Increased tensions after Russian Su-24 fighter jets buzzed the USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea has both sides engaged in a dangerous game of brinksmanship that could have disastrous consequences.
Former Soviet fighter pilot, Oleksiy Melnyk, said, “These kinds of planned maneuvers are especially dangerous because they bring us very close to an unplanned accident.”
Melnyk, a former Ukrainian air force lieutenant colonel who flew in the Soviet air force, believed that the recent antics were a demonstration of Russian confidence and arrogance toward NATO and the U.S.
“It was definitely done on purpose, and with the NATO summit in mind,” he said. “Having the same background, I’m sure the pilots were not too young and too stupid to realize that these kinds of maneuvers would create an international scandal,” he continued.
As co-director of foreign relations and international security programs at the Razumkov Centre, a Ukrainian think tank, Melnyk observes Russia’s current practice of intercepting NATO ships as “more aggressive and more frequent” than when he was a pilot during the Cold War. Melnyk flew Mig-21s for the USSR beginning in 1986. He said the current Russian practices would not have been allowed under the old Soviet rules of engagement.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reinforced the risk associated with Russia’s brazen behavior.
“It is reckless. It is provocative. It is dangerous. And under the rules of engagement, that could have been a shoot-down,” Kerry said.
The Russian Defense Ministry response demonstrated they currently have no fear of the U.S. administration and its propensity for empty words. The Russians asserted that the U.S. interpretation of the event was “not consistent with reality” and their pilots “performed strictly in accordance with the international regulations on the use of airspace.”
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