US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday condemned a military encounter in the Baltic Sea that the United States described as a simulated attack on a US destroyer by two Russian warplanes, saying that the flights were "dangerous and provocative."
"We condemn this kind of behavior. It is reckless. It is provocative. It is dangerous. And under the rules of engagement that could have been a shoot-down," Kerry said in an interview.
"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," he added.
During series of flights by the Sukhoi SU-24 bombers on Tuesday, the warplanes created wake in the water, with 11 passes, a US official said on Wednesday. They also flew near the ship, the USS Donald Cook, a day earlier.
It was one of the most aggressive interactions between the two former Cold War foes in recent memory, the official said, although the planes carried no visible weaponry.
A Russian KA-27 Helix helicopter also made seven passes around the USS Donald Cook, taking pictures. The nearest Russian territory was about 70 nautical miles away in its enclave of Kaliningrad, which sits between Lithuania and Poland.
Russian Defence Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Thursday that the crews of the Russian bombers that flew near the US destroyer respected all safety rules.
US State Department Spokesman John Kirby said that Kerry will raise the incident with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
White House Spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters at a daily press briefing that Washington had raised its concerns with Russian officials.
"I can tell you that that communication has occurred, and we'll seek to resolve our differences through well-established military channels," Earnest said.
Poland summons Russian ambassador
Poland’s Foreign Ministry summoned Russian ambassador over the incident in the Baltic Sea earlier this week when two Russian warplanes flew simulated attack passes near a US destroyer, the ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
Poland's deputy foreign minister Marek Ziolkowski expressed his concern about the incident during his meeting with ambassador Sergey Andreyev on Thursday, the statement said.
"But first of all he [the minister] stressed that Poland is trying to promote a dialogue to counteract such incidents," the ministry said.
Poland's deputy defence minister said that NATO should return to Cold War ways of thinking in its relations with Russia, and speak to Moscow from a position of strength to counter its renewed assertiveness in eastern Europe.