US ‘Very Concerned’ About Russian Warplane Invading Turkey’s Airspace

Russian army pilot in Syria
Russian army pilot in Syria / AP

The United States does not believe Moscow when it excused a Russian warplane entering Turkey’s airspace as an accident, according to an anonymous U.S. official.

According to the Associated Press, the Turkish Foreign Ministry explained Monday that a Russian warplane had invaded Turkish airspace Saturday near the country’s border with Syria. Moscow has conducted airstrikes in Syria and increased military capabilities there in recent weeks in an alleged attempt to combat the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIL or ISIS).

Russia maintained that the plane’s entry into Turkey’s airspace was an accident.

The unnamed U.S. official claimed that Defense Secretary Ash Carter had warned against such behavior during a recent phone conversation with his counterpart in Russia. Secretary of State John Kerry told journalists Monday that the U.S. is "very concerned" about the incident.

"We’re very concerned about it … and it is precisely the kind of thing we warned about," Kerry stated in Chile. He said that the incursion could have resulted in the plane being shot down by Turkey.

Carter said during a press conference in Spain Monday that U.S. officials are talking to Turkish leaders about the incident, adding that the occurrence will be addressed during the NATO meeting of defense ministers this week.

According to the Turkish Foreign Ministry, the Russian warplane was intercepted by two F-16 jets and directed back into Syrian airspace Saturday. Moreover, Turkey’s military also said Monday that an MiG-29 jet harassed two Turkish F-16 jets Sunday for nearly six minutes while the Turkish aircraft were monitoring the border between Turkey and Syria. However, Turkey could not confirm to which country the jet belonged.

Carter knocked Russia for the incident during remarks at the Center for Advanced Studies of National Defense in Madrid on Monday morning.

"We call on Russia to act in a safe and professional manner, uphold international standards for safety, and respect the sovereignty of all nations–most recently our NATO ally, Turkey," he said.

The Defense secretary also admonished Moscow for its recent military activity in Syria meant to help the Bashar al-Assad regime.

"Russia says it intends to fight ISIL on the one hand but support Bashar al-Assad on the other. By taking military action in Syria against moderate groups targets, Russia has escalated the civil war, putting further at risk the very political resolution and preservation of Syria’s structure of future governance it says that it wants," Carter explained.

"This approach is tantamount to pouring gasoline on the fire of civil war."

He also slammed Russia for repeatedly violating international law and "alienat[ing] the international community."

Last Wednesday, Russia conducted its first airstrikes in Syria, dropping bombs near a city that is not controlled by the Islamic State. Carter later admitted that Moscow may not have been targeting IS with the airstrikes.