Mar 22, 2023 - World

Air chief reports spike in Russian jets flying over U.S. base in Syria

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin walks near Russian fighter jet Sukhoi T-50, after its flight in Zhukovksy, outside Moscow. Photo: ALEXEY DRUZHININ/AFP via Getty Images

Armed Russian jets have flown over a U.S. military base in Syria almost daily this month, a top American general told NBC News on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The move by Russia could violate a 4-year-old agreement with the U.S. and lead to escalation between the two countries.

The big picture: The U.S. and Russia agreed to air regulations over Syria in 2019 to avoid "potentially provocative encounters," NBC writes.

  • Direct overflight of the other country's positions on the ground was deemed acceptable — especially if it involved armed aircraft, per NBC.

Details: Russian jets have violated the airspace over the U.S. base in Syria roughly 25 times so far in March, according to Lt. Gen. Alexus Grynkewich, combined forces air component commander for U.S. Central Command.

  • There were zero violations in February and 14 in January.

Between the lines: These latest incidents come in the wake of a Russian jet colliding with a U.S. drone over the Black Sea.

  • U.S. European command had called it part of a "pattern of dangerous actions by Russian pilots while interacting with U.S. and Allied aircraft over international airspace.

What they're saying: "It is a substantial increase," Grynkewich said.

  • "They’re regularly flying directly overhead of our units, and I’ve defined directly overhead, as within about a mile, no more than a mile offset one side or the other, while we’ve got forces right there on the ground at ATG," he added.
  • "So it's an uncomfortable situation."
  • Representatives for the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C., did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.
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