Is military exercise a chilling forewarning of dramatic events to come?

According to comments made by the former head of the Royal Air Force (RAF), Sir Michael Graydon, the UK could not sustain an attack from Russia. Other RAF personnel have also claimed that a Putin-led attack on the United Kingdom would completely saturate the defenses of Britain. The comments come in the context of an incident which occurred on Thursday, during which RAF Typhoon fighter jets were scrambled to intercept two Russian long-range bombers. This occurred just off the coast of the southern British county of Cornwall.

Could The UK Really Be Attacked By Russia?

UK Vulnerable

Russia has naturally stated that the flight was simply a planned patrol, and that it has not violated any aspect of international law. The British prime minister, however, was moved to comment that Russia was “trying to make some sort of point,” but other military personnel have suggested that the threat to the UK mainland is much more serious.

Graydon stated in an interview with the British tabloid the Daily Mail that he doubted whether it would be possible for the UK to sustain a “shooting war” against Russia. He stated that the capabilities of the United Kingdom is roughly half what it was previously, and that Russia was probably engaging in these reconnaissance missions in order to monitor the defenses in Britain.

The former member of the RAF hierarchy went on to suggest that the mission Russia had engaged in probably revealed to them that the UK is by no means as sharp in this area as it once was. Graydon stated that it would be clear to the Russians that they knew they were engaged in a provocative act, and that it could be a timely one from a Russian perspective considering that Western air defense is relatively minimal compared to its past might.

Other RAF personnel suggested that the situation is even more grim. But are these fears actually based in reality, or is it completely ludicrous alarmism?

BRIC World Order

To understand the situation with Russia, it is first important to familiarise one’s self with the BRIC nations.

On 16th June, 2009, in Yekaterinburg, Russia the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India and China met for a conference that is now referred to as the BRIC summit. The acronym BRIC was first used in a Goldman Sachs thesis projecting that the economic potential of these nations is such that they will be ranked as four of the five most dominant economies in the world by the year 2050. More on that later. The first BRIC summit – as with more secretive conferences such as Bilderberg – set the agenda for the group, so it is enlightening to look at what was discussed. Reuters described the conference as “seek[ing] global clout” and “discuss[ing] reform of the world financial system”.

A joint statement released in advance of the conference stated that “we, the leaders of the Federative Republic of Brazil, the Russian Federation, the Republic of India and the People’s Republic of China, have discussed the current situation in the global economy and other pressing issues of global development, and also prospects for further strengthening collaboration within the BRIC, at our meeting in Yekaterinburg on June 16, 2009”.

Since then there have been several BRIC meetings, and these are clearly intended to strengthen the influence of China and Russia in the world, and with regard to existing financial institutions, from which they feel excluded. Additionally, it is often proposed that the BRIC nations will attempt to set up their own financial institutions and central bank, and in accordance with this will ramp up the pressure on the United States and British economies and financial-led infrastructure in the coming years.

This has ensured that the United States and Britain, traditional allies and trading partners, have become natural opponents to Russia and China in what is effectively a trading and financial war. It has been asserted that the tumbling price of oil in recent months has been a calculated attack by financial interests rooted in the United States to weaken the position of Russia, which is hugely reliant on oil and gas reserves.

Russian Retaliation

Considering that Russia has just had effectively 60 percent of its mineral wealth wiped out, at least in market terms, it is perhaps natural that the Eastern European nation is feeling a little twitchy. What complicates the situation is that European nations in particular have been, and still are, very reliant on a Russian oil and gas exports (although that UK imports most of its oil from Norway).

So such reconnaissance missions as the one which David Cameron responded to could effectively be viewed as a show of strength by Russia in the context of an aggressive economic situation. But do British people actually have anything to worry about in terms of the physical threat from Russia, or will this war be played out in financial markets and other economic theaters?

Follow the Money

Of course, economics and warfare are inextricably linked, and one should never underestimate the influence of the former on the latter. But although what the former RAF personnel are stating about Britain’s air defenses may very well be accurate, one has to understand that Britain is the major ally of the united states, and any such attack on the mainland of Britain is pretty much unthinkable.

One has to bear in mind that even during the height of the Cold War, which necessitated a huge amount of tension by its very nature, along with massive distrust and rhetorical conflict, the Soviet Union still do not come close to attacking the mainland of the United States. It must be said in mitigation that the Cuban Missile Crisis nearly led to the utterly disastrous prospect of a full-scale nuclear war, but no matter how hawkish the Soviet Union became there was no prospect of it ever attacking the mainland of the United States or one of its major allies, as it knew that it would be completely obliterated.

While many people, including your humble author, bemoan the existence of nuclear weapons, it can be argued that they have contributed to the relatively uneasy peace between Russia and the United States. Both have acted aggressively at times, but the potential consequences of a full-scale conflict have arguably played a part in dissuading such an unattractive proposition. The United States will never attack Russia because it has 8,000 nuclear weapons. By the same token, Russia will not dabble with a serious ally of the United States for exactly the same reason.

Military men such as Graydon have a tendency to see things in rather blinkered terms, and much though this former RAF head is painting a negative picture of the situation, where Russia to actually carry out what he is suggesting then the consequences would be considerably more serious than he implies or seems to understand.