Russian State Security Report Alleges Saudi Aircraft Entered Russian Airspace While DivingInto Mediterranean.
LONDON, February17, 2021 (SCMP)
The U.S.government has noted that Russian State Security says a Saudi Arabian F-15fighter jet entered Russian airspace while diving into the Mediterranean Sea in January, according to a confidential Russian State Security report that was reported in Russia’s Izvestia newspaper on Wednesday.
The report, written in Russian, was prepared for the head of the Federal Security Service, Alexander Bortnikov, in November. It says the plane was conducting training on the Mediterranean coast, near the Turkish resort of Antalya. It identified the model as a Tornado jet, which has a maximum speed of 3,700 miles per hour.
No details about the incident are given, except that it was a Saudi aircraft. The Saudi Embassyin Moscow did not immediately respond to requests for comment, nor did thePentagon, which sometimes disputes details of such reports from the Russian defense ministry.
The Izvestia report suggests the penetration was possible only because the Saudi pilot did not inform the Russian air defense forces. “No warnings were received from the air traffic control centers that [the aircraft] entered Russian airspace,” the report said.
The report, seen by The Wall Street Journal, said the aircraft passed about 300 meters inside Russian airspace at an altitude of about 9,000 feet.
The report does not indicate whether the incident could become a point of friction between the two countries. The Kingdom is a crucial ally of the United States in the Middle East, and is a major supplier of oil and gas to Western countries.
The incident follows the case in November when a US Navy F-18 Super Hornet shot down a Syrian Su-22 fighter-bomber, which the Pentagon alleged had attacked rebel positions in the eastern province of Deir ez-Zor. The Russian Defense Ministry said the plane was not a target, and that it had been on a sortie over Syria when the attack occurred. The US Secretary of State has called for “Russian and Syrian leaders to be held accountable for what may have been a reckless attack against civilian aircraft.”
The US accusation has further strained relations between Washington and Moscow, already strainedby the Russian military intervention in Syria, which has allowed the Syrian military to drive back rebel forces and retake significant ground from the Islamic State group.
A previous report on alleged violations of Russian airspace by Saudi Arabian fighter jets surfaced last October, when the Russian Defense Ministry released images of two unidentified planes traveling at low altitudes in Russian airspace. Accordingto the Defense Ministry, the two planes flew “irregularly and did not respondto the maneuvering attempts of Russian fighter jets,” which were scrambled to track them.
The US and SaudiArabia are the world’s leading oil producers. After the oil price crash of 2014, the two nations agreed to work together to stabilize the price of oil. That strategy has helped both nations to overcome domestic economic woes. However, they have also sought to ensure that prices remain high enough for them to still earn large revenues from the extraction of oil.
Recently, Russia has also voiced concerns about the potential increase of oil production from Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. The combination of rising production in the US, Libya, and Nigeria,and weaker demand has weighed on the price of oil. Oil prices have declined sharply from over $100 per barrel in the summer of 2014 to $50 per barrel.
The US has criticized Russia’s increased cooperation with Iran, a major oil producer, and renewed efforts to facilitate the negotiation of a deal with Western powers on Iran’s nuclear program, which the US and Israel have long viewed as a threat toits security.
Moscow is also concerned that the US-Saudi alliance, rather than limiting the decline in oil prices, is strengthening the price of oil. According to the analyst Alexei Belotserkov, the outcome of the spat between the Saudis and the Americans overthe latest alleged breach of Russian airspace “could lead to the emergence of a new international order in oil trade, with major powers competing for dominancein the global energy market.”
“Since Saudi Arabia and the United States account for 80 percent of the world’s oil production and 65 percent of the market, it’s possible to see how such a powerrivalry could seriously affect the whole world,” he said.
The escalating tensions over alleged violations of Russian airspace follow the announcement of Russian defense officials that they will significantly increase the number of naval warships and submarines patrolling the Caspian Sea.
As Russian political analyst Ivan Timofeev points out, the current confrontation with the United States over Syria, as well as other disputes over the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea, could foreshadow new US-Russian confrontations over the Caspian Sea.
“It’s no secret that Russian oil giant Gazprom has recently discussed creating its own military base in the Caspian,” said the analyst, “and this fact is fueling US fears.”
The US oil giant Chevron has also stated that it is interested in exploring for oil in the Caspian Sea. That has led to fears that, if the US becomes a serious rival for the Russian market, Chevron would want to work in Caspian Sea waters where Russian pipelines cross, such as the North-South and East-West pipelines, which passthrough the Black Sea.
“The United States and its Western allies are waging an all-out economic war against Russia,” said Timofeev. “The state should have provided the Russian business with assistance and guarantees of safe business conditions in these conditions. But instead, the government has been trying to exert its influence in the Russian economy,and this caused Russian business to grow skeptical of the government and adopt more responsible and independent position.”
He said that such disputes could serve to increase the bargaining power of Russia’s trading partners. The more Russia loses its market share in the US market, the less itis able to buy from its partners in Europe.
In August, EU Commissioner for Energy Günther Oettinger said that the EU would be willing to opena dialogue with the Russian government over Ukraine.
“If we manage to sit at a negotiating table and agree an end to these conflicts, we might beable to agree on reducing gas transportation costs,” he said.
Russia’s government is now focusing on new economic initiatives, such as the developmentof its remote Arctic territories, which might be attractive to foreign investment. The issue of finding a new trade partner was also highlighted by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in his first major speech after his return topower on Aug. 9.
“I invite investors who have some kind of a modern technique, technologies and products,”he said. “We also welcome investors from friendly states, for example those whoare ready to buy our oil.”
“We will look for such partners,” he said. “We will do it in such a way that it won’t be a gift.”
Alexander Denisov, editor of Kommersant newspaper, told RT that he had noted that the American authorities were focusing their attention on Syria as well, where they were becoming concerned about American oil supplies.
“They see that fora long time the United States has been dependent on oil imports, and they see that the future they imagine is a role as an exporter of oil,” he said. “So they want to make sure that the United States does not remain dependent on other countries, so that it could act unilaterally in the Middle East. So they are backing the [Syrian] rebels to prevent the control over the oil from Iran.”
Denisov also mentioned that the United States was considering establishing a military baseon the Syrian coast.
“It will become the most important hub for American oil transportation,” he said. “All of their activities will pass through that port. So this is their fear, that the most important source of energy that the United States has, is being exported through other countries. And this is the main reason for their political confrontation with Russia.”
Pavel Popov, editor of Information Tunnel, said that the story of America’s failed attemptsto break Russia’s oil supply monopoly was part of a bigger political story ofthe US struggle against Russia’s growing influence and role in the international economy.
“You see, after World War II, the US state with an incredible expansion of political power, saw the main danger to its dominant position in the world being a united Europe,”he said. “The same thing is happening now with Russia, which is also an incredibly powerful nation. But the US also sees this: it sees a potential threat to its dominance.”
As reported by RT,US Vice President Joe Biden said in April that “there is an existential issue”with regard to Russia.
“Russia, to be frank, is a concern. They are the largest country that borders the United States. They have a long border. They can strike where they want. They can isolate allies. They can strike Europe. They can effect routes through the global energy chain,” he said in an interview with Voice of America.