WASHINGTON — In buzzing the USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea last month, Russia engaged in reckless actions that unnecessarily endangered lives, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said. “It’s clear that the Russians are becoming extremely aggressive in both the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea,” Work told reporters May 12, as he traveled from Romania to Poland.
Russian aircraft performed multiple, aggressive low-altitude flight maneuvers April 11 and April 12 near the Donald Cook, a U.S. Navy destroyer operating in international waters, U.S. European Command officials said.
Crews at Risk
“Those guys were coming in hot and close,” Work said, adding those maneuvers put the Russian crews at risk for a crash into the sea. “When you’re going that fast that close to the water [and you encounter] any type of a problem — a bird strike, a seagull, anything like that — you’re cartwheeling in the drink.”
The United States, he said, is going to ensure Russia understands the area is in international waters and the U.S. will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.
Not only were the actions irresponsible, Work said, but if a crash did occur, Russia would immediately think the United States shot the plane down — and the actions that would follow cannot be predicted.
“We often go out and look at Russian ships,” he said. “But we generally do it at a safe altitude and without simulating attack runs — that is a surefire way to have an accident, and once an accident occurs, you don’t know what [would happen] afterwards.”
Work was in Romania and Poland last week to participate in two Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense site ceremonies.
Throughout his trip, Work stressed the ballistic missile defense capabilities were not directed at any Russian threat. The Aegis Ashore sites, he said, are part of NATO’s missile defense system to protect the alliance from a ballistic missile attack from outside the Euro-Atlantic region.