Following Russia’s warning that it will view US warplanes as targets if they fly west of the Euphrates river, the US military has justified shooting down a Syrian warplane on Sunday as an act of self-defence.
Russia, which is a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has said it will treat U.S.-led coalition as potential targets and track them with missile systems and military aircraft. It stopped short of
saying it would shoot them down.
The Syrian government plane was shot down near Raqqa after it bombed targets near U.S.-allied forces fighting ISIL on the ground.
“The only actions that we have taken against pro-regime forces in Syria and there have been two specific incidents, have been in self-defence and we’ve communicated that clearly,” General Joseph Dunford, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Monday.
He added that the US was working to restore a “deconfliction” communications line with Russia meant to avoid an accidental clash over Syria.
It was the first time the U.S. Air Force had shot down a warplane since May 1999.
The Russian Defence Ministry said it was also immediately scrapping a Syrian air safety agreement with Washington designed to avoid collisions and dangerous incidents.
Moscow accused Washington of failing to honour the pact by not informing it of the decision to shoot down the Syrian plane, despite Russian aircraft being airborne at the same time.
Washington hit back, saying it would “do what we can to protect our interests.”
The U.S. military said it was re-positioning its aircraft over Syria to ensure the safety of American air crews targeting Islamic State.
The White House also said it would work to keep lines of communication open with Russia amid the new tensions.