Russian Attacks Against United States Drones Raises Concerns About Escalation In Syria

A recent wave of Russian attacks against United States drones has made US policymakers worried that tensions in Syria could escalate to dangerous levels.

The risk threat escalated on July 26, 2023 when two Russian fighters got close to a US MQ-9 Reaper drone from behind as it was flying over northwest Syria. One of the Russian aircrafts subsequently dropped flares that hit the drone’s left wing, leaving it damaged in three places, per US officials.

The incident that took place on July 26 came after one on July 23 when another MQ-9 was took significant damage.  US military and political officials are speculating that this is a concerted Russian effort to pressure the US to withdraw its military assets from Syria.

Both of the US drones were able to make their way back to the base. 

In the past few weeks, Russian pilots have been harassing American aircraft. According to a Wall Street Journal report, on July 16, a Russian fighter flew so close to a US turboprop aircraft that the American crew faced a risky situation when it had to fly through turbulent jet wash, per a statement by Lieutenant General Alexus Grynkewich, the leading US Air Force general in the Middle East.

Following the Sunday incident, the Pentagon publicly condemned the Russian harassment of the American drone for being unprofessional and published a video that demonstrated the tense encounter.  

Russia first intervened in Syria back in 2015 with the express purpose of propping up the regime of the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his brutal campaign against his opponents. The US still maintains 500 troops in Syria that are helping out the Syrian Democratic Forces, largely led by Kurdish separatists, in fighting the remnants of the Islamic State. 

The US is clearly experiencing imperial overstretch. With an overextended military presence abroad, the US is liable to facing nasty military reversals at the hands of rising great powers such as Russia. US policymakers would be wise to consider scaling back the US’s foreign policy ambitions for the simple sake of preserving geopolitical stability.

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