NATO to Raise Issue of Russian Buzzing After Incident in Baltic

  • Russian jets, choppers flew close to U.S. missile destroyer
  • NATO's Stoltenberg says behavior was `unsafe, unprofessional'

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he’ll bring up the actions of Russian planes “buzzing” U.S. naval vessels in talks scheduled next week between the military alliance and Russia, the first such meeting in two years.

“This kind of behavior is unsafe and unprofessional,” Stoltenberg told reporters in London on Wednesday after meeting with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron.

Two Russian SU-24 attack jets made several low passes over the guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea on the afternoon of April 11, the U.S. Navy said on its website, where it posted videos of the incidents. The next day, a KA-27 Helix helicopter circled at low altitude over the same ship, which the U.S. says was in international waters, followed by more passes by SU-24s.

Aggressive encounters with Russian aircraft “have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries, and could result in a miscalculation or accident that could cause serious injury or death,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

“In my judgment these maneuvers in close proximity to Donald Cook are unprofessional and unsafe,” Admiral Mark Ferguson, commander of U.S. naval forces in Europe, said separately.

President Barack Obama’s spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday that the White House was aware of the incident.

The NATO-Russia council was created in 2002 for consultation and cooperation between the world’s most powerful military forces. The planned April 20 meeting in Brussels is the first formal meeting since contact was suspended in April 2014 in protest over Russia’s meddling in eastern Ukraine. The air forces of Russia, the U.S., and other European countries such as France keep each other informed of movements over Syria to avoid confrontations.

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