The US military shooting down a Russian warplane that flew close to an American warship in the Baltic Sea could have been justified, says Secretary of State John Kerry.
US officials said that two Russian aircraft flew within feet of the American Navy destroyer on Monday.
Nevertheless, Kerry denounced the move, noting that he reached out to Moscow.
“We condemn this kind of behavior,” the secretary of State told the Miami Herald and CNN en Español during a joint interview. “It is reckless. It is provocative. It is dangerous. And under the rules of engagement, that could have been a shoot-down.”
Kerry did not specifically say why the Obama administration had failed to take action against Russia flying its jets over the U.S. destroyer almost a dozen times.
“At one point the jets were so close, about 9m (30ft), that they created wakes in the water around the ship,” reports BBC.
The USS Donald Cook’s commander described the flights as a “simulated attack” in a press release.
According to the United States European Command, the passes were “unsafe, potentially provocative” and “could have caused an accident.”
— US Mission to NATO (@USNATO) April 13, 2016
Russia’s defense minister claims the American ship was navigating in close proximity to a Russian navy base.
“After spotting the ship, Russian pilots turned away from it in full compliance with safety measures,” said the ministry, according to BBC. “All flights of the Russian aircraft are in strict compliance with international rules of the use of air space above neutral waters.”
A Russian helicopter also passed by the U.S. destroyer seven times, taking pictures.
“The actions of the Russian jets may have violated a 1970s agreement meant to prevent dangerous incidents at sea, but it is not clear whether the US is going to protest,” reports BBC.
The US suspended flight operations from the ship until the Russian jets left the area. The next day, a Russian KA-27 helicopter flew circles at low altitude around the ship, followed by more jet passes. The aircraft did not respond to safety warnings in English or Russian.