A Russian fighter jet – an Su-24, specifically – antagonized an US Navy destroyer, the USS Donald Cook, passing to within 1,000 yards – too close for comfort, and an apparent violation of previous agreements between the Russian and US militaries.
The Russian fighter jet was flying with another Su-24 that did not approach the Donald Cook and was not directly involved in the incident. Additionally, the New York Daily News reports that, in addition to the Russian fighter jets, a Russian naval frigate has been shadowing the Donald Cook within visual distance.
While no actual attack has been made and witnesses claim that the Russian fighter jet appeared to be unarmed, the Pentagon has seen fit to respond to what it considers a provocative move by Russia. A Yahoo! News report quotes Colonel Steven Warren, a Pentagon spokesman as saying:
“On April 12, a Russian Su-24 made numerous close-range, low-altitude passes in the vicinity of the USS Donald Cook, while the Cook was conducting operations in international waters in the western Black Sea. The aircraft did not respond to multiple queries and warnings from Donald Cook. The event ended without incident after approximately 90 minutes. This provocative and unprofessional Russian action is inconsistent with international protocols and previous agreements on a professional interaction between our militaries.”
Col. Warren also gave a warning: “The Donald Cook is more than capable to defend herself against two Su-24s.”
The Donald Cook was sent to international waters in the Black Sea earlier this month in a show of solidarity with America’s Eastern European NATO allies. The show of support comes in the wake of tensions between Russia and Ukraine that began when pro-western protesters in the Ukraine forced the resignation of former Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych. The tensions have built as Russia occupied and annexed Crimea and pro-Russian elements in eastern Ukraine have clashed with the new Ukrainian government.
Some have gone so far as to suggest that the heightening tensions could lead to World War 3 if the situation does not deescalate soon. A Russian fighter jet buzzing US Naval ships is unlikely to help matters.
The Russian fighter jet passed within 1,000 yards of the Donald Cook 12 times over a period of about 90 minutes, according to an AP report. At the time of the incident, the Donald Cook was sailing in international waters off the Romanian coast. The ship has since gone to port in Constanta, Romania.
What do you think? Could incidents like a Russian fighter jet antagonizing a US Navy destroyer be the precursors to World War 3 or is this just saber rattling?