According to Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen M. Lainez, the Russian jet flew within 20 feet of the RC-135U in a dangerously close intercept maneuver that threatened the lives of the crew.
Major General Igor Konashenkov confirmed the intercept on Saturday, explaining that the US craft had been “making steady progress toward the national border” under Russian radar surveillance without having switched on its signal transponder.
Admiral William Gortney, commander of the U.S. Northern Command, expressed his military concerns about the increase in Russian military flights and provocations during a briefing with reporters the same day of the RC-135 incident over the Baltic.
“The Russians have developed a far more capable military than the quantitative, very large military that the Soviet Union had,” Gortney said, adding that Moscow has adopted a new strategic doctrine that is being demonstrated by the provocations.
“At the same time, they are messaging us,” the admiral told reporters at the Pentagon. “They’re messaging us that they’re a global power—we do the same sort of thing—with their long-range aviation.”
Gortney said the numbers of incidents have gone up but he did not have the percentages.
“And so we watch very carefully what they’re doing,” he said. The Russians need to adhere to “international standards that are required by all airplanes that are out there,” he said, “and everybody is flying in a professional manner on their side and our side as we watch very closely.”