What are Russia doing sending Russian bombers across the English channel? Are they trying to provoke a reaction?
The U.K.’s Royal Air Force had to scramble fighter jets on Thursday after a pair of nuclear-capable Russian bombers flew across a civilian air traffic corridor above the English Channel.
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The bombers had their transponders turned off, British officials said, making them invisible to many air traffic control systems. The incident disrupted multiple flights – and ended with the U.K. government demanding the Russian ambassador appear at the Foreign Office to explain the actions.
On the same day, a Russian lawmaker proposed legislation that would condemn the reunification of East and West Germany in 1989 after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The proposal, supported by Duma Speaker Sergey Naryshkin, a close Putin ally, would declare the reunification an illegal “annexation” of East Germany by West Germany.
The thinking in the Kremlin appears to be that the criticism of Russia for sending troops into Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula last year, and then – with foreign troops still occupying the country – holding a referendum on the Crimea joining Russia, is unfair. The proposal is meant to be a sort of protest vote. The reunification of Germany, they say, was a fait accompli prior to an actual vote by the citizens of East Germany.
Not mentioned in coverage by Russian-owned media is that the East Germans had been fenced in at all border crossings for a generation – while Ukrainians in Crimea had the ability to travel outside the country without restrictions if they so chose.
It’s possible that Thursday’s events were related to the European Union’s vote to extend economic sanctions against Russia for six months. The sanctions were originally imposed because of Russia’s invasion of Crimea and its support of violent separatists in eastern Ukraine. The EU voted to extend the sanction regime in a week when violence has further flared in Ukraine’s Donbas region – and when evidence of Russia’s military support of the rebels has mounted.