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1 Feb, 2019 22:32

Reality check: ‘Nuke-capable Russia bombers in US/Canada airspace’ or ‘Newsweek’s’ fakest fake news?

Reality check: ‘Nuke-capable Russia bombers in US/Canada airspace’ or ‘Newsweek’s’ fakest fake news?

The race to the bottom in American media seems to be speeding up. A week after Robert Mueller felt obliged to rebuke Buzzfeed for an incorrect story, the US and Canadian militaries have had to call out more false reportage.

If there were an award for the news outlet making the “fakest” fake news, the rebooted ‘Newsweek’ would be leading contender. At least if its coverage of Russia is any guide.

In the past few years, the imposters who’ve inherited the name of the once venerable magazine have delivered some real gems. Two that immediately spring to mind are a ridiculous 2015 assertion that Eastern Ukrainian rebels were building a dirty bomb and 2017’s batsh*t crazy declaration that Vladimir Putin is preparing for World War Three.

A warning which appeared around the same time the Kremlin slashed the defense budget to help fund an increase in health and education spending. Which, of course, would be fairly pointless if Moscow were simultaneously planning Armageddon.

Anyway, Newsweek finally outdid itself this week with a story so outrageously fabricated that the US and Canadian militaries had to publicly debunk it.

“Two nuclear capable Russian aircraft entered American airspace before being intercepted by US, Canadian fighter jets,” its headline bellowed.

Also on rt.com Russian Su-27 fighter jet intercepts US spy plane over Baltic Sea – Moscow (VIDEO)

Sounds scary, doesn’t it? Russian bombers, potentially armed with nukes, less than 22km (12 nautical miles, the limits of national airspace) off the US coast? Except they weren’t.

As the claim was so ludicrous, and provocative, the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD), a joint US/Canadian military command set-up to protect the airspace of both countries, took the – highly unusual – step of correcting the record.

“Fighter jets from NORAD positively identified two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers entering the Canadian Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) on January 26, 2019,” NORAD tweeted. “(The) Bombers remained in international airspace and did not enter sovereign territory.”

For the uninitiated, an ADIZ is a sort of pre-screening zone, which major powers use to observe potentially hostile aeronautical activity up to around 300km from their frontiers.

As the analyst Kyle Mizokami points out, the large distances involved often make navigation tricky. 

“Not only were the Russian bombers flying in international airspace, their flight was fairly typical. Russian bomber flights routinely fly near US or Canadian airspace,” he wrote. “The problem for Russia is that the planet Earth is a sphere, and the sheer size of both North American countries and their proximity to Russia means that, flying away from Russia to the north or east, aircraft like the Tu-160 are implicitly flying towards North America.”

So, in other words, Newsweek needlessly frightened people and further fed anti-Russia hysteria in the West, just to make a crappy clickbait headline. There’s a disinformation crisis alright, but isn’t where US media thinks.

Bryan MacDonald

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