While sailing through the Baltic on Tuesday, the USS Donald Cook reported that Russian aircraft performed repeated flybys within 30 feet of the destroyer. Several of these passes were low enough to "create a wake in the sea waters surrounding the ship," stated officials, also describing the maneuvers as "unsafe and unprofessional," according to Defense News.
"This was more aggressive than anything we’ve seen in some time," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The official described Russian Su-24s as displaying a "simulated attack profile."
The Pentagon is investigating whether such flights can be considered a violation of a 1973 treaty between Washington and Moscow. If true, the US government may file a formal complaint against Russia.
"I hear the Russians are up to their old tricks again in the EUCOM [US European Command] AOR [area of responsibility]," Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Col. Steve Warren said during a briefing on Wednesday.
Washington’s reaction to the incident seems in contradiction to its own actions in the South China Sea. In response to Beijing’s construction of artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago, the US Navy has conducted several aggressive patrols within the 12-mile territorial limit of the islands.
The Pentagon has also launched numerous surveillance flights through Chinese airspace to monitor the progress of the land reclamation projects.
Beijing has similarly warned Washington against these aggressive actions.
"The United States is not an involved party in the South China Sea issue. That’s why it should act and speak on this issue carefully…We oppose resolutely the flexing of muscles by other states and attempts to impinge on Chinese sovereignty and security under the pretext of freedom of navigation flights," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in February.
Both the South China Sea and the Baltic Sea are far from US territorial waters.