One of President Donald Trump's stated goals during the presidential campaign was to bring the US and Russia closer together. Based on the events of the past few days, the two nations seem further apart than ever — and potentially at real risk of coming to blows.
Take the events of the past 72 hours alone. Yesterday over the Baltic Sea, a Russian fighter jet flying too fast and erratically came very close to a US plane, perhaps to within 5 feet.
This past Sunday, the US shot down a Syrian warplane, the first time America had done that during Syria's civil war. That angered the Russians — allies of the Syrian government — to the point that its Ministry of Defense threatened to target US or allied aircraft flying over Syria west of the Euphrates River. The US ignored Moscow's harsh words and shot down a Syrian drone Tuesday, something certain not to go unnoticed in the Kremlin.
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Taken together, the incidents highlight the deteriorating relationship between the United States and Russia, the world's top two nuclear powers. And it's not looking like they're going to become friends anytime soon, especially in Syria.
There, both countries have a contact channel open to ensure they don't get into a military altercation. But Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesperson, today seemed to indicate that the communications channel is not working like it did before last Sunday's skirmish in Syria.
"We prefer to keep this channel of communication open," Davis told reporters today. "We still maintain our end of it. I'll leave it to the Russians to state what they're doing."
That bodes poorly for the Trump administration as it tries to keep the already tense situation in the active war zone from getting worse. In effect, the risk of a military skirmish between the two countries is growing — and fast.