After US Downs Syrian Plane, Tensions Spike with Russia that Could Put Israel, Others at Risk

Russian President Vladimir Putin. Illustrative. Photo courtesy of the office of the President of Russia.

The United Stated defended local fighters assisting in the coalition against ISIS by shooting down a Syrian plane that was bombing near the locals, and now Russia is threatening to shoot down almost everybody. The New York Times reported that the Russian Defense Ministry not only supported their ally in the Syrian regime, but issued threats on their behalf. “All flying objects, including planes and drones of the international coalition, detected west of the Euphrates, will be followed by Russian air defense systems as targets,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement on Monday, according to the report.

The Russians have long coordinated with the various nations engaged in the skies above and around Syria to avoid dangerous mistakes. That has included Israel as well as the United States. The Russians also said they suspended the coordination hotline with the U.S., but The New York Times noted that threat has been issued before only to disappear later. The United States on Monday defended their actions.

“I think that the escalation of hostilities among the many factions that are operating in this region doesn’t help anybody,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in comments to the media published to the White House website. “And the Syrian regime and others in the regime need to understand that we will retain the right of self-defense, of coalition forces aligned against ISIS.”

Meanwhile, The New York Times indicated the Americans would continue to fly missions over Syria. They noted that it remained unclear if Russia would continue in the spirit of non-cooperation, since a previous threat was not only unfulfilled, but coordination increased.

Said Spicer, “I think, obviously, it’s important and crucial that we keep lines of communication open to de-conflict potential issues.”

The U.S. isn’t the only nation that has benefitted from agreements with Russia. Israel too has coordinated with Moscow regarding Syria. In comments in December, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office released a statement summarizing a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin in which such coordination was mentioned.

Said the statement at the time, “The two leaders discussed developments in the region, with emphasis on Syria and continued security coordination in this sphere, which has already proven itself in preventing misunderstandings.”

While it is unclear what Russia’s response to the U.S. attack will ultimately be, the threat of brewing tensions between world powers lingers just over Israel’s northern border.

(By Joshua Spurlock,, June 19, 2017)

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