Did The Pentagon Just Start A YouTube War With Russia?


jetIf you’re a teen in 2015 who wants to stick it to a frenemy, one thing you can do is post an embarrassing video on YouTube. It says a lot about the state of the relationship between the United States and Russia that the U.S. military has been forced to borrow a tactic from high school mean girls. After a series of close encounters with Russian aircraft the Pentagon is taking to YouTube to shame the former superpower into being a better neighbor.

Tensions have been simmering between the U.S. and Russia for some time over Russian incursions into U.S. airspace. Russian bombers routinely cross into U.S. territory off of Alaska, and fighter jets have been known to harass American military planes and even warships at close range. Formal complaints filed by the military go nowhere and Russian media, which is controlled by the government, portrays those actions as totally justified often embellishing or completely fabricating the actions and locations of U.S. ships and planes. The military is contradicting this point the same way any civilian might challenge a mainstream media narrative, by posting video of the incidents on YouTube.


If civilians can use online video to change the traditional media conversation then the military can too, or so goes the thinking behind posting a 42 second video of a Russian fighter buzzing the USS Ross in the Black Sea. Crewmen aboard the USS Ross captured footage of the flyby which had all the earmarks of Cold War style posturing. Of course, the Cold War is over and Russia is an ally, at least on paper, but the video sends a pretty clear statement: The US military is playing by the rules and they keep the receipts so to speak.

The military claims that it will continue to document instances in which Russian fighter jets overstep their bounds in order to make the problem clear. Using social media to to influence the conversation is a big departure from the Pentagon’s usually secretive approach. It says a lot about the current era of sharing and social media that the U.S. military is apparently seconds away from engaging in a YouTube comment flame war with its old Cold War foe.

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