In another small piece of evidence that Russia is reactivating its military presence, two of their Tupolev TU-95 nuclear-capable bombers flew from a base in the Russian Far East as part of a three day Air Force exercise close to US airspace at Guam, the central Pacific island base which lies east of the Phillipines.

It is many years since such flights took place and it is logical that the Russians, if they are looking to restore their full capabilities, should have resurrected these flights to start a process of familiarising their young pilots, who will never have hitherto experienced such long operations operations, with the rigours of 13-hour sorties. The TU-95 is not likely to see combat as such, but as a training platform will doubtless give good service for a while yet. This also has the advantage of not disclosing the full Russian hand by keeping newer aircraft capable of such sorties from the scrutiny of a potential adversary.

These are early days yet and one might consider that one or two swallows do not make a summer. Yet as time goes on and this sort of incident increases in frequency it will soon be time to make our minds up what it all means. Or, put another way, can we afford to ignore what is going on rather than looking to our conventional defences once more?

One can be forgiven that Russia sees The USA and Britain mired in what appears to be now both a political and possibly a military defeat in Iraq and is choosing this moment to begin to demonstrate to other impressionable nations that there is another player on the block.

Advertisements