With the Ukraine Crisis hitting a dramatic new tone, a Russian fighter jet buzzed an American warship on Saturday in the most dramatic direct conflict between Russia and the United States since the end of the Cold War. It is unknown as of yet what the motivations of the pilot were.
The USS Donald Cook is a guided missile destroyer positioned in the Black Sea. According to military officials, a Russian SU-24 fighter jet repeatedly “buzzed,” the destroyer.
Buzzing is where an aircraft flies deliberately low and close to a ship. The fighter jet apparently made roughly a dozen such passes over the course of 90 minutes with some flybys being virtually sea level.
According to the crew of the Donald Cook, repeated radio calls were made to the fighter without any response from the Russian pilot. Despite inquiries and warnings, the fighter continually made passes that the Pentagon called “provocative.”
The American vessel never went to its battle stations and the incident ended without any shots fired. Officials believe that the aircraft was not combat-armed with missiles or bombs, though its actions were in violation of many clear international norms.
These events are particularly tense given the implications of the current Ukraine Crisis. According to American officials, including ones at the State Department, Russia has been undermining stability in Ukraine by sending in “provocateurs,” to cause anti-Western unrest. The current intern government in Kiev is generally considered pro-West.
Furthermore, some analysts believe that Russia is poised to invade Ukraine, and that Russia is using the current unrest as a front to stage such an invasion of Eastern and Southern Ukraine. Pointing to troop build ups of tens of thousands along the Eastern Ukrainian border as well as similar tactics as were used in Crimea, the West is concerned that any further escalation could lead to an open military conflict.
Now, as an American warship has been buzzed by a Russian fighter with what is a continually escalating Ukraine Crisis, many are worried that West-East tensions will continue to rise.
In response to alleged Russian intervention in East Ukraine, Kiev has announced a military response to armed protesters and pro-Russian fighters who have captured several police stations and government buildings in various Eastern Ukrainian Cities. This flies in the face of several warnings that Russian officials have issued saying that they will not stand for any sort of forceful response to what Moscow considers Russian-ethnic protesters.
Russia has repeatedly denied any direct involvement in the incidents and claims that their armed forces are not poised to invaded Ukraine. It is Russia’s position that the West is behind tensions in the region and that the current Ukrainian government is the illegitimate result of a coup.
However, NATO and the United States deny these claims forthright. Recently, NATO released satellite images of Russian fighter jets and helicopters that appear to be combat ready near Ukraine’s border and officials believe that some 40,000 troops stand ready to invade within 12 hours of being given the order.
As of now, Ukraine’s response has been very cautious. Although a supposed deadline has passed for pro-Russian fighters to lay down their arms without any sign of that actually happening, Ukraine’s security forces have done little to quell the unrest. Some towns have reportedly seen military conflict between Ukraine and the armed men who have seized many Eastern cities, although others have been remarkably silent despite Ukraine’s claims of use of force.
And with a Russian fighter having reportedly buzzed an American warship, the Ukraine Crisis has taken a dramatic turn towards a direct East-West conflict. It is unknown as of yet what exactly the intentions of the pilot were or whether or not these events will continue to escalate, although many are worried that the fall of the Soviet Union was not so much an end to the Cold War as it was a pause of the Cold War.
By Brett Byers-Lane
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