After U.S. shoots down Syrian jet, Russia threatens dangerous escalation

Escalating tensions in Syria were drastically ratcheted up Monday morning after Russian officials threatened to shoot down U.S. coalition aircraft supporting the anti-Bashar al-Assad regime rebels in Syria.

The Russian threat came just hours after the U.S. shot down a Syrian regime fighter jet that had dropped bombs on the U.S.-allied Syrian Democratic Forces. The SDF is the anti-Islamic State alliance among the Kurdish, Arab, Assyrian, Armenian, Turkmen, and Circassian fighters.

The U.S. coalition said in a statement that an American F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down a Syrian Su-22 war plane “in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defense of coalition partnered forces,” Fox News reported.

“The coalition’s mission is to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them, but will not hesitate to defend coalition or partner forces from any threat,” the coalition said.

According to Fox News, this was the first time that the U.S. has shot down another country’s aircraft since targeting a Serbian warplane in Kosovo in 1999.

Russia’s defense ministry said Monday that, as a result of the U.S. shooting down the Syrian warplane, it would no longer abide by the 2015 U.S.-Russia “deconfliction” agreement, which was “aimed at minimizing the risk of inflight incidents among coalition and Russian aircraft operating in Syrian airspace.”

“From now on, in areas where Russian aviation performs combat missions in the skies of Syria, any air-born objects found west of the Euphrates River, including aircraft and unmanned vehicles belonging to the international coalition, tracked by means of Russian land and air anti-aircraft defense, will be considered air targets,” a statement from the Russian defense ministry read, according to CNN.

Russian foreign defense minister Sergei Ryabkov also accused the U.S. of helping terrorists by shooting down the Syrian plane.

“This strike can be regarded as another act of defiance of international law by the United States,” Ryabkov said Monday, CNN reported. “It was also an act of assistance to those terrorists whom the United States is ostensibly fighting against.”
It’s not the first time that Russia has said it will no longer adhere to the 2015 agreement, though. In April, the Kremlin temporarily suspended its involvement in the pact after a U.S. missile strike in Syria, the Washington Post reported.

At the time, a Russian representative to the United Nations called the act an “illegitimate action by the United States.”

The latest development from the more than six-year-long civil war in Syria is sure to escalate international tensions even more, just as the Islamic State has begun losing ground in the so-called caliphate. Russia previously claimed that it supports the U.S.-led coalition in Syria, even as there is evidence to suggest the Kremlin has helped to prop up the murderous Assad regime, which is responsible for gassing hundreds of innocent civilians.