The Black Sea, where Russian jets forced down an American drone last week, is far from the only potential flashpoint between US and Russian forces. Lt. Gen. Alexus Grynkewich at US Central Command says armed Russian jets have flown over the Al-Tanf base in southeast Syria almost every day this month, violating an agreement set up in 2019. The base is in Syrian opposition-controlled territory close to where the borders of Syria, Jordan, and Iraq meet. Grynkewich says there have been 25 Russian overflights so far this month compared to 14 in January and none in February.
"They’re regularly flying directly overhead of our units, and I’ve defined directly overhead, as within about a mile, no more than a mile offset one side or the other, while we’ve got forces right there on the ground at ATG," Grynkewich tells NBC. "So it’s an uncomfortable situation." He says that while he's not worried about the Russians deliberately attacking US forces, he's "concerned about a miscalculation or unprofessional or immature action by somebody."
Grynkewich says that in recent months, the Russians have seemed to abandon the agreed upon protocol that direct overflights of each other's positions are not acceptable. "What it is really is a distraction from the fight against ISIS," he says. "It hasn’t affected the fight on the ground yet, but it certainly has the potential to." Some 12 years after the protests that led to the Syrian civil war, the conflict "has largely frozen," with Russia "now deeply entrenched in Syria," Al Jazeera reports. (Read more Syria stories.)