Another day, another politician says something outrageous on Twitter.
This time, though, it wasn’t a minor American policy maker tweeting an ambiguous statement easily misinterpreted by the media. Instead, it was a Russian official tweeting a thinly veiled 1 threat at another nation.
Over the weekend, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister in charge of the defense industry, Dmitry Rogozin, was flying home to Moscow from Transdniestria (A region in Moldova) – a flight path that would have taken him over Ukraine and Romania. Due to the fact that the UN is currently sanctioning Russia because of the unrest in Ukraine’s Crimea region, Romania closed its airspace to Rogozin’s aircraft.
The Romanian refusal to allow Rogozin to overfly sovereign airspace references several decisions by the European Union implementing a travel ban on Russian state officials in response to Russia’s action in Crimea.
His plane was forced to chance course to avoid the region.
Rogozin, like many other politicians, took his frustration with the move out on Twitter. But it was the tone of his messages that were the most chilling:
Upon the US request Romania has closed its air space for my plane. Ukraine doesn’t allow me to pass through again. Next time I’ll fly on board TU-160 2
The TU-160 is the world’s largest combat plane, and the largest supersonic jet in the world. It’s a heavy bomber employed by the Russian Air Force since 1987 equipped to carry either 6 cruise missiles or up to 12 short-range nuclear missiles. There is zero practical reason to use such a craft for transporting a political official; merely referencing the jet in such a way is reckless saber rattling on Rogozin’s part.
Or worse – he means it.
Well, Sirs from Romania, we'll soon explain it all to you – who you are and what we think of you
— Dmitry Rogozin (@DRogozin) May 10, 2014
If this were any other politician, tweets like this could likely be ignored and would blow by with little fanfare. Given the position in government of the man who wrote them, however, they’re terrifying.
Particularly to anyone living in Romania.
What would happen if the US Secretary of Defense had said something similar on Twitter after a trip abroad?
What would happen if Rogozin had instead been flying past England and directed his messages there?
If either of those had happened, you’d be reading this story in CNN rather than a software developer’s blog.
Instead, the few sources covering the story are international – The Guardian was quick to cover the story, and Russian-language moldnews published a followup on Monday. If the US did, in fact, request that Romania enforce the EU’s travel ban on Russian officials, then why aren’t we standing up for them?
And why is our own national media not covering the story?