Two unarmed Russian warplanes made two extremely close flights to the U.S. guided missile destroyer on Tuesday in international waters. Their approaches were defined as simulated attacks by U.S military officials.
One of the two Sukhoi SU-24 Russian warplanes flew within 75 feet of the USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea, so close that waves were provoked by it. A Russian KA-27 Helix helicopter also made an appearance around the ship and took pictures, as reported by Reuters.
U.S. officials described the Russian maneuver as “strafing runs” without firing any weapons, due to the use of the same flight profile they would have done if there was an attack underway, according to CNN sources. Photos and videos of the incidents were released as proof by the U.S. military.
The U.S. destroyer had on board a Polish helicopter as part of a routine training, which had led to believe that Russian were “sending a message to Poland”, according to officials who had remained in anonymity.
In the other hand, the message has also been linked as a probable reaction to the petition of the Baltic states, Estonia Latvia, and Lithuania, that consisted in permanent deployments of troops by NATO in their territory. These are battalion-sized allied troops of 300 to 800.
Nothing else but a provocation
Poland’s Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz has addressed to the events in a private radio called RMF and said that the approaches cannot be treated as anything else but a provocation and another example of aggressive intentions toward NATO.
However, the Russian flights were described as “unsafe and unprofessional” by the commanding officer of the Donald Cook, according to a defense official on board.
The U.S military’s European Command released a statement were they announced that officials are using existing diplomatic channels to address the interaction while the incidents are also being reviewed through U.S. Navy channels.
“These actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries, and could result in a miscalculation or accident that could cause serious injury or death,” the statement added.