American, Russian Military Aircraft Increasingly in Dangerous Situations Over Syria

by | Jul 19, 2023

American, Russian Military Aircraft Increasingly in Dangerous Situations Over Syria

by | Jul 19, 2023

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A U.S Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft leaves a KC-10 Extender after refueling over northern Iraq after conducting air strikes in Syria, September 23, 2014

Washington and Moscow are accusing each other of dangerous and unprofessional military activity in Syria. 

The Kremlin has issued a series of complaints in the past week that American military aircraft were operating in areas used by civilian airliners. Oleg Gurinov, deputy chief of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Opposing Parties, says the American warplanes create a dangerous situation for civilian aircraft. 

Additionally, Moscow says American forces stationed at the al-Tanf garrison, a US military base on the Iraq-Syria border, have used air defenses, further endangering civilian planes. “Moreover, the coalition’s forces carried out exercises involving the use of air defense systems in the Al Tanf area on July 12, 2023,” Gurinov said. Adding the weapons posed a danger to all aircraft. 

On Tuesday, Air Force Lieutenant General Alexus Grynkewich claimed a Russian fighter jet created an “unsafe” situation for an American spy plane. He reported the incident occurred on Saturday when “a US MC-12… conducting operations in support of the Coalition’s Defeat ISIS mission was closely approached by a Russian Su-35 against established norms and protocols.” 

He described the Russian fighter jet’s actions as creating a dangerous situation for the Americans onboard the spy plane. The US plane was forced “to fly through its wake turbulence. This reduced the crew’s ability to safely operate the aircraft and put the four crew members’ lives at risk,” he said. This represents “a new level of unsafe and unprofessional actions by Russian aircraft operating in Syria.”

The US and Russian militaries have increasingly become confrontational in the skies above Syria. Both countries have operated in Syria since 2015 and have successfully used a deconfliction procedure to largely avoid any altercations.  

Moscow was invited into Syria by the Damascus government. Washington invaded Syria under the pretense of defeating the Islamic State, a terrorist group that the CIA and American allies armed. After ISIS lost all its territory, US soldiers remained in Syria.

In recent months, the Kremlin said American fighter jets were targeting Russian aircraft. Washington has released footage showing two Russian fighter jets harassing an American drone. 

The White House has responded by deploying more military equipment to the Middle East. In June, Washington announced it would send F-22s to the region. Earlier this week, the Department of Defense said it would dispatch F-35s and F-16s to the Middle East to prevent Iran from seizing ships. The Pentagon noted Russia’s military activity in Syria when announcing the deployment.

Kyle Anzalone

Kyle Anzalone

Kyle Anzalone is news editor of the Libertarian Institute, opinion editor of Antiwar.com and co-host of Conflicts of Interest with Will Porter and Connor Freeman.

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