Tensions between the United States and Russia have been ratcheting up since President Trump launched missiles into Syria in retaliation for Assad’s chemical weapons attack. But the Russians’ latest actions have many speculating that they’re beating the drums for war.
A U.S. reconnaissance jet was gathering intel over the Baltic Sea when an armed Russian fighter jet came within five feet and acted “provocatively,” according to a U.S. official (via Fox News).
As part of an operation to gather intel near Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave situated between Poland and Lithuania, the U.S. Air Force RC-135 recon jet was collecting electronic transmissions in the area when the Russian jet arrived. The Russian fighter, a Russian SU-27 with air-to-air missiles under its wings, swiftly approached the aircraft and came within five feet of the wingtip. It then dipped under the recon jet and did the same with the other wingtip.
The U.S. Air Force determined the actions of the Russian jet to be an unsafe intercept and this incident has left many worried. The Russians claim that the U.S. ship was the one acting dangerously and swerved toward their plane, but a Pentagon spokesman, U.S. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, said the American jet, “did nothing to provoke this behavior.”
This event comes among a string of similar incidents between U.S. and Russian military since the destruction of a Syrian jet on June 18t. The Syrian jet dropped bombs close to Syrian rebels that have been assisting the U.S. in the fight against ISIS.
This spurred the U.S. to shoot down the Syrian jet. This has made Russian relations a little tense, as the Russians have been supporting the Syrian regime in their fight against ISIS.
The destruction of the Syrian jet led to Russia increasing their military presence in the area and conducting a similar fly-by with a U.S. spy plane over the Black Sea in May, though that one was done at 20 feet.
Though both Russia and the U.S. are still cooperating when it comes to dealing with ISIS, a threat that both the Syrian rebels and the regime are invested in fighting against, this priority is getting sidelined by the raging civil war in Syria.
Russia has held relations with the Syrian regime since the Cold War era and therefore has an interest in seeing it regain control over the area again. Meanwhile, the U.S. backed the rebels to stem Russia’s growing influence during the Cold War, and U.S. officials now maintain that it continues relations with the rebels in the wake of the regime’s recent atrocities — such as the chemical attack in April on a number of Syrian civilians.
While some may feel the U.S. was sticking its nose in Russia’s business flying within 25 miles of Kaliningrad, especially after Russia’s warning to treat all aircraft flying west of the Syrian river Euphrates as targets, the jet was gathering intel on potential threats to NATO in the area.
Just last fall the Russians placed several nuclear-capable ballistic missiles into Kaliningrad. According to military officials these missiles are well within range to strike at various European capitals.
While war between the U.S. and Russia is not likely or desired by either side, the posturing and hostility between the two nations is increasing. And as the Syrian civil war between the Russian-backed regime and the U.S.-backed rebel fighters heightens, it’s becoming apparent that the tension isn’t going away any time soon.