Although it is yet to be proved beyond a peradventure that the missile which landed some 40 miles inside the Republic of Georgia was fired from an aircraft of the Russian Air Force, it would take a campaign of Machiavellian deviousness for the Georgians themselves to have fired or planted a missile upon themselves, something which it is difficult to see them realistically want to do. Why ratchet up a state of poor relations with a much bigger neighbour by alleging the neighbour has fired a potent weapon at you?

So what is going one here? One explanation is that this is part of an ongoing series of small,medium and large activities designed to tell smaller neighbours, many of them ex-colonies of Russia, NATO and the world that the Bear is back and in business. Others suggest this may be related to the South Ossetia separatist issue with Russia intervening to bolster their irredentist ambitons in that area. or it may be simply rogue elements of the Russian forces engaged in using Russian weapons to aid their criminal activities.

If the latter then one would expect a responsible civilised state to be very angry about the illegal and criminal use of its weapons in this way. The muted denials of the Kremlin speak volumes. This then is yet another example of the Bear bruiting it about that it means to be taken seriously.

If that is the message then we should read the runes aright and start thinking now about how we should begin the long road back to building forces capable of meeting the threat, not just of Russia but also of China as the 21st. Century unfolds.

We must not allow ourselves to get into a situation where we have to make sudden ill-planned changes to our defences which in the short and long term will actually cost more. Now is the time to plan and make ready.

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