The U.S. military on Tuesday labeled as an “incursion” the Russian fighter jet that was shot down by Turkish aircraft over the Syria-Turkey border.
Army Col. Steve Warren, the top military spokesman in Baghdad, confirmed the Turk’s version of events in saying they repeatedly warned the two Russian SU-24 pilots to back off.
Col. Warren used the word “incursion” to describe the Russian flight, but also said the command was studying radars and other data, such as radio chatter, to make a definite conclusion.
“The incident happened at the border,” Col. Warren said. “These things are not as clean as they are in the movies.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin in recent years has deployed his fighters and bombers close to the air space of NATO countries, such as Turkey and the U.S., as a way to try to rattle the allies.
This is the first time he has paid a price in having one of his jets shot down and perhaps the pilots killed.
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Mr. Putin is backing Syrian President Bashar Assad, which is opposed by the Turkish government. Ankara is helping rebels opposed to the regime.
The U.S. sent F-15C air superiority jets to Turkey to help it patrol and defend its air space. Col. Warren said no F-15 was in the vicinity.
This “purely took place between the Russians and the Turks,” he said.
Col. Warren has made no secret of the U.S.’s displeasure with Russian bombing campaign in Syria. They assert Mr. Putin is mostly bombing moderate rebel groups opposed to Mr. Assad and devoting little time to the Islamic State terror army.
Later Tuesday, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said NATO ally Turkey has told the U.S. that the Russian jet did, in fact, “violate their air space.”
“Turkey has a right to defend its air space,” Mr. Cook told Pentagon reporters.
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He said the U.S. has not concluded “definitively” that Russia crossed the line. He added, “There were previous [Russian] incursions.”
• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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