Days after the US Central Command (CENTCOM) reported dangerous interceptions of its fighter jets by Russian aircraft in Syria, Moscow has alleged that the US has been breaking the “deconfliction protocols” agreed upon by the two parties to prevent escalation.
The deputy head of the Center for the Reconciliation of Warring Parties, Rear Admiral Oleg Gurinov, said that the US Air Force pilots violated deconfliction protocols in Syria by activating weapons systems when approaching Russian aircraft, RIA Novosti reported.
“Gross violations of the deconflict protocols and the bilateral Memorandum on Flight Safety in Syria by the US-led so-called international coalition continue. The activation of weapons systems by US Air Force pilots is still noted when approaching Russian Aerospace Forces aircraft performing scheduled flights in eastern Syria,” the rear admiral told the news agency.
The US-led International Coalition was established in 2014 to fight the Islamic State. Since 2015, the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria and its armed wing, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), have received material, monetary, and logistical backing from the United States.
Russia, on the other hand, is a part of the alliance that backs Syria’s Assad government and its military, along with Iran and Hezbollah. Russia came to Syria’s aid in 2015, which helped the military make quick progress across the nation that extremists had previously controlled.
Due to their extensive involvement in the Syrian War, the US and Russia have established specific mutually agreed-upon guidelines to prevent disputes. One is the need to notify authorities of a potential flight through coalition airspace above the United States, which was ostensibly disregarded.
The accusations made by the Russians come at a time of escalating tensions between the opposing sides. Last month, US officials claimed Russian jets and drones are increasingly harassing the US troops deployed in Syria, raising the possibility of a fatal miscalculation or “escalation” between the two sides.
US-Russia Sparring In Syria
The Russian accusation comes days after the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service alleged that the United States was preparing terrorist attacks in crowded places in Syria, coordinated by the American military base at Al-Tanf.
The report went so far as to say that numerous ISIS fighters were being trained at the military base, and the group’s ranks were frequently restocked by “terrorists” who have been freed by the Americans from detention facilities in the region of northeastern Syria.
The Foreign Intelligence Service stated that the militants were carrying out sorties in the troubled southern provinces of Suwayda and Deraa.
According to the intelligence chief, “This criminal activity is being directed from the American military base at Al-Tanf, near Syria’s borders with Jordan and Iraq. Dozens of ISIS fighters are being trained there, and their ranks are regularly replenished by the Americans, who release terrorists from prisons in the occupied northeastern part of Syria. Small arms, ammunition, and anti-tank missile systems are being delivered by truck to the training camps.”
However, Russia has been accused of violating the mutually agreed ‘deconfliction protocols.’ According to statements made by US officials on April 24, armed Russian jets had been routinely violating long-standing agreements with the US by flying dangerously close to American jet fighters over Syria and over US troops stationed there during the previous two months.
The statement was made days after US Central Command (CENTCOM) released videos of two separate encounters between American aircraft and fully equipped Russian Su-35 Flanker-E fighter jets over Syria, as previously reported by EurAsian Times.
In one video allegedly captured on April 18, a Russian Su-35 aircraft was performing an intercept mission when it came within 2,000 feet of an unidentified US aircraft.
Although there have been instances when the aircraft of the two sides have been even closer than this, the maneuvers are nonetheless terrifying and have been labeled provocative by US officials.
The second video was captured by an F-16 Viper in the first week of April. It showed a Russian Su-35 undertaking a dangerous and careless intercept while flying in what US-Russian procedures identify as Coalition-controlled airspace over Syria.
The head of the US Air Forces Central Command, Lt. Gen. Alexus Grynkewich, who is responsible for directing American military activities over Syria and 20 other countries in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, said, “It’s a ripe situation for us to see some sort of miscalculation. It signals a breakdown in professionalism that I have never seen out of the Russian Air Force.”
The General noted that starting March 1, Russian forces had violated the agreement more than 60 times. He emphasized that Russian aircraft, required to fly at least three nautical miles away from American aircraft, had at least twice flown within 500 feet of American pilots.
He further stated it was especially concerning that armed Russian aircraft have flown over American troops in southern Syria more than twenty times since the beginning of March.
Earlier, EurAsian Times had reported that armed Russian jets flew over the Al-Tanf US military garrison in Syria almost every day in March, breaching a 2019 agreement between the US and Russia regarding using Syrian airspace in areas where each country maintains military facilities. Russian Su-34 Fullback fighter planes were also seen flying above the American military installation.
Russia has also, on its part, accused the United States military of provocations in the northeastern part of Syria. The latest claims could likely spark another military and diplomatic storm, raising tensions in war-torn Syria.