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Russia Has Abandoned U.S. Military Agreement Over Syria

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Russia is no longer cooperating with the U.S. by keeping to an agreed flight safety protocol over the skies of Syria, according to new analysis

The U.S. has accused Russia of abandoning a memorandum of understanding agreement after starting its air campaign in Syria by allowing its warplanes to carry out “simulated attacks” on American jets.

The U.S. views the Russian action of sending two Su-24 strike aircraft to within 30ft of one of its destroyers in the Baltic last week as “aggressive” and “unsafe” while Russia views the recent deployment of U.S. combat jets near Syria as a threat.

The Telegraph reports:

The US and Russia held military-to-military talks last year designed to prevent incidents of this kind from occurring over Syria. The result was a memorandum of understanding last October, stating that all Russian and American jets would stay a safe distance away from one another and communicate in English via recognised radio channels.

But a new analysis from Chatham House says that Russia has routinely broken this agreement. While striking the enemies of Bashar al-Assad’s regime on the ground, the Russian air force has also carried out “aggressive and provocative manoeuvres against Western aircraft in Syria,” said Keir Giles, an associate fellow of the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House.

The October agreement between America and Russia unravelled within weeks. Last November, the US Air Force deployed 12 F-15 jets to Incirlik air base in southern Turkey. Half of these were F-15C Eagles, designed for air-to-air combat.

Russia appears to have viewed the arrival of these warplanes as a potential threat to its own air force. While over Syria, the F-15s became a particular target for Russian pilots who “took the opportunity to practise aggressive manoeuvring against US aircraft, including positioning for simulated attacks,” said Mr Giles.

Two jets have already been lost over Syria: a Russian bomber was shot down by Turkey last November and a Turkish reconnaissance aircraft destroyed by Syrian air defences in 2012. A similar incident involving the Russian and US Air Forces – or the warplanes of any Nato country, including Britain – would risk a grave international crisis.

Last month, President Vladimir Putin announced a partial Russian withdrawal from Syria. But about 20 of the Kremlin’s jets are still based in the country, where they continue to mount regular raids against Assad’s enemies.

This force represents half of Russia’s peak deployment of about 40 fighters and bombers. In addition, Russia has sent up to 20 helicopters to the country, most of which are still there.

Edmondo Burr

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