Two intentionally close calls between Russian and U.S. warplanes over the Baltic Sea signals that tensions between the two nuclear powers are taking on an increasingly military edge.
Russian media reported on Wednesday that a plane carrying Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was buzzed by a NATO F-16 fighter jet on Tuesday before it was chased off by an SU-27 military jet escorting Shoigu’s flight.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon said a Russian jet came within 5 feet of a U.S. spy plane on Monday, calling the encounter “unsafe” because of the Russian aircraft’s “high rate of closure speed and poor control of the aircraft,” officials said.
Russia insisted the U.S. plane, an RC-135 reconnaissance jet, made a “provocative” move.
Reasons For Intimidation Tactics
Both incidents come on the heels of Sunday’s downing of a Russian-built fighter bomber by a U.S. F-18 Super Hornet over Syria. The Pentagon said it shot down the Syrian government aircraft after bombed U.S.-backed rebels seeking to overthrow pro-Russian ruler Bashar al-Assad.
After that incident, Russia warned it might fire on American aircraft in Syria, and that it was also halting communications with the U.S. that are aimed at preventing such air incidents.
The skies over the Baltic Sea are becoming the scene of increasing intimidation tactics on the part of both the Kremlin and NATO. Earlier this month, Russia sent a fighter jet to intercept a nuclear-capable U.S. B-52 strategic bomber it said was flying over the Baltic near its border.
Tensions are also high on the political front; a special prosecutor is investigating whether sources close to Russian leader Vladimir Putin colluded with President Donald Trump’s campaign team to rig last November’s presidential election. The probe reportedly has widened to include the Trump empire’s financial ties to Russian elements.