Russia flexes its muscle as Cold War missions resume
President Vladimir Putin once again sought to flex his military muscles yesterday, with the most ambitious display of Russian air power since the end of the Cold War.
Speaking at the opening of the six-day International Aviation and Space Show at a formerly secretive military airfield outside Moscow, Mr Putin declared: "The task stands before us of maintaining our leadership in the production of military aviation technology."
The move comes days after Mr Putin - who is seeking to consolidate his popularity at home - revived patrols by strategic bombers capable of striking the West with nuclear weapons. On Friday some 14 Russian military planes carried out manoeuvres west of Norway - the biggest show of Russian air power in the North Sea since the early 1990s. Two RAF Eurofighter Typhoon jets were scrambled to shadow one of the patrol planes, a Russian Bear-H, as it appeared on UK horizons high above the North Atlantic.
"The show presents the unique potential of our country," Mr Putin said yesterday, as a new generation of jets buzzed dramatically overhead at the Zhukovsky air field. New weapons included a cruise missile, the Meteorit-A. Alyona Gorobova, 24, a nurse staffing an ambulance at the show, said: "I don't doubt that our planes are the best. We just have to show it to the rest of the world."
The US has shrugged off the gestures, but - combined with claims that Russian missiles would be aimed at targets in Europe if Washington pursues plans to build a missile defence shield in eastern Europe - they will add to concerns about the direction in which Mr Putin is taking Russia.