"Why not smash a terrorist base - even outside Russia - if we know where the terrorists are?" he told the staff of a Russian airbase in the town of Engels (the Volga Federal District) on Saturday. He was inspecting a regiment of Tu-160 planes (NATO classification: Blackjack), which are Russia's most advanced strategic missile bombers.
"We have finished the Cold War, but it appears that the Americans, considering what they produce and include in their inventory, have not," the paper quoted Mikhailov as saying.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov warned in September 2001 that Russian planes and special forces might crack down on Chechen insurgents hiding in neighboring Georgia. In the wake of the Beslan tragedy in September 2004, Chief of Staff of the General Staff General Yury Baluyevsky also spoke about the possible pinpoint projection of force.
Experts, however, doubt whether Mikhailov's grim warnings will ever become a reality.
"Any strike on the territory of a foreign state, be it a pinpoint strike or carpet bombing, is a serious violation of international law," said Viktor Ozerov, chairman of the defense and security committee in the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament. "We will not repeat what the Americans did in Iraq and Serbia."
Alexei Malashenko, an expert with the Moscow Carnegie Center and a professor at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, said: "The military officers neither understand nor accept new political realities and are trying to return to the confrontation they used to be comfortable with. And they are also trying to play up their role."