For the third time in a couple of months American and Russian aircraft entered a close, dangerous encounter over the Mediterranean near Russia’s Hmeimim Airbase in western Syria.
The Tuesday incident reportedly involved two Russian Su-35 jets which intercepted a US Navy reconnaissance aircraft over the eastern Mediterranean. The Pentagon blasted their actions as “unsafe”,”unprofessional” and “irresponsible”.
“For the third time in two months, Russian pilots flew in an unsafe and unprofessional manner while intercepting a US Navy P-8A Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft,” the Navy said of the provocative aerial encounter, which like prior recent intercepts was caught on video.
The US statement underscored the danger in “the Russian pilots taking close station on each wing of the P-8A simultaneously, restricting the P-8A’s ability to safely maneuver.”
Indeed photographs and video show that each Su-35 fighter just behind each wing of the airliner-size US recon plane. The Russian jets accompanied the aircraft for about 65 minutes, according to the statement.
It appears the Russian Air Force has drawn a ‘red line’ in not tolerating flights near its Hmeimim Airbase in western Syria.
Recall too that a mere two weeks ago the top US special envoy to region, James Jeffrey, openly declared “his job” was to make Syria a “quagmire” for the Russians.
His comments came on May 12 during a video conference hosted by the neocon Hudson Institute:
Asked why the American public should tolerate US involvement in Syria, Special Envoy James Jeffrey points out the small US footprint in the fight against ISIS. “This isn’t Afghanistan. This isn’t Vietnam. This isn’t a quagmire. My job is to make it a quagmire for the Russians.”
No doubt, the Kremlin took note, putting their military even more on edge and on alert, suspicious of any level of US reconnaissance along Syria’s coastline.
Though the Syrian war has largely slipped from the headlines, the question of jihadi-control over Idlib province is still festering, and likely the Americans are closely monitoring Syrian Army and Russian moves on the area.