The Key to Russia's Relationship with the Sky

Article/Op-Ed in Esquire
Defence Images / Flickr
June 30, 2017

Robert Bateman wrote an article for Esquire about Russia's military strategy in the air:

After a lull of some years, we are witnessing resurgent belligerence on the land, sea, and in the air, from some well-known sources. Just in the past couple of months, there have been repeated confrontations on the sea, from the Chinese and the Iranians in particular. But from the Russians? Not so much. I have been asked by readers why that might be, why we only seem to bump up against their elements in the sky. (Both air-to-air, and when their planes buzz our ships.) The answer lies, as many things do, in history. But with the Russians its easy enough to understand two core elements: Geography and paranoia.
Though many people don't realize it, it was not until quite recently that anything like an "open ocean" battle really occurred in military history. Most of the time, navies have found themselves restricted, either by depth, winds, or currents, to certain routes. Then there has always been the struggle to actually find your opponent out on the open ocean. For this reason, certain chokepoints have seen multiple naval battles.
Indeed, we owe our own independence to one such fight, between a French battle fleet and the British Royal Navy. That one stopped the Brits from being able to evacuate Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781, and thus pretty much ended the war. Significantly, the fight started right at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, where the French were waiting for the Brits. And so it has been that such chokepoints like straits leading to the ocean become bottlenecks for those behind them as well. And that is what has been driving the Russians crazy for at least four centuries.