Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Still fighting yesterday's war

Tracking Russian Ships More Vital than Providing Intelligence for British Troops Fighting Taliban.
Problems with the fuel system on the Nimrod MR2 aircraft continue despite the decision to suspend air-to-air refuelling. Britain was forced to pull its Nimrod spy planes off operations in Afghanistan a few weeks ago and has not been able to replace them yet. The reason the two aircraft had to be pulled out differs depending on who you talk to but it is clear that there were continuing problems. The reason they were not replaced was that the other serviceable Nimrods were required for a very old-fashioned Nimrod job, tracking the Russian Navy!
Yes, having spend forever telling us that the role the Nimrods were carrying out in Afghanistan was so important they could not possibly be grounded, RAF commanders ruled that demonstrating the ability to track the Russian ships was more important than providing vital surveillance for troops on the ground in Afghanistan. The Russian ships, led by the nuclear-powered cruiser Peter the Great, were on their way down to the Caribbean to take part in a joint exercise with the Venezuelan navy this month in a move seen as being designed to irritate the US.
President Hugo Chavez has been a constant critic of the US, accusing it of using “terror to fight terror” and claiming last month that America was planning an invasion to remove him from power. The joint naval exercise was “a warning” to Washington, Chavez said. “It is a message to the empire,” he said. “Venezuela is no longer poor and alone. Russia is with us. We are strategic allies.” The Americans initially poured scorn on the idea of Russian ships exercising in the Caribbean, with a State Department official suggesting they were unlikely to “make it that far”. But a visit by Chavez to Moscow last month during which the Russians increased their arms shipments to Venezuela £3bn worth of aircraft, tanks and weaponry refocused attention on the issue.
When US officials realised the size of the fleet leaving the Russian Arctic port of Severomorsk in late September they admitted they would be watching the naval exercises “very closely”. With the Americans determined to know every detail of what the Russians were doing, RAF commanders believed they had no choice but to suspend operations over Afghanistan in order to track the Russian ships, even though they already knew where they were going!
We - the Western powers - do seem to have a talent for fighting yesterday's wars. The main indicator is the purchase of what are now redundant weapons. Trident, large aircraft carriers and high performance fighter aircraft. Meanwhile, our fighting troops lack helicopters and vehicles suited to what we are doing today.

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