Experts say Russia will likely get away with buzzing U.S. destroyer

Russia’s dangerously close flight maneuvers against a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Baltic Sea this week violate a deal signed in 1972, but analysts say there’s not much the U.S. can do to enforce the “rules-of-the-road”-type agreement.

The agreement between the U.S. and Russia on “the prevention of incidents on and over the high seas” was designed to stop incidents like the one this week that saw Russian Su-24 jets fly very close to the USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea.

Two Russian Su-24 jets made several close-range, low-altitude passes over the destroyer on Monday, according to a statement from U.S. European Command. The next day, a Russian Kamov Ka-27 helicopter made seven low-altitude circles around the ship. About 40 minutes later, two more Su-24s made 11 passes “in a simulated attack profile and failed to respond to repeated safety advisories.

“We have deep concerns about the unsafe and unprofessional Russian flight maneuvers. These actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries, and could result in a miscalculation or accident that could cause serious injury or death,” the EUCOM release said.

Matthew Rojansky, the director of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center, said the repeated buzzes are a violation “of both the spirit and the letter” of the agreement.

But analysts said the deal doesn’t include any consequences or enforcement.

“There’s no mechanism for punishment. It’s really a rules-of-the-road document. One side is clearly not following the rules of the road,” said Boris Zilberman, the deputy director of congressional relations at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

In terms of U.S. response, analysts all said they expect the U.S. to lodge a formal complaint, which Russia will likely ignore as it has after past incidents.

“It’s stupid, it’s pointless, it’s a horrible gesture,” said Chris Harmer, a former pilot and analyst with the Institute for the Study of War. “If you do this enough times, sooner or later, someone will make a mistake, so Russia should tone it down.”

The European Command release said U.S. officials are dealing with the incidents through “existing diplomatic channels.”

Any deal to prevent these types of incidents, he predicted, would involve the U.S. giving up its freedom to operate in areas close to Russia in exchange for the Kremlin promising not to behave unprofessionally outside of those areas.

“I don’t think anyone would even remotely accept that because our position is to operate anywhere we want,” Rojansky said.

Full article: Experts say Russia will likely get away with buzzing U.S. destroyer (The Washington Examiner)

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