Dangerous Syria Fallout? Moscow Ditches Hotline With US

Russia pulls out of communication link designed to keep pilots from colliding
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 7, 2017 7:15 AM CDT
Skies Over Syria Just Got Riskier for US Pilots
File photo of an F-18 being launched off the USS George H.W. Bush.   (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

One potentially dangerous consequence from the US strike on Syria: A hotline of sorts between Russia and the US is kaput. In the wake of the strike, Moscow says it will no longer participate in what is known as a "deconfliction line," reports the AP. The premise was straightforward: The two nations used it to keep their pilots from colliding in the cramped airspace over Syria. And cramped isn't an overstatement: Those skies are filled with pilots from the US-led coalition, the Syrian government, and Russia, which has been waging an air campaign on behalf of Syria. Things were dicey even with the coordination in place: In January, a Wall Street Journal report described the situation as "an international incident waiting to happen" after interviewing US pilots involved in close calls.

"This is very risky," says the head of the Russian International Affairs Council, per Bloomberg. "This agreement helped to avoid direct military confrontation in this difficult situation. We don’t want to start World War III." The US ran its end of the line out of a military base in Qatar, where air traffic controllers and military officials shared information with their Russian counterparts in Syria. The US has not commented publicly on the Russian decision. Meanwhile, Russia has promised to help Syria strengthen its air defenses in the wake of the US strike. A Russian defense ministry spokesman didn't provide details but said a "complex of measures" would be put in place, per the AP. (More Russia stories.)

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