U.S., Russia sign Syria air safety deal but keep quarreling over war aims

U.S., Russia sign Syria air safety deal but keep quarreling over war aims

James Rosen

October 20, 2015

Source: U.S., Russia sign Syria air safety deal but keep quarreling over war aims | McClatchy DC

High Lights

Pilots will communicate on protected radio frequencies

Russian, American jets have flown as close as 500 feet in last three weeks

Pentagon rejects Kremlin proposals for closer cooperation against Islamic State

A Syrian army tank fired during fighting in Jobar near Damascus last week after the Syrian army, backed by Russian airstrikes, launched an offensive. Alexander Kots AP

Our military forces in Syria are operating at the request of the legitimate authorities of that country.

Russian Defense Ministry

While cooperating in the name of air safety, Washington and Moscow continued to criticize the legitimacy of each other’s air campaigns in Syria.

Stressing that the aviation protocols “do not constitute U.S. cooperation or support for Russia’s policy or actions in Syria,” Cook added: “In fact, far from it, we continue to believe that Russia’s strategy in Syria is counterproductive and their support for the Assad regime will only make Syria’s civil war worse.”

The rhetoric from Moscow was just as dismissive.

“The signing of the document in no way changes the Russian principled position,” the Defense Ministry said. “Our military forces in Syria are operating at the request of the legitimate authorities of that country, while the projection of force by the United States and the counter-ISIL (a common acronym for the Islamic State) coalition led by Washington on the territory of Syria is without the consent of Damascus and, in the absence of any relevant U.N. Security Council resolution, represents negligence of international law.”

The Kremlin provided the full Russian-language title of the agreement: “A Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation and the Department of Defense of the United States of American on the Prevention of Flight Safety Incidents in the Course of Operations in the Syrian Arab Republic.”

The possibility of air conflict escalating over Syria is far from just theoretical.

Turkey has scrambled fighter jets at least twice this month in response to Russian planes that it said had crossed or come close to its border with Syria. And Turkey on Monday said it had shot down an unidentified drone after it flew along the border.

Analysts said the drone was Russian, but the Russian Defense Ministry denied that claim.

“If it was a (piloted) plane, we’d do the same,” Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Tuesday. “Our rules of engagement are known. Whoever violates our borders, we will give them the necessary answer.”

60 The number of Islamist targets the Russian Defense Ministry said its planes struck in 24 hours from Monday to Tuesday.

For all the differences between Washington and Moscow, their air accord includes some sweeping provisions that will see the American and Russian militaries cooperating more closely than at any time since they were allied against Nazi Germany in World War II.

Among the accord’s provisions, specific radio frequencies will be maintained by both sides so that American and Russian pilots can communicate directly with one another.

Should those communications fail to prevent a possible conflict or other potentially dangerous situation, a special phone line will be set up on the ground for military leaders from the two countries to have urgent conversations.

Cook stopped short of likening the new phone line to the two countries’ existing “nuclear hotline,” which was established Aug. 30, 1963, at the urging of President John F. Kennedy after Moscow and Washington narrowly averted nuclear warfare during the Cuban Missile Crisis 10 months earlier.

“We have a line of communication on the ground that serves as a backup and provides the opportunity to have real-time conversations if necessary,” Cook said.

Asked whether American pilots would have the right to fire at Russian aircraft that violate the new air protocols, Cook declined to respond directly.

“Our air crews always have the right to defend themselves,” he said.

He quickly added: “Our hope, with the memorandum of understanding, is that the risk of any sort of incident in the air over Syria is reduced, at a minimum, and hopefully eliminated.”

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One Comment on “U.S., Russia sign Syria air safety deal but keep quarreling over war aims”

  1. joopklepzeiker Says:

    Perhaps later on the Russian are also legal in Iraq .

    But means more cooperation killing of your own proxy army ?

    Tight spot, tight spot !!!


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