Russia issues threat after US downs Syria jet
Russia denounced the downing of a Syrian air-force warplane by a US Navy fighter jet as an act of “military aggression” on Monday — and threatened to target aircraft belonging to the US-led coalition in the war-torn country.
“Any aircraft, including the international coalition’s planes and drones, discovered west of the river Euphrates will be accompanied by ground- and air-based anti-aircraft defenses as aerial targets,” Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement on Monday.
The United States said it was acting in “collective self-defense” when an F-18 Super Hornet on Sunday shot down a Syrian Su-22 that had attacked a site near Tabqa occupied by members of the Syrian Democratic Forces.
The SDF militia is assisting the coalition in battling ISIS fighters.
It was the first time the US military had shot down a Syrian warplane in the six-year civil war.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the US would continue to protect its interests, stating:
“The escalation of hostilities doesn’t help anybody, and the Syrian regime and others in the regime need to understand that we will keep the right to self-defense.”
Russia, which backs Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad, said the downing violated international law and went against a 2015 safety agreement between Moscow and Washington to reduce the risk of collisions in Syria’s crowded airspace.
“Multiple military actions of US aviation under the guise of fighting terrorism against the legal military of a state that is a member of the United Nations are a flagrant violation of international law and constitute de facto military aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic,” the ministry said.
“We view these actions by the American command as a conscious failure to uphold their responsibilities within the memorandum.”
But later Monday, the top US military officer said Washington and Moscow were in discussions to tamp down tensions.
In an appearance at the National Press Club, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, suggested broader US and Russian interests would enable to the two sides to avoid direct hostilities in Syria.
“The worst thing any of us could do right now is address this with hyperbole,” Dunford said.
“I’m confident that we are still communicating between our operations center and the Russian Federation’s operations center.
“I’m also confident that our forces have the capability to take care of themselves.”
The developments give new urgency to a meeting later this week between senior US and Russian diplomats focusing on problems in the countries’ relationship that are hampering cooperation in other areas, notably Syria and Ukraine.
Dunford said the US-Russia military hot line established under the 2015 memorandum has been useful, with the two sides in touch as recently as Monday morning, but he also suggested communication was a problem.
No, it’s not the Emerald City, but folks couldn’t get over the rainbow capping off this stunning view of the New York skyline at dusk Monday.
FLYING INTO A RAGE: A US Navy F-18 fighter jet like these shot down a Syrian warplane that targeted coalition forces on Sunday. Russia on Monday decried the US action as an act of “military aggression.”