Is Russia Trying to Start a War With the United States? – Military pilots are likely to spend their whole careers training for aerial combat – only to never have the chance actually to put their skills to the test.
That should be seen as a good thing, but Russian pilots are actively trying to engage in “dogfights” with the U.S. in the skies over Syria.
What Is Russia Doing?
According to a report from The Wall Street Journal last week armed Russian warplanes have repeatedly violated longstanding agreements with the U.S. by flying dangerously close to American jet fighters as well as over U.S. forces on the ground. In addition, drones have been harassing U.S. forces with “increasing frequency,” creating new risks of a deadly miscalculation between the two military superpowers the paper of record noted.
Since the beginning of March, Russian jets have been noted to have violated “deconfliction protocols” at least 85 times, including 26 instances where the Kremlin’s aircraft flew too close to coalition bases and troops in Syria. Around 900 U.S. personnel are currently in Syria to advise and assist the patchwork of rebel forces that are now fighting the government forces. In addition, the Pentagon continues to launch airstrikes and raids throughout the Middle East region as part of its now decade-long mission to contain the Islamic State group.
Moscow backs the Syrian government’s efforts to suppress anti-government rebels.
For those reasons, the U.S. and Russian military officials communicate regularly on a “deconfliction” telephone, which allows for the sharing of details about planned missions, including aircraft call signs and planes’ electronic transmission codes. This goal is to make sure U.S. and Russian aircraft don’t engage one another.
Baiting the U.S. Into War?
Based on the recent reports, it almost seems that the Russians would like a chance to dogfight U.S. fighters.
Russian pilots have been “increasingly bellicose in how they’re approaching us,” Lt. Gen. Alexus Grynkewich, head of the Air Forces Central Command, said in an interview with Marcus Wiesgerber of Defense One on Thursday. “They’re maneuvering aggressively against us when our protocols would say we’re supposed to stay… several miles apart and just monitor each other.”
Grynkewich added, “They’re aggressively maneuvering, almost like they’re trying to dogfight, if you will. That’s very concerning.”
There have already been more than close calls.
In March, a United States Air Force MQ-9 Reaper surveillance drone was forced down over the Black Sea after the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was struck by a Russian Sukhoi Su-27 (NATO reporting name “Flanker”) fighter jet. Air Force officials called the actions by the Russian pilots “unsafe and unprofessional,” and warned that it could have caused both aircraft to crash.
The same month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov drew laughter from a crowd in India when he tried to make the claim that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was actually launched against his nation. He has further made outlandish statements that NATO aggression is what is now behind the war in Ukraine.
Perhaps the pilots actually believe those statements and believe a war with the West is already underway. If that is the case, it could make for very dangerous skies anytime U.S. and Russian must share it.
Author Experience and Expertise:
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.