Moscow said an American drone dangerously approached a Russian fighter jet in Syria and could have caused a collision. The White House and the Kremlin have issued a sequence of statements claiming the other is engaging in confrontational behavior over Syria.
In recent days, Moscow has issued a series of statements about the US military activity in Syria. On Sunday, Oleg Gurinov, deputy chief of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Opposing Parties in Syria, reported the incident with the drone. “Of special concern is a near-midair collision of a coalition’s MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle with Russian warplanes near al-Bab,” he said. “Russian pilots once again demonstrated high professionalism and took timely measures to prevent collisions with the coalition’s unmanned aerial vehicles.”
Gurinov went on to say the drones are activating their fire guidance systems on Russian planes, which automatically trigger the fighter jets’ onboard defense systems.
Moscow has additionally voiced concern over US fighter jets flying in territory the Kremlin says is used by civilian airliners. Russia claimed American aircraft have engaged in dozens of these flights in recent weeks.
Washington has also issued complaints about Russian planes in Syria. In an interview with Task and Purpose published on Monday, Air Force Col. Michael Andrews said, “We continue to see reckless, unprovoked, and unprofessional behavior by the Russian Air Force while interacting with US aircraft in Syria.” He continued, “There have been several unsafe and unprofessional interactions by the Russian air force just in July that defy established norms and protocols.”
Last week, Air Force Lieutenant General Alexus Grynkewich said the Russian escalations have reached a new level. Recently, the US has published videos showing Russian fighter jets operating near a US drone and spy plane. Washington has deployed additional warplanes to the region in response to the “unsafe” Russian flying.
American and Russian military aircraft have shared the skies of Syria with little confrontations since 2015. To avoid conflict, Washington and Moscow maintained communication and deconfliction protocols. However, as the relationship between the White House and the Kremlin has crumbled over US military support for Ukraine, it appears to be impacting the tension in Syria.