THE BOTTOM LINE AT THE TOP
The direct answer is that Vladimir Putin is testing Joe Biden because he can smell weakness in the American President and Commander-in-Chief. But did you know that Russia connived for influence in the Hawaiian Islands over 200 years ago?
Both of America’s 49th and 50th states admitted in 1959 have long histories with Russia. All this long predates even the Soviet era. Here are some excerpts from Wikipedia, first about Alaska, then about Hawaii.
RUSSIA IN ALASKA
The Alaska Purchase (Russian: Продажа Аляски, romanized: Prodazha Aliaski, meaning “Sale of Alaska”) was the United States’ acquisition of Alaska from the Russian Empire. Alaska was formally transferred to the United States on October 18, 1867, through a treaty ratified by the United States Senate.
Some opponents labeled the purchase as “Seward’s Folly“, or “Seward’s Icebox”, as they contended that the United States had acquired useless land.
RUSSIA IN HAWAII
Russian Fort Elizabeth is a National Historic Landmark and is administered as the Russian Fort Elizabeth State Historical Park just southeast of present-day Waimea on the island of Kauaʻi in Hawaiʻi. It is located at the site of the former Fort Elizavety (Russian: Форт Елизаветы), the last remaining Russian fort on the Hawaiian islands, built in the early 19th century by the Russian-American Company as the result of an alliance with High Chief Kaumualiʻi. The star fort was employed by the Kingdom of Hawaii in the 19th century under the name Fort Hipo (Hawaiian: Paʻulaʻula o Hipo).
Kaumualiʻi eagerly signed a “treaty” granting Russian Alexander I … a protectorate over Kauaʻi. Kaumualiʻi convinced Schäffer that the Russians could just as easily capture the whole archipelago. Schäffer promised that Tsar Alexander would help him to break free of Kamehameha’s rule.
Kaumualiʻi probably never intended to give up power over the island; he thought he might reclaim his own kingdom with the help of Russia.
Two others – Fortress Alexander (крепость Александра, Krepost’ Aleksandra) and Fort Barclay-de-Tolly (форт Барклая-де-Толли, Fort Barklaya-de-Tolli) – were named for the reigning emperor Alexander and his marshal Barclay-de-Tolly and constructed near Hanalei on Kauaʻi.
2011 ASIA PACIFIC ECONOMIC COOPERATION FORUM IN HONOLULU
I was personally a little surprised when President Barack Obama hosted APEC here in Hawaii a decade ago that Vladimir Putin designated Dmitry Medvedev to attend on behalf of Russia. APEC was as usual a lot of fluff and not much substance. Obama declined the usual protocol of having International leaders all wear local attire for a photo op. In fact, you will probably never see a picture of Obama in an Aloha Shirt. He simply does not like to wear them. So they wore the inappropriate suit and tie in the tropical heat for the event group photo. Perhaps Vlad didn’t want to be seen in Hawaii so he sent a surrogate.
It certainly isn’t any aversion to the chilly climate back home that drew the Russian Navy to the warm Pacific waters around Hawaii this week. They are just as active in the Black Sea and the Baltic as they attempt to harrass NATO at the same time.
One certainly has to factor China into this equation. Perhaps you would surmise that Moscow and Beijing were cooperating to double up on the United States. While we have been concentrating on the CCP PLA Navy’s hegemony in the Pacific, Russia has been moving south from its Vladivostok bases up the coast from North Korea. It is more likely that Putin is sending a message to Xi as well as to Biden, but he doesn’t expect the tyrant in Beijing to be a pushover like the pansy in Washington DC.
HAWAII AIR NATIONAL GUARD F-22’S SCRAMBLED TO INTERCEPT RUSSIAN FIGHTERS
I like to sit in the late afternoon on my front porch here on leeward Oahu watching the various flying things that come over. This includes various types of birds, of course, meaning the feathered kind. Typically, there are also an assortment of civilian passenger planes, Honolulu Fire Department helicopters, tour choppers and light aircraft.
But there are a regular stream of military planes also headed into Hickam Field. It is not unusual to see numerous pairs of F-22 Raptors coming in for their landing pattern. There are the refueling tankers that support them as well.
But, just a few days ago the Federal Aviation Administration requested U.S. INDO-PACOM and PACAF to send up our own military aircraft to keep the Russians from intruding into our airspace during a Russian Naval Training Exercise of many warships and fighters going on just a few hundred miles offshore from Hawaii. The Russians have flown near the Alaskan Coast numerous times over the years as well. Certainly America reciprocates in approaching close to Russian territory at times.
HALF WAY AROUND THE WORLD FROM THE G7 SPECTACLE
It is the timing of this current situation that is most significant. Before the personal meeting between Biden and Putin in Europe, Russia decided to play war games near Pearl Harbor. As we approach the 80th anniversary of the December 7, 1941 attack, the location certainly was not chosen randomly.
Russia has been in this part of the world before. It is an Asian Nation as well as part of Europe. While Moscow is much closer to their Western Front, Russia still very much wants to dominate the Pacific Basin as well. In that sense, they are actually competing with China for dominance.
AMERICAN ARMED FORCES ARE EQUAL TO THE TASK
The recent change of command from Admiral Phil Davidson to Admiral John Aquilino up the hill at Camp Smith did not change our military priorities. The new commander in fact had previously been in charge of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, so he doesn’t need any on-the-job training.
That is in total contrast to the man who spent so many years in the U.S. Senate and as Vice President who now seems to be totally lost in dealing with the global threat to our national security. Iran is sending shiploads of missiles into Venezuela. China is turning an American World War II airstrip on Canton Island in the Republic of Kiribati into a stationary aircraft carrier just about 1,900 miles southwest of Pearl Harbor. Who knows what countries have submarines underneath the surface all around Hawaii? There have even been reports over the years that Iran could disguise a commercial cargo vessel to launch missiles from mid-sea in our direction.
But, Putin wants to be in-your-face about this. Nothing subtle. He did send Russian military assets near Guam during the previous presidential administration. But nothing as dramatic as what he’s doing now here near Hawaii.
Two hundred years ago, Czarist Russia could indeed have conquered Hawaii if they had chosen to do so. But, at that time they obviously did not have the incentive to focus their military might on this archipelago as they do today. Pearl Harbor is still exactly where it was in 1941. But the current American President is neither Franklin Roosevelt nor Donald Trump. It is Joe Biden who has been involved in political and economic scandals all the way from Ukraine to China. Even if he were in complete control of his own faculties, which he obviously is not, does anybody seriously think he would stand up to Vladimir Putin?
THE MOST URGENT CONSIDERATION
Just as long as Joe Biden does not attempt to micromanage American Military posture in the Pacific, we will be just fine. The repositioning and deployment of American forces throughout the Pacific Basin which began under Donald Trump still continues. So, as long as Joe doesn’t grab the Admiral by the belt and hold him back, neither Russia nor China nor any other enemy will do anything more than just posturing in our vicinity.
The military rightly respects its chain of command structure. But, these days, the less that reaches that big desk in the Oval Office, the better.
Article cross-posted from David’s blog.
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