- Russian fighter jets flew over a US military outpost in Syria 25 times in March, per NBC News.
- The US and Russia have a 2019 agreement meant to keep each other away from their airbases in Syria.
- The escalation comes a week after Russian fighter jets clashed with a US drone over the Black Sea.
Russian fighter jets have encircled a US airbase in Syria dozens of times in March, potentially heightening tensions after a US drone was downed following a confrontation with a Russian fighter jet over the Black Sea last week.
According to a report from NBC News, Russian aircraft have zoomed over a US airbase in Syria more than 25 times this month, violating a 2019 agreement between the US and Russia over the use of Syrian airspace in areas where each country has military outposts.
Lt. Gen. Alexus Grynkewich, the combined forces air component commander for US Central Command, told the outlet that the flights have increased during the month of March.
On March 14, two Russian Su-27 fighter jets approached, poured fuel on, and then clipped a US MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Black Sea, forcing the US to down the damaged drone.
In Syria, Grynkewich said that Russian jets swarming over the US’ At Tanf Garrison outpost has created an “uncomfortable situation.”
“They’re regularly flying directly overhead of our units, and I’ve defined directly overhead, as within about a mile, no more than a mile offset one side or the other, while we’ve got forces right there on the ground,” Grynkewich told NBC News. “So it’s an uncomfortable situation.”
In January, Russian forces circled the US airbase 14 times, according to NBC News, and did not fly over the base in February at all.
“It just increases the risk of miscalculation, and given things like the MQ-9 incident in the Black Sea, it’s not the kind of behavior that I’d expect out of a professional Air Force,” Grynkewich added.
The Pentagon and US CENTCOM did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.
Russian and US troops have both had a military presence in Syria since at least 2015. According to NBC News, the US opened a deconfliction phone line with the Russians to ease tensions, and over calls with the US, Russian military personnel have said they don’t recognize the US base or airspace.
“The Russians have over the last several months seemed to abandon that tenet of the protocols,” Grynkewich added.