I got a chuckle a few days ago out of the latest display of the new Russian swagger - media reports that a pair of TU-95 long-range bombers flew some 5,120 kilometres to do an unannounced flyby of a major U.S. military exercise off the Pacific island of Guam:
"Whenever we saw U.S. planes during our flights over the ocean, we greeted them," Air Force Major General Pavel Androsov told reporters. "On Wednesday, we renewed the tradition when our young pilots flew by Guam in two planes. We exchanged smiles with our counterparts, who flew up from a U.S. carrier and returned home."
If it happened the way Androsov suggests, it would have been the first such Russian sortie since the end of the Cold War, and yet another major statement that Moscow is back playing on the global map. But then came this response from Washington:
"We prepared to intercept the bombers but they did not come close enough to a US Navy ship or to the island of Guam to warrant an air-to-air intercept," a Pentagon spokesman said.
So what really happened? My guess is we'll never know how close the Russian planes really got to Guam or what measures the American forces there took to counter the presumptive threat.
What we do learn from this is that the propaganda machines of the Kremlin and the White House are already humming along, whether or not the war machines are "exchanging smiles."