Rus­sian fighter buzzes U.S> Navy jet

U.S. has ‘high­est level of con­cern’ about in­ci­dent.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Rick Noack Wash­ing­ton Post

In the lat­est in a BER­LIN — string of dan­ger­ous en­coun­ters be­tween Rus­sian and NATO mil­i­tary jets, a Rus­sian Su-27 jet came within five feet of a U.S. Navy plane on Mon­day, ac­cord­ing to the State Depart­ment. The in­ci­dent oc­curred in in­ter- na­tional airspace above the Black Sea, rais­ing re­newed con­cerns over the risk of midair col­li­sions in Europe.

State Depart­ment spokes- woman Heather Nauert said that the United States con- siders the in­ci­dent to be of “the high­est level of con- cern,” call­ing it only “the lat­est ex­am­ple of Rus­sian mil­i­tary ac­tiv­i­ties dis­re­gard­ing in­ter­na­tional norms and agree­ments.”

Provoca­tive Rus­sian be­hav­ior, es­pe­cially since 2014, has set off alarm bells across Europe over the last few years.

Last June, a Rus­sian fighter jet sim­i­larly came within a few feet of a U.S. re­con­nais­sance plane over the Baltic Sea. It then lin­gered by the side of the U.S. plane for min­utes, U.S. mil­i­tary offi- cials said at the time.

A re­port is­sued in 2014 by the Euro­pean Lead­er­ship Net­work, a Lon­don-based think tank, doc­u­mented al­most 40 in­ci­dents that to­gether “add up to a highly dis­turb­ing pic­ture of vi­o­la­tions of na­tional airspace, emer­gency scram­bles, nar- rowly avoided midair colli- sions, close en­coun­ters at sea, sim­u­lated at­tack runs, and other dan­ger­ous ac­tions hap­pen­ing on a reg­u­lar ba­sis over a very wide ge­o­graph­i­cal area,” ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

The re­port was only com- piled for 2014 and not for the sub­se­quent years.

At the time, the think tank reached the con­clu­sion that Rus­sia was not ac­tively try­ing to pro­voke a full-blown con­flict with NATO but that its ac­tions nev­er­the­less “could prove cat­a­strophic” be­cause of the risk of un­in­tended es­ca­la­tion. Rus­sian of­fi­cials have re­jected those ac­cu­sa­tions, with for­mer Rus­sian Am­bas­sador to the United States Sergey Kislyak say­ing that the un­usual fre­quency in dan­ger­ous en­coun­ters was the re­sult of an in­crease in mil­i­tary train­ing flights.

But in the worst case, some of the doc­u­mented in­ci­dents may have re­sulted in mass-ca­su­alty ac­ci­dents. On March 3, 2014, the pi­lots of a Rus­sian re­con­nais­sance air­craft — which ap­par­ently had not trans­mit­ted its po­si­tion — nearly col­lided with a pas­sen­ger plane that had just taken off from Copen­hagen, ac­cord­ing to the Euro­pean Lead­er­ship Net­work. The pi­lots of the civil­ian SAS 737 plane with 132 pas­sen­gers aboard man­aged to avoid a col­li­sion, thanks to good vis­i­bil­ity.

PAVEL GOLOVKIN / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A man watches Rus­sian mil­i­tary jets per­form­ing in Alabino, out­side Moscow, in Au­gust. Provoca­tive Rus­sian be­hav­ior, es­pe­cially since 2014, has set off alarm bells across Europe over the last few years.

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