THE BLOG
07/15/2016 11:32 am ET Updated Jul 16, 2017

The USS Donald Cook meets Sukhoi SU 24

As the US-led NATO accelerates its efforts to tighten the arc around Russia with the most recent declaration out of its two-day Warsaw summit, it seems apparent that the goal of the military escalation and preparation for war with Russia over the last two years will be adequately in place by Hillary Clinton's inauguration.

As we already know from her unwavering support of Israel and the Iraq war, skeptical support for President Obama's Iran nuclear deal, a noticeable predilection toward Russo-phobian 'aggression" (aka as protecting one's own borders), the brutal destruction of the Ukraine, Libya and Syria and other ill-conceived military misadventures, the woman's testosterone level is dangerously elevated.

To suggest that President Clinton II will surpass the current President's support for armed conflict, despite his occasional reluctant warrior image while spreading more bombing, violence and chaos than his predecessor, is probably a safe bet. Although in general, President Obama presents a considerably smoother façade and is more verbally facile than Mrs. Clinton especially when he rationalizes war, more war and war again to his gullible liberal base. Mrs. Clinton, by contrast, carries a personal edge in her manner and expression, a marked lack of expressing sincere compassion; there is little warm and snuggly about the new grandmother.

In any case, during Obama's recent press conference in Warsaw he began by distracting the audience from NATO's reinvigorated commitment to war with Russia by comments that attempted to neuter recent police violence against an unarmed black population with the US "is not as divided as some have suggested" and then, just as smoothly moved on to make the case for war in eastern Europe. Can it be that officials of those Baltic countries neighboring Russia fail to grasp the reality that their citizens will be in the direct line of fire.

History may ultimately show that any difference between Obama's and Clinton's militarist credentials may depend more on rhetoric and style rather than substance.

Central to the American-instigated military build up in eastern Europe is an assortment of formidable US guided missile destroyers including the USS Donald Cook which has been cruising in both the Baltic (2016) and the Black (2014) Seas and has, more than once, drawn the attention of a Russian SU-24 fighter jet. No doubt the Obama - Clinton team would define such encounters as "mounting Russian aggression" although, with the Cook and other Sixth Fleet destroyers thousands of miles from its US home base, it might be more accurately described as intentional violation of international sovereignty.

Commissioned in 1998 and upgraded in 2012 for an undetermined cost in order to function as part of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, we can assume that the Cook's mission in the Black Sea as it trolled the edges of Russian territorial water was considerably more than seeking a friendly port to provide its crew with a weekend pass.

In April, 2014, the Cook was deployed to the Black Sea to 'reassure its NATO allies of the US commitment" shortly after the overthrow of Ukraine's democratically elected President with key guidance from Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State (rumored soon-to-be Hillary's Secretary of State) and the subsequent annexation vote to return the Crimean Peninsula including Sebastopol. Sevastopol is a strategically important port and naval base for Russia's Black Sea Fleet (BSF) as is Kaliningrad, home port to the Russian Baltic Sea Fleet.

Equipped with long range surface-to-surface Tomahawk cruise missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, assorted surface-to-air missiles and antiballistic missiles, one of the world's most advanced underwater surveillance systems as well as AEGIS, one of the world's most advanced naval weapon systems touted by the Pentagon as a "computerized, quick reaction air and ballistic missile defense system, provides extraordinary capabilities against attacking aircraft and missiles. The heart of the Aegis system is the SPY radar that automatically detects and tracks virtually everything in the air allowing DONALD COOK to identify, evaluate, and engage the enemy with incredible firepower and accuracy," any reasonable person might ask why a fourth-generation $1.8 billion (not including costs for its various weapon systems) fully loaded destroyer would be touring the Black Sea other than to taunt the Russians.

As the US warship approached the Crimean peninsula skirting Russian waters, an unarmed Sukhoi SU-24 fighter jet, carrying only electronic gear, made several 'close passes' to the Cook and ultimately simulated numerous offensive maneuvers; thereby, according to the US State Department, 'gravely demoralizing' the Cook's crew.

That's an interesting use of the word 'demoralize' and we can only surmise that the Russian fly-by perhaps caused a near-panic situation on-board as the enlisted crew may have been less than enthusiastic to participate in a potential nuclear exchange with Russia. Smart lads they are and good reason for the Pentagon to ponder.

As it turns out what may have been 'demoralizing'to the crew was that as the Russian jet approached the Cook, which was narrowly close to Sevastopol, the ship's much-vaunted AEGIS system was entirely shut down rendering the Cook's entire communication system useless, its radar based weapons jammed and its anti-air missile function disrupted. With the crew unable to restart AEGIS, we might better understand why there might have been some consternation on-board the Cook.

Few western media covered the story, most dutifully denying any such neutering of AEGIS had occurred and that if the SU-24 was carrying any electronic warfare (EW) equipment known as Khibiny, it would have been visible on the jet's wing tip where it would normally be found on similar Russian jets. A Khibiny is a mounted EW capsule, considered the most advanced in the world and since there was no observable Khibiny located on the wing dip, such a report of a muted AEGIS must be erroneous. What was not mentioned however was that the video of the jet 'buzzing' the Cook clearly indicates a pod mounted on the center line of the Russian SU-24 as well as a basket under the fuselage - either could be a Khibiny pod.

While the Pentagon did not directly refute the AEGIS failure, the mention of a "demoralizing" crew becomes more understandable with reports that, after AEGIS ceased to function, the SU-24 flew over the Cook's deck repeatedly while simulating an offensive attack on the ship. Once in port, as is reasonable to expect that young sailors freaked out, sufficiently so that 27 of the 270 member crew allegedly requested reassignment papers after the incident. While an enlisted crew cannot simply walk away from its position, the story nevertheless lends some credibility to the AEGIS malfunction.

Al Jazeera's news report that the Pentagon fired off an 'angry response' with accusations of Russia's "provocative and unprofessional action" .... "inconsistent with international protocols and previous agreements" smacks of nothing short of an appalling hypocritical double-standard.

Two years later, on April 12th, 2016, you may have read that the USS Donald Cook, was buzzed a second time by another unarmed Sukhoi Su-24 this time while on patrol in the Baltic Sea.

What you probably did not read was that the Cook, on 'routine patrol' in support of "US national security interests' was approximately 50 miles off the coast of Kaliningrad and home to the Russian Baltic Sea Fleet. The US formally issued a protest to Russia.

US Secretary of State John Kerry added a statement that said "under the rules of engagement, that (Russian jet) could have been a shoot-down" adding that the "US is not going to be intimidated on the high seas."

After the Cook's encounter in 2016, a U.S. European Command spokesman affirmed that under rules of engagement, the Commanding Officer has the authority to take defensive action if the safety of their vessel is in danger and that since the aircraft was unarmed, there is nothing to be done.

We can only imagine the national uproar, the media hysteria, the pandemonium on the floor of Congress, the terror of American citizens if a Russian warship in the Atlantic Ocean dared to approach the territorial waters close to the Norfolk Naval Yard.

Instead, the US repeatedly acts as if it has the right to flaunt the sovereignty of another country unchallenged as if that right is inherent in the US Constitution or the International Rule of Law. It is not.