The USS Porter, one of two U.S. Navy destroyers involved in Thursday’s missile strike on the Syrian airbase where a chemical attack on civilians was launched, was buzzed by two Russian jets back on February 10.
The consequences of the U.S. airstrike on the Sharyat Air Base in central Syria yesterday remains unclear. Reports indicate that the air base has already returned to operational use by Syrian air forces to launch airstrikes on Friday, and Russia has suspended its agreement with the U.S. to “prevent mid-air incidents,” and has positioned a frigate in the Eastern Mediterranean where the USS Porter and USS Ross launched Thursday’s attack.
Two months ago, the USS Porter was buzzed by “at least four” Russian military aircraft, including three SU-24 attack aircraft, according to CNN. The Navy ship was reportedly sailing in international waters in the Black Sea following NATO military exercises with Romania when the incident occurred. Russia originally denied the accusation.
Video and images of the SU-24 jets streaking past the USS Porter at low altitude was later released:
The USS Porter is assigned to the Navy’s Sixth Fleet with operational patrols in the Mediterranean, but has recently expanded patrols into the Black Sea where the incident occurred, according to Statesman.
Tensions between U.S. and Russian forces have been increasing over recent years, with both militaries engaging in the complex Syrian Civil War. Russia supports the original Syrian government fighting rebel forces and ISIS, while the U.S. has been assisting the rebel forces in their fight against ISIS. The conflict has led to many similar interactions between U.S. and Russian forces, via CNN:
According to an official from the NATO military alliance, there has been a surge of NATO aircraft that have “scrambled” to intercept Russian warplanes approaching NATO airspace.
“Allied aircraft scrambled around 400 times to meet Russian aircraft over Europe in both 2014 and 2015. In 2016, allied aircraft scrambled around 800 times in response to Russian aircraft,” the NATO official wrote in a statement to CNN.
With Syria’s recent chemical attack on civilians and Russia’s suspicious lack of ability or willingness to prevent such an attack, and a new leadership from President Trump displaying a willingness to take impulsive military action in the region, it’s doubtful the escalation of tensions between the U.S. and Russia will recover anytime soon.