WASHINGTON D.C.—The Pentagon has denied claims by Vladimir Putin’s defense ministry that the Russian air force held an air space cooperation exercise with its U.S. counterpart in Syria, aimed at staving off dangerous encounters between their warplanes.
Carl Woog, a spokesman for U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, confirmed the U.S. denial on Twitter.
“Reports of a joint U.S.-Russian exercise in Syria are false,” wrote Woog. “No change to dealing w/ Russian mil: nothing further than safety procedures.”
Reports of a joint U.S. – Russian exercise in Syria are false. No change to dealing w/ Russian mil: nothing further than safety procedures.
— Carl Woog (@CarlWoog) November 3, 2015
Breitbart News first learned of the U.S. denial from Jim Hanson, the executive vice president for the Center for Security Policy.
A U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) official with direct knowledge of American operations in Syria spoke to Hanson on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, revealing that the U.S. was refuting the Russian military’s claim.
U.S. and Russian aircrafts have crowded the Syrian air space since Sept. 30, when Moscow decided to join forces with dictator Bashar al-Assad in bombing targets inside Syria.
“There was a joint exercise with air crews and ground troops from the Russian and U.S. air forces,” claimed Russian Gen. Andrei Kartapolov in a statement, Reuters reports.
“The exercise entailed Russian and coalition jets practicing close encounters in a special zone at a minimum distance of three aeronautical miles,” indicated Gen. Kartapolov, adding that “Crews practiced communicating in English and Russian.”
Russia and Israel, Syria’s neighbor to the southwest, have been continually sharing information on the situation in Syrian skies, also claimed the general.
“I think they’re trying to pressure the US into to working with them, but more than that they’re trying to give the rest of the world the impression that they’re calling the shots and we’re jumping to their beck and call,” Hanson told Breitbart News.
“All in all, this looks very much like the Russians playing power games,” he added.
The U.S. has accused Russia of using its military in Syria to prop up the Assad regime. Russia claims it is bombing the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in Syria.
However, evidence shows that Moscow is targeting anti-Assad rebels, including some who are supported by the United States.
U.S. and Russian officials have been holding discussions to avoid aerial accidents in Syria.