Is U.S. About To Threaten Russian Planes Over Syria?

F-15-cNow here’s a scary thought: The Daily Beast suggested earlier today that U.S. F-15-C fighter planes, which are designed for and limited to air-to-air combat, could be destined to engage Russian planes over Syria in the near future. The Pentagon announced late last week that a dozen of the twin-engine fighters were being deployed to Turkey, supposedly “to ensure the safety” of America’s NATO allies, as a Defense Department spokesperson said to The Beast.

“That could mean that the single-seat F-15s and the eight air-to-air missiles they routinely carry will help the Turkish air force patrol Turkey’s border with Syria, intercepting Syrian planes and helicopters that periodically stray into Turkish territory,” the web site speculated – adding:

“But more likely, the F-15s will be escorting attack planes and bombers as they strike ISIS militants in close proximity to Syrian regime forces and the Russian warplanes that, since early October, have bombed ISIS and U.S.-backed rebels fighting the Syrian troops.”

Meanwhile, The Times of Israel reported today, quoting Russian media sources, that U.S. and Russian jets “have conducted drills jointly to prevent the possibility of their air forces clashing in Syrian airspace.” The Times cited Russian Army Col. Andrei Kartapolov as having told the Sputnik news outlet that, “Today at 11 a.m. Moscow time, Russian and US air forces carried out joint drills on actions by crews and land personnel in cases when aircraft fly in close proximity to each other.”

While seeming to argue against The Daily Beast’s speculation, it is not unheard of for Russia to say one thing and do another – or for the U.S. to do likewise where Russia is concerned. That’s why The Carnegie Corporation of New York – self-described as “a foundation with an historical commitment to improving the U.S. ability to understand Russia and interpret its policies – noted a year ago, in October of 2014, that, “If there is one point of agreement between pundits in Moscow and Washington these days, it is that U.S.-Russia relations are at a post-Cold War nadir.”

Then, recently, The Corporation issued a statement under the name of Deana Arsenian, Vice President International Programs and Program Director, Russia and Eurasia, that, “For those of us with longstanding interest in U.S.-Russia relations, the current state of affairs is as distressing as it is alarming. By all accounts, this critical relationship has reached a point of rupture.”

Ms. Arsenian continued: “What led to [the current situation] can be endlessly debated by policy officials, experts, the media, and the public in both countries and beyond. And, indeed, it is, with varying perspectives on the root causes of the present situation and what should be done about it.”

Fine and good as that may be, foundations sometimes have a way of taking so long to figure out what’s causing a problem that, in the meantime, the problem has worsened.

With Russian President Vladimir Putin already none too happy with President Barack Obama – and vice versa – and with war planes of the two nations within bulls-eye shooting distance of each other (The Times of Israel report says the planes of the two nations flew, in their joint drills, “a minimally safe distance of 5.5 kilometers [3.4 miles]” from each other), one can only hope that communications between the Pentagon and the White House, on one side, and the Kremlin on the other, are more active than either side is prepared to say.

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