Russian warplanes have engaged in provocations against US military drones flying over eastern Syria for the second day in a row.
The Pentagon has called these acts “unsafe and unprofessional” and called on Russia to stop such risky behavior. In a worrying incident, Russian fighter jets dropped parachute-borne flares into the flight path of American drones, forcing them to maneuver to avoid them.
Air Force Lieutenant General Alex Grinkevich described the encounter: “An American MQ-9 Reaper drone was conducting a mission against ISIS positions in Syria when Russian fighter jets arrived. One of the Russian jets shot down the American drone.” Flair began to drop in front of him, it appeared as if he was attempting to strike him.”
The escalation comes just a day after a similar incident in which Russian jets harassed three US drones, forcing them to divert course.
Lt. Gen. Grinkevich stressed the seriousness of the situation, saying, “These incidents represent another example of unprofessional and unsafe actions by the Russian Air Forces operating in Syria, threatening the security of both coalition and Russian forces. Urge Russian forces in Syria to stop this reckless behavior and adhere to the standards of behavior expected of a professional air force so that we can refocus on the permanent defeat of ISIS.”
Additionally, French fighter jets encountered a Russian Su-35 fighter jet near the Iraq–Syria border, prompting a evasion. The Twitter account of the French Armed Forces reported “unprofessional interactions” between the Russian and French jets. These events highlight the growing confrontation between Russia and Western forces operating in the region.
The repeated harassment of American and French aircraft raises concerns about the safety of all involved. The US Air Force has released declassified videos showing dangerous encounters, highlighting the need for urgent action to prevent further escalation.
It is imperative for both the US and Russia to follow established disengagement protocols in Syria. However, recent Russian actions have violated these agreements, including flying too close to US military bases and failing to communicate effectively across the de-conflict line.
The developments highlight the precarious situation in Syria, where several countries are operating in a complex airspace. The safety of military personnel and the successful mission against ISIS is paramount.
Brig. Top Pentagon spokesman General Pat Ryder highlighted the importance of following established protocols. “We have rules in place, well-established processes and procedures, and we’ve successfully minimized conflicts with the Russians over many years when it comes to safe operations in that area. So to suggest that any Ridiculous like it’s our fault.”
Efforts should be made to defuse tensions and ensure the safety of all aircraft involved. The international community, including the US, Russia and their respective allies, should work towards a peaceful solution focused on combating ISIS.