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Kerry says US Navy destroyer could have shot down Russian warplanes

"People need to understand that this is serious business…”

Fox News reporting: Secretary of State John Kerry said in an interview that U.S. destroyer, buzzed by two Russian jets in the Baltic Sea, had all rights to open fire under U.S. military rules of engagement.

The USS Donald Cook (DDG-75) was conducting flight operations with a Polish helicopter Monday when Russian warplanes executed what was described by the U.S. defense official as simulated attack, flying mere 100 feet off the ground. The next day, one Russian jet flew as close as 30 feet to U.S. ship.

"We condemn this kind of behavior. It is reckless. It is provocative. It is dangerous. And under the rules of engagement that could have been a shoot-down," Kerry told CNN Espanol in Miami Thursday.

In this kind of situations, any commander of any military ship, plane or other unit, has the authority to implement defensive actions to counter the external threat. This decision is often left to the commander’s judgment on the situation; however, there are always clearly defined regulations to prevent any kind of escalation of a conflict.

"People need to understand that this is serious business and the United States is not going to be intimidated on the high seas," Kerry added. "We are communicating to the Russians how dangerous this is and our hope is that this will never be repeated."

The planes carried no weapons when they spooked the Cook that was in international waters about 70 nautical miles from the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, which hosts Russian military forces. The only response from the Cook was a radio transmission asking pilots to turn back.

Russian defense officials rejected U.S. criticism of the incident. A spokesman for the Russian defense ministry said earlier Thursday that the pilots of the Su-24 jets saw the ship and turned back “while using all measures of precaution.”

Russian Maj. General Igor Konashenkov said he was surprised and even baffled by the "distressed reaction of our American counterparts."

The U.S. European Command statement revealed that officials are using diplomatic channels to address the matter.

"We have deep concerns about the unsafe and unprofessional Russian flight maneuvers," stated European Command. "These actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries, and could result in a miscalculation or accident that could cause serious injury or death."

"It may have been in international waters and therefore may not be any violation of international law, but it is still irresponsible behavior," NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow, a former US ambassador to Russia, told the Associated Press. "It illustrates that Russia is contributing to tensions."

White House press secretary Josh Earnest claimed the incident was just another example of Russian disregard for safety measures.

"This incident ... is entirely inconsistent with the professional norms of militaries operating in proximity to each other in international waters and international airspace," Earnest said.

By Stefan Paraber for GIA

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