Wednesday, April 19, 2017

TENSION IN THE AIR Russian bombers buzz Alaskan shoreline for second day in a row

So screams the headline from Fox News.  (Yeah, I know:  What grounds did I have to expect good reporting?)  I wonder if anyone there remembers the "Line of Death" in the Gulf of Sidra?  From the L.A. Times, March 27, 1986
The battle over the right to navigate freely in Libya's Gulf of Sidra officially ended today with a Defense Department announcement of a halt to ship and flight operations in and over the disputed waters. 
President Reagan sent the 6th Fleet a "well done" message, saying it has been the "spear and shield of American policy in a troubled and volatile region."
Back in 1986, the US contention was that international waters (and airspace) remain, well, international, and that Libya has no right to declare part of these international waters off limits.  This is  the same principle that the US invokes when performing exercises off the coast of North Korea or in the Black Sea; it is also the principle to which the US appeals when protesting when China creates and arms artificial islands in the South China Sea.

As for "buzzing" the Alaskan shore, the text of the article specifies that the planes came "within 36 miles of the mainland" and that "U.S. territorial waters extend 12 nautical miles from shore."  In other words, they "buzzed" Alaska by staying two dozen miles out in international waters.

Of course, I am overlooking the key factor in the Fox worldview:  Rules are for everyone else.