By Ray Starmann
After weeks of playing chess, while the West seemingly plays hopscotch, the grand masters of strategy and deception may have finally been stymied.
Yesterday, various British media outlets reported that a British Defense Ministry official had leaked information concerning RAF orders to open fire on Russian aircraft, should they pose a threat to RAF aircraft in Syrian skies.
Initial reports such as the one from the Daily Star were later stated as inaccurate by the Foreign Office:
British and NATO pilots have been told to take drastic action if they are fired on by Vladimir Putin’s air force during missions over Iraq.
The move comes after British ministers warned Russia had made the situation in the Middle East “much more dangerous”.
Senior defence sources say it is just a matter of time before our fighters are involved in a deadly confrontation with Russian jets.
One source said: “We need to protect our pilots but at the same time we’re taking a step closer to war.
“It will only take one plane to be shot down in an air-to-air battle and the whole landscape will change.”
Today The Telegraph provided a much needed reality check:
A report described as “inaccurate” by the Foreign Office said RAF Tornado fighters were given green light to shoot down Russian war planes in the Middle East.
It was reported that RAF Tornado fighters homing in on Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) targets in Iraq had been equipped with missiles designed for aerial combat – reports the Foreign Office described as “inaccurate”.
Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian ambassador in London, said he “urgently requested explanations” from the Foreign Office, The Times said.
The Foreign Office denied that these claims were accurate. But, the “The defence attache reiterated the British government’s concerns about Russia’s military operation in Syria, including targeting legitimate opposition groups, using unguided weaponry and leading to large numbers of civilian deaths.”
While the initial reports concerning shoot to kill order were erroneous, one has to believe that the Russians were shaken up by the reports. A Russian official stated that it was “incomprehensible” that RAF and Russian aircraft would be in air to air combat over Syria.
If nothing else, it shows that the Russians are up to their old tricks. They will push until pushed back. They will rest and then push again. The British report that was leaked may have been nothing more than an attempt to draw them out, shake them up and see how they would react. If that is the case, the Russians were checkmated at their own game and both the British Defense Ministry and Foreign Office are to be applauded for this little bit of deception.
No doubt, Moscow will have more moves up its sleeves before the Syrian crisis is abated.