A U.S. Navy warship could have shot down Russian warcraft during several passes in the Baltic Sea early this week, Secretary of State of John Kerry stressed.
Over the course of two days, two Sukhoi SU-24 unarmed jets made multiple flybys over the fourth-generation destroyer USS Donald Cook, which was then only 70 nautical miles away from Kaliningrad, which has one of the key Russian military bases. A KA-27 Helix helicopter was also seen flying around the ship, seemingly taking pictures.
"USS Donald Cook [DDG 75] encountered multiple, aggressive flight maneuvers by Russian aircraft ," tweeted U.S. Navy on April 13.
The presence of the Russian planes has only increased the tension in the area especially when one of the planes came within 30 meters (98 feet) above Cook that it created a wake, leaving the American sailors more bewildered and scared as one mechanical failure may mean an imminent crash, loss of lives, and possibly a start of war.
The U.S. Navy also needed to halt their exercises, including helicopter landing drills, to avoid overflights during some of the flybys.
Kerry has already condemned these actions from Russia, calling it provocative, reckless, and dangerous.
"Under the rules of engagement that could have been a shoot-down," he said during an interview with Miami Herald and CNN Espanol.
He also warned that the U.S. cannot be intimidated by this incident and that the department is now communicating with Russia so it wouldn't be repeated, a plan the White House has corroborated.
Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, spokesman of Russian Military of Defense, called the U.S. comments as a "painful reaction," saying that they have followed all the safety rules, including turning away after spotting the ship.
The U.S. and Russia have already experienced multiple close encounters at sea in the past, especially during the cold war. Both countries signed an agreement in 1972, prohibiting aerobatics or simulated attacks on each other's ships.
Despite this, a similar interaction occurred in April 2014 when the USS Donald Cook entered the Black Sea at the height of the Ukraine unrest and Crimea annexation. The incident lasted for more than an hour with an SU-24 Fencer jet making at least 12 flybys on the warship.