American and Russian planes are operating in close proximity to each other in Syria which can cause an accidental war between Washington and Moscow, says James Jatras, a former American Senate foreign policy adviser.
Jatras made the remarks in an interview on Saturday while commenting on reports which claimed that American fighter jets intercepted Russian military aircraft over Syria on Wednesday. Russia, however, has dismissed the reports.
The US Defense Department claimed Thursday that the Russian fighter jets were flying over a banned area in Syria.
The alleged interception took place when two US Air Force F-22 Raptors were scrambled to chase two Russian Sukhoi Su-25 Grach bombers out of a coalition-controlled area on the east side of the Euphrates River near the town of Bukamal.
Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon told Russia’s state news agency Tass that the Raptors deployed chaff and flares to warn the Russian airmen while one of the US pilots had to “aggressively maneuver” to avoid a midair collision.
The Russian pilots eventually changed course to the western side of the river after about 40 minutes, Pahon said.
However, Russia’s Defense Ministry later dismissed reports of the Russian jets being “intercepted,” saying the Russian fighters chased away the US warplanes.
The ministry also rejected reports that the Russian military aircraft were operating over the eastern bank, saying they were escorting a humanitarian aid convoy.
Jatras said that there “have been conflicting reports from Syria from the Russian and American sides of what exactly happened between Russian and American jets. The Americans claim that the Russian planes were on the wrong side of Euphrates.”
“This begs the question of course under what authority, what legality American planes are operating over Syria in the first place,” he asked.
“I don’t know what exact truth of the matter is or what is accurate here. My concern is that we have American, Russian planes operating in close proximity to each other [in Syria] — the Russians doing so legally, the Americans not doing so legally [and] with uncertain motives and objectives,” he stated.
And there are fears “that there will be some kind of mistake, some kind of accidental clash between Russians and Americans. It’s something that should be avoided by everyone. This is the way in which wars sometimes start accidentally, and it’s a risk that we cannot afford to take,” the analyst noted.