Friday, September 30, 2016

The Importance Of Rhetoric In International Relations

Russian MiG-29 jet fighters perform during an air show last year outside Moscow. (Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters)

Shoko Kohama, Kazunori Inamasu and Atsushi Tago, Washington Post: Why Putin and Obama use fighting words when they don’t want to fight

Earlier this month, news agencies reported that a Russian fighter jet flew within 10 feet of a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft over the Black Sea.

U.S. officials described the Russian flyby as a “dangerous and unprofessional” maneuver that had “the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions, and could result in a miscalculation or accident.” Russian authorities said that the incident occurred because the U.S. plane had turned off its transponder and that the Russian “pilots acted in strict conformity with air traffic international rules.”

Why the confrontational public rhetoric? After all, both sides could have kept the incident — an example of what we call “invisible crises” — from becoming public and settled the dispute through back channels. Even once the episode was publicized, U.S. and Russian officials could have tried to smooth things over in an effort to keep tensions from escalating.

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