While NATO’s Article 5 isn’t an automatic trigger to start “World War III,” attacking a member country, including an aircrew in international airspace, could be considered as an attack on the Alliance as a whole. New details revealed on Thursday show how a Russian fighter jet encounter with a British aircraft came very close to instigating a NATO alliance response.

On Sept. 29, 2022 the pilot of one of a pair of Russian Su-27 (Flanker) fighters fired two missiles at an RAF RC-135 Rivet Joint electronic surveillance aircraft, operating in international airspace over the Black Sea, on board of which there was a crew of about 30.

At the time the British Defense Minister, Ben Wallace, told the press that after they intercepted the RAF aircraft, one of the two Russian fighters had “released a missile in the vicinity of the RAF Rivet Joint beyond visual range.”

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The Russian Ministry of Defense said this had been caused by a “technical malfunction,” an explanation which the UK seemed to accept.

New information about the incident released on Thursday, indicates there had been more hostile intent by the Russians. According to these reports the ground intercept controller for the aircraft during the encounter used the words, “You have the target,” which one of the pilots seems to have understood to be a directive to shoot on the Rivet Joint.

After he had fired the missile, the other pilot immediately questioned the action in a radio call which was being monitored and recorded by the Rivet Joint at the time and used vulgar language asking the shooter what he was doing.

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Of the injured, four are children, two under one-year-old, while the other two are aged nine and twelve.

According to the BBC report, sources said: “The loose language appears to have shown a high degree of unprofessionalism by those involved. In contrast, NATO pilots use very precise language when asking for and receiving permission to fire.”

In spite of his partner’s intervention the same pilot attempted to fire a second missile. Fortunately the engagement ended without any damage to the RC-135 as sources say the first missile missed, while the second missile malfunctioned and fell into the sea.

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The UK’s Ministry of Defence has not released the Rivet Joint’s recording to the public.

Shooting at a non-threatening aircraft in international airspace, especially when it is unarmed and poses no imminent danger, clearly violates international law.

According to a US Department of Defense source quoted by the New York Times: “The incident was far more serious than originally portrayed and could have amounted to an act of war.”

The unnamed official called the incident a “near shoot-down” describing it “as really, really scary.”

This incident was followed in March 2023 by two Su-27s intercepting an unmanned USAF MQ-9 Reaper UAV over the Black Sea, striking and damaging it while making threatening close passes. The drone was forced to crash into the water after a Russian fighter jet had dumped fuel on the unmanned aircraft and then collided with it.

Describing the incident as “reckless,” US European Command said two Russian Su-27 fighters intercepted Reaper over international waters and one clipped its propeller.

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The Russian pilot was awarded a medal for this accidental midair collision.

Recent Russian drone strikes on Ukraine’s Danube River ports have caused the Romanian government to begin issuing alerts to its citizens across the river after fallen debris was found near Plaura, Romania.

NATO’s website says that Article 5 of the Alliance’s charter: “… provides that if a NATO Ally is the victim of an armed attack, each and every other member of the Alliance will consider this act of violence as an armed attack against all members and will take the actions it deems necessary to assist the Ally attacked.”

The treaty allows each nation that participates in the mutual defense pact to respond in the way it finds suitable which may not necessarily include the use of military force.

According to former US Ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker: “All it [the charter] says is that in the event of an attack against one member, all your allies will respond in some way and then we all will be able to discuss what that response is.”

Russia knows that an armed attack on one member would require some response and should behave accordingly. If it considers “accidents” of the sort mentioned here will not invoke a military response it is “walking a tightrope without a safety net.”

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Comments (2)

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Beau
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NATO is run by cowards who suck money from Joey No-Brain Biden and other weak leaders. NATO will do nothing. Biden will do even less. Stop acting like these people care about what goes on in Ukraine. Zelensky needs to tell these weak leaders that he wants weapons now or the world will be involved in an all out war when Ukraine takes the fight to Putin’s door steps. Biden is not your ally.

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Makuye
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For yesterday's (14/09/2023 official russian declaration violating Bulgaria's Territorial Waters, see:
https://www.euractiv.com/section/politics/news/bulgaria-nato-discuss-response-to-russian-blockade-in-black-sea/
and
https://www.pravda.com.ua/eng/news/2023/09/14/7419730/
Bulgaia had previously experienced in 2014, an attributable russian violation through sabotage.
Russia CONTINUES to test NATO Charter and unity.
SOME firm response is required.

Imokru2
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@Makuye, Not yet. Full scale hostilities would require much more than what has so far transpired.
In either case, Russia will lose.

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