I started reading: “Satellite images provided to CNN by space technology company Maxar detail a stark and continuous build-up  of Russian military bases and hardware on the country’s Arctic coastline, together with underground storage facilities likely for new high-tech weapons. The Russian hardware in the High North area includes bombers and MiG31BM jets. and new radar systems close to the coast of Alaska.”

Among those new high-tech weapons is believed to be the Poseidon 2M39 stealth torpedo, powered by a nuclear reactor and designed to sneak past U.S. coastal defenses on the sea floor.

CNN quoted an assistant secretary of state as saying the Poseidon is designed to “inundate U.S. coastal cities with radioactive tsunamis which could render them uninhabitable for periods measured in half-lives.

The CNN piece went on to say the Russian buildup is now being matched by NATO and U.S. troops and equipment movements, including increased flights by B-1 Lancer bombers stationed in Norway.

But the Russians are clearly taking advantage of the receding Arctic ice blanket to increase its military presence in manners that seem anything but defensive, in nature. A senior official told CNN, “There’s clearly a military challenge from the Russians in the Arctic. That has implications for the United States and its allies, not least because it creates the capacity to project power up to the North Atlantic.”

Among the options being considered, but not yet enacted by the United States against Russia for its Ukrainian adventurism is an embargo on several commodities, including grain. Is this where somebody makes some reference to life imitating art?

Ray Mosby is editor and publisher of the Deer Creek Pilot in Rolling Fork.