According to leaked Pentagon documents, an air incident between Russia and Britain in September may have sparked a full-scale armed confrontation.
The Black Sea Incident
On September 29, a Russian Su-27 Flanker fighter came close to shooting down a British surveillance plane over the Black Sea, causing diplomatic tensions between the two countries. However, the consequences could have been much worse than was thought at the time.
According to classified Pentagon documents, the Russian plane nearly shot down the British spy plane, which may have sparked a conflict between NATO and Russia.
The British RC-135W Rivet Joint aircraft was on a routine surveillance mission when it was intercepted by two Russian Su-27 Flanker fighters, a common practice in the region since before the war in Ukraine.
critical communication error
The New York Times, which published the Pentagon leaks, reveals that a communication error between the Russian pilot and the ground station may have caused a war between Russia and NATO. The Russian pilot misunderstood the orders and thought he had permission to attack the British plane, launching an air-to-air missile that did not launch correctly.
Had the attack been carried out, NATO Article 5, which provides for mutual defense in the event of an attack on a member, could have been invoked, triggering an armed conflict.
NATO could also have chosen not to escalate the situation, taking advantage of the incident to increase its arms support for Ukraine.
Russian aggression continues
The Russian Aerospace Forces have maintained an aggressive stance towards NATO manned and unmanned aircraft despite this incident. A few weeks ago, a Su-27 Flanker shot down a US MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Black Sea, using an unconventional tactic that avoided qualifying the event as an act of war.
The Russian fighter harassed the drone, dropping fuel on it and hitting it with its propeller until it was shot down rather than using a missile.
The Future of international relations
These incidents highlight the delicate situation in which international relations find themselves and how a simple communication error or an imprudent action can have devastating consequences on the global balance of power.