“We condemn this kind of behaviour. It is reckless. It is provocative. It is dangerous. And under the rules of engagement that could have been a shoot-down,” said Kerry.
“People need to understand that this is serious business and the United States is not going to be intimidated on the high seas … We are communicating to the Russians how dangerous this is and our hope is that this will never be repeated,” Kerry continued.
The commander of the USS Donald Cook, the destroyer that the Russian Su-24 Fencer jets repeatedly buzzed, described the actions as “unsafe and unprofessional,” and the type of thing that can lead to an accident.
Simulated attack passes such as these most likely violate a 1973 agreement between the US and the former Soviet Union.
However, the Russian jets were visibly unarmed and at no point emitted any electronic signatures that would indicate they were attempting to lock a missile on to the US Donald Cook.
Speaking about the incident, retired frigate and cruiser commanding officer Capt. Rick Hoffman gave a differing opinion, stating that the jets posed no real threat, and that the stunt was most likely undertaken for the Kremlin to spin it as domestic propaganda.
Russia’s Defence Ministry characteristically denied any wrongdoing regarding the event, saying, “All flights of the Russian aircraft are in strict compliance with international rules of the use of air space above neutral waters.”
Kerry made it clear during the interview that his sentiments would be shared with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov.