Russia Responds to U.S. Allegations of Inappropriate Airspace Conduct
The Kremlin has responded to the United States Navy’s release of footage showing a Russian Su-27 Flanker fighter jet tailing a Navy Aries II aircraft. This occurred as the US Navy conducted a routine intelligence sweep of the black sea. A statement released by the US Navy describing the encounter stated that “the interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the Su-27 closing to within five feet and crossing directly through the EP-3’s flight path, causing the EP-3 to fly through the Su-27’s jet wash.” The US Navy also indicated that they viewed the encounter as a violation of international standards, specifically citing the 1972 Agreement for the Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas (INCSEA).
The Russian Ministry of Defense recommended that the United States either cease to conduct airspace operations near Russian borders or agree to a new set of norms and regulations to govern the conduction of operations. Citing American concern as “depression” and “phobias,” the Kremlin called for a new round of negotiations.
This is not the first-time Russian jets have behaved in this manner around United States aircrafts. Notably, in February of last year, a Russian Su-30’s flight was able to cause a US aircraft to experience violent turbulence. In June, a similar episode occurred that resulted in increased tensions between the two countries. Experts are concerned that this dangerous maneuvering, referred to as “buzzing”, might result in miscalculation and crisis escalation. US Navy Captain Bill Ellis commented on this most recent incident, stating that “the smallest lapse of focus or error in airmanship by the intercepting aircrew can have disastrous consequences”.
It remains to be seen whether the United States will respond positively to the Kremlin’s demand to renegotiate on airspace conduct. Negotiations under such volatile conditions create a diplomatic atmosphere where U.S. resolve will be tested, as to avoid the perception of ceding to Russian strong arming. However, a lack of dialogue over continued erratic encounters in international airspace might prove to be the precipice of a more serious conflict. This demands a quick resolution.