A NATO official told The Daily Beast that a near-miss collision between a Russian military aircraft and a Polish one has forced NATO to put its air police on “higher alert.”
The incident occurred over the Black Sea near Romania on Friday, when the Polish plane was on patrol as part of its responsibilities with the EU border agency Frontex. Frontex is headquartered in Warsaw, Poland.
“NATO Air Police detachments were placed on higher alert in response to the dangerous behavior of a Russian military aircraft near a Polish Frontex aircraft over the Black Sea near Romania on Friday,” the official told The Daily Beast. NATO is still vigilant.
The official did not respond to questions about what NATO assesses Russia’s intention in the incident.
The Russian Su-35 made three “aggressive and dangerous maneuvers” toward the Polish aircraft, according to the Polish Border Guard. Polish border guards said on social media that the Polish crew lost control and altitude as a result.
According to the crew’s assessment, the Russian plane was only five meters away at one point.
The NATO official said that the units with the highest level of readiness are Spanish aircraft assigned to the air police mission in Romania.
Russian planes frequently conduct unsafe and unprofessional flights near planes of other countries, according to US officials. Some of these maneuvers could lead to an unintended escalation, according to US officials. US officials said this behavior began to increase in March.
The news comes just weeks after a Russian Su-35 conducted an “unsafe and unprofessional” intercept of a US F-16 over Syria, according to the Pentagon. The latest incident also comes two months after a Russian Su-27 performed an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver, ultimately hitting a US drone over the Black Sea. US Air Force The MQ-9 was completely shot down after the accident due to the damage it sustained.
In the MQ-9 incident, Russian jets fired fuel in front of the drone in a provocative move.
At the time, Russia denied that it had acted unprofessionally and that it had struck the US drone. Russian officials said the drone came down after making a sharp maneuver and claimed it was flying toward the Crimea peninsula, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014.
John Kirby, the White House National Security Council coordinator, said at the time that these kinds of moves would not prevent the United States from operating over the Black Sea even as Russia continues to wage war in Ukraine.
“If the message is that they want to deter or dissuade us from flying and operating in international airspace, over the Black Sea, that message will fail… We will continue to fly and operate in international airspace over international waters,” Kirby said in March.
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