Almost as soon as the cyber ink had dried on The Huntsman’s post of yesterday on the reappearance of the Russian threat new evidence of it emerged.

Today’s Times reports:

“RAF fighter jets were scrambled to intercept two Russian strategic bombers heading for British airspace yesterday, as the spirit of the Cold War returned to the North Atlantic once again.

The incident, described as rare by the RAF, served as a telling metaphor for the stand-off between London and Moscow over the murder of Alexander Litvinenko.

While the Kremlin hesitated before responding to Britain’s expulsion of four diplomats, the Russian military engaged in some old-fashioned sabre-rattling.

Two Tu95 “Bear” bombers were dispatched from their base on the Kola Peninsula in the Arctic Circle and headed towards British airspace.

Russian military aircraft based near the northern port city of Murmansk fly patrols off the Norwegian coast regularly, but the RAF said that it was highly unusual for them to stray as far south as Scotland.

Two Tornado fighters, part of the RAF’s Quick Reaction Alert, took off from RAF Leeming, in Yorkshire, to confront the Russian aircraft, after they were shadowed by two F16s from the Royal Norwegian Air Force, The Times has learnt.

“The Russians turned back before they reached British airspace,” an RAF spokesman said.”

This is now the second time in recent weeks that this has happened. One swallow does not make a summer, nor two, but when one takes a broad look at the evidence, one is bound to conclude that Russia is at the very least trying to assert its position as a major player once more.

The does not have to be a communist government in power in Moscow for Russia to be a threat. Russia may be feeling nervous as China becomes a superpower on her Eastern flank and NATO’s borders move inexorably east with the prospect that such places as Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan become members in due course.Whilst we know, just as we knew in the Cold War that we pose no threat in reality, Russia can be forgiven for a certain nervousness in this regard: the trauma of near-defeat and of the laying waste of Mother Russia between 1941 and 1944 would loom large in any nation’s psyche.

Persuading them that we mean her no harm should be the first diplomatic order of the day. The second should be to make sure she understands we will stand for no nonsense.

Lastly we should look to our own defences and start to rebuild them.

Thus we may be seen to speak softly but to carry at the same time a big stick.

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