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Context of 'May 28, 1987: Teenager Eludes Soviet Air Defenses, Lands on Red Square; Many Russian Officers Fired for Failings'

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Senator Charles Mathias (R-MD) sends a letter to the Justice Department asking about the dispute with Inslaw over enhanced PROMIS software. The letter will spark interest by Deputy Attorney General Arnold Burns in the case (see After July 9, 1986). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Charles Mathias, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Mathias Rust Landing in Moscow.Mathias Rust Landing in Moscow. [Source: sssss]In a quixotic attempt to ease Cold War tensions, a German teenager named Mathias Rust penetrates Soviet air defenses and flies all the way from Helsinki to Moscow, finally landing within yards of the Kremlin. His success in defeating Soviet air security is called “a national shame” by Mikhail Gorbachev, who promptly sacks a number of top military officers.
Entering Soviet Airspace - According to a detailed recounting of Rust’s flight in Air & Space Magazine, his small Cessna is seen on Soviet radar as soon as he enters Soviet air space in what—after the break-up of the Soviet Union—is Estonia and, since he is not on a pre-approved flight, “three missile units were put on alert.” Throughout his flight, Rust takes no special measures to evade radar and simply flies straight toward Moscow at about 1,000 feet above ground. As he flies deeper inland, Soviet controllers continue to monitor his progress; “army units [are] put on high alert and two fighter-interceptors [… are] scrambled to investigate.” One of the interceptors reports seeing a small plane but takes no further action. It is unclear why Rust is not immediately forced to land or simply shot down.
More Fighters Scrambled - About two hours later, as Rust enters another radar sector, the same sequence of events takes place: he is seen on radar, two fighters are scrambled. “A Soviet MIG-23 pull[s] up beside him.” Once again, for reasons that will not be established, the commander on the ground takes no further action: “the fighter pilot’s commander either did not believe the pilot’s report or did not think it was significant, so the information was never passed up the chain of command.” As he continues to Moscow, Rust’s plane is never lost to radar, but controllers fail to realize that he is an unauthorized foreign plane—there are no such things in the Soviet Union—and conclude that he must be a “student” or “a helicopter on a search-and-rescue mission.”
"Ring of Steel" - Although Rust has turned off his transponder, air controllers decide to assign him a “friendly” designation, assuming he is a Soviet pilot who has forgotten to turn it on. As he approaches Moscow, Rust “pass[es] the outermost belt of Moscow’s vaunted ‘Ring of Steel,’ an elaborate network of anti-aircraft defenses that since the 1950s had been built up as a response to the threat of US bombers. The rings of missile placements circle the city […] but were not designed to fend off a single, slow-flying Cessna.” Finally, Rust reaches the outskirts of Moscow. The city’s airspace is restricted, with all overflights prohibited. “At about this time, Soviet investigators would later tell Rust, radar controllers realize[…] something [is] terribly wrong, but it [is] too late for them to act.”
Mass Firings - The Soviet leadership’s reaction to the military’s bungling will be swift. Within days, the defense minister and air defense chief will be sacked and later “hundreds of other officers [will be] fired or replaced […]. It will be the biggest turnover in the Soviet military command since Stalin’s bloody purges of the 1930s.” [New York Times, 6/7/1987; Air & Space Magazine, 6/1/2005; Washington Post, 5/27/2007]

Entity Tags: Mathias Rust

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

US military leaflet dispersed to villages in Paktika and Ghazni provinces, Afghanistan.US military leaflet dispersed to villages in Paktika and Ghazni provinces, Afghanistan. [Source: CBS]The US military blankets at least two southeastern Afghan villages with leaflets made at Bagram Air Base that threaten to “target” villagers with aggressive measures if a US soldier who was kidnapped by the Taliban in the area is not freed. Villagers tell CBS News that aircraft drop the leaflets over a period of several days, and that the papers are found stuck in trees and scattered on rooftops. One side of the leaflet shows a US soldier with his head bowed and the message, “If you do not free the American soldier, then…” The message continues on the other side: “… you will be targeted” (or “hunted,” according to one translation) over an image of Western troops kicking down a door to break into a house. Military spokeswoman Captain Elizabeth Mathias later confirms that the leaflets are produced at Bagram Air Base and distributed in the region. She will contradict the villagers’ account, however, saying they were distributed by hand, not by aircraft. Mathias then explains that another, non-threatening leaflet was dropped from aircraft in the region. This leaflet informs locals that a US soldier is missing and requests information on his whereabouts. Mathias’ colleague, Lieutenant Commander Christine Sidenstricker, says no threats were made in this air-dropped leaflet, which, according to the US military’s translation, reads: “One of our American guests is missing. Return the guest to his home.” The leaflet includes a phone number and shows a US soldier sitting among smiling Afghan children. Taliban commander Mawlavi Sangin tells Reuters that US forces have been harassing Afghans in Paktika and Ghazni provinces over the kidnapping. “They have put pressure on the people in these two provinces and if that does not stop we will kill [the kidnapped US soldier],” Sangin says by telephone. [CBS News, 7/16/2009; Reuters, 7/16/2009]
Winning over and Protecting the Local Population? - The US military launched a major operation in the southern province of Helmand on July 2 (see Early Morning July 2, 2009) under US President Obama’s recent troop escalation and counterinsurgency strategy for Afghanistan that new US commander Stanley McChrystal has said is intended, in part, to “win over” and protect the Afghan people. “At the end of the day, you’re fighting for the population, not with the population or against the population,” McChrystal tells the New York Times. [New York Times, 7/15/2009]

Entity Tags: Taliban, Elizabeth Mathias, Christine Sidenstricker, Bagram Air Base, Stanley A. McChrystal, Mawlavi Sangin

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

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