A U.S. military aircraft flying over Syria was recently forced to change its route to avoid coming “dangerously close” to Russian warplanes, the Pentagon said Wednesday.
Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis told the Associated Press that U.S. air operations have had to be adjusted since Russia launched an air campaign targeting extremist groups in Syria last week. Davis would not say how many times the military has rerouted aircraft.
A U.S.-led coalition has launched near-daily strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria since last summer. Russia joined in a week ago, citing the threat of the Islamic State, but news reports and U.S. officials suggest its focus has been on striking rebel groups, some of which are backed by the West, that are fighting the Syrian government, a longtime ally of Moscow. As my colleague Kathy Gilsinan put it last week, “Putins’ terrorists aren’t the same as Obama’s.”
A day after Russia’s bombing began, U.S. and Russian officials met via videoconference for “deconfliction” talks, the clinical term for ensuring one country’s warplanes don’t collide with another’s.
On Monday, Turkey said Russian warplanes illegally entered its airspace, an occurrence NATO’s secretary general later said “doesn’t look like an accident.” On Wednesday, Russia fired 26 medium-range cruise missiles into Syria from four warships stationed 1,000 miles away in the Caspian Sea. Its defense ministry said it successfully struck 11 targets.