The US Navy has released about a dozen videos that show Russian fighter jets and a helicopter "buzzing" a US Navy destroyer in the Baltic Sea.
The incidents occurred over a two-day period last month, and were first documented in a series of short clips released on YouTube by the Navy. In the newly released footage, which the Navy made public after a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Virginia Pilot newspaper, you can hear one sailor on the USS Donald Cook say "Oh my God!" as a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 fighter jet makes extremely close passes by the warship.
Navy Admiral John M. Richardson told reporters at the Pentagon last month that he hoped "we can stop this sort of activity."
"I don't think the Russians are trying to provoke an incident. I think they're trying to send a signal," he said. "I think it's pretty clear that they are wanting to let us know that they see that we are up there in the Baltic."
The jets flew so close, one Navy official said, that they created a wake in the water around the destroyer.
"We have deep concerns about the unsafe and unprofessional Russian flight maneuvers," the Navy said in a statement on April 13. "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 Navy also described the Russian pilots' actions as a "simulated attack," while adding that the planes weren't visibly armed.
The Russian actions violated the terms of a bilateral agreement signed during the Cold War in 1972 by then Navy Secretary John Warner and Soviet Admiral Sergei Gorshkov. The pact prohibits "simulated attacks against aircraft or ships, performing aerobatics or dropping hazardous objects near them." The two military superpowers drew up the agreement after a "series of close calls."
The Su-24s — dubbed "Fencers" by NATO — made similarly low passes over the USS Donald Cook last year. In 2014, the Russian planes also flew dangerously close to the USS Ross, a guided-missile destroyer.
Russia's Defense Ministry shrugged off the Navy's recent criticism over the recent encounters, saying it was "not consistent with reality." The Russians have insisted that their pilots did nothing wrong, saying they "performed strictly in accordance with the international regulations on the use of airspace."
Meanwhile, a former deputy commander of NATO seems to think that tensions between Russia and the West are at boiling point.
In a book published on Wednesday titled 2017 War with Russia, Sir Alexander Richard Shirreff argues that the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 signaled that the conditions of the post-Cold War settlement were now moot, and that the region is on track to lapse into all-out conflict.
"Under President Putin, Russia has charted a dangerous course that, if it is allowed to continue, may lead inexorably to a clash with NATO. And that will mean a war that could so easily go nuclear," US Admiral James Stavridis, who formerly served as the supreme allied commander in Europe, wrote in the book's foreword, according to the Guardian.
Shirreff believes that Latvia will be the next Baltic country to be targeted by Russia.
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