Well Russia's just had a busy day. In just 24 hours, the country run by Local Strongman Vladimir Putin sent 19 planes to probe NATO borders, and if that enormous blip on international radar screens wasn't enough, they just test-fired a nuclear-capable inter-continental ballistic missile. Joy.
For close students of NATO-Russia relations, planes of the Russian Air Force probing Western airspace isn't anything new. In fact, it's been happening a lot lately. But what is unusual is the scale of the probing. The list of planes involved in the four separate incidents, according to the Atlantic Council, included six Tu-95 strategic bombers, four MiG-31 interceptors, four Su-34 Fullback attack jets, a smattering of Su-27 Flanker fighter jets, a handful of Su-24 Fencer attack jets, and a dollop of Il-78 tankers, just to make sure everyone's got plenty of fuel for the trip home.
The planes were tracked by NATO radar and intercepted by respective local air forces, including Portugal, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and Denmark, as well as the non-NATO air forces of Finland and Sweden.
But the cherry on top, of course, was the Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile test, sending it flying from one of Russia's Borei-class subs in the icy Barents Sea towards the Kamchatka peninsula. Missile tests aren't out of the ordinary, especially for the unreliable Bulava, and this one was announced a few days in advance.
Yet coupling it with a relative onslaught of prodding from the Russian Air Force doesn't exactly send a friendly message.
It's unclear what pissed off Putin so much as to have him start flexing what little (as compared to NATO) muscle he has, but we should remember it's not anything new. As the Atlantic Council notes, these four intercepts bring the total number of incidents with Russia so far in 2014 up to over 100, which is three times more than in all of 2013.
Photo credit: Russian Western Military District for the Northern Fleet