(CNN) – Some call these moves “strafing runs” without the firing. U.S. officials still furious over the buzzing of an American navy ship by Russian combat jets. America’s top diplomat calling the incident in the Baltic Sea “reckless” and “provocative”.
Secretary of State John Kerry explains, “Under the rules of engagement that could’ve been a shoot-down. So people need to understand that this is serious business, and the United States is not going to be intimidated.”
In wave after wave, Russian jets buzzed the USS Donald Cook. At certain points coming within 30 feet of the ship.
Rear Admiral Terence McKnight of the U.S. Naval Institute: “I mean you are talking feet. We’re not talking yards or miles, we’re talking feet and basically if this pilot sneezed, or looked a different direction and just the plane went another way– bang– it could have hit the ship.”
The Russian jets were not armed. Russian officials are defending their actions saying these fly-by’s were ‘in accordance with international rules’, but analysts’ say ‘we’re in a very dangerous period.’
The USS Cook was operating in international waters but only about 70 miles off the Russian territory of Kaliningrad, where the Russians have military ports. That, plus the capabilities of the American aegis destroyer, likely got under Vladimir Putin’s skin.
Rear Admiral McKnight: “This ship has the most advanced radar capability in the fleet of the u-s navy. It not only can detect missiles, but it also can shoot down missiles. And this is probably what irritated the Russians, not only that it was operating out in the sea, but also that it was operating close to their shores.”
Putin is being as aggressive as ever, using his ramped-up military to threaten his neighbors. He provokes the U.S. to push every envelope. All with a clear message: we must be respected. The danger that u-s officials are worried about is that a miscalculation or slight mistake by a Russian pilot or sub-commander could’ve provoked a confrontation.
There’s also a concern about an intelligence breach. During those fly-bys, a Russian helicopter also came very close to the u-s-s cook. Officials say it was probably taking high-resolution pictures of the radar, weaponry and communications on board to give to Russian commanders and defense contractors.