Russia Escalates Tension With Threats To Shoot Down NATO Aircraft

 February 23, 2024

Tensions in the Black Sea have reached a new high as Russia threatens French military flights.

France has disclosed that Russia made threats to shoot down its military aircraft patrolling the Black Sea in international airspace, significantly heightening tensions related to the Ukraine conflict.

In an era where global stability is more fragile than ever, the incident involving Russia's threats against French patrol flights marks a concerning chapter. This move occurred about a month before the statement by French Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu and introduces an alarming precedent in military aviation conduct in an already volatile region.

Sebastien Lecornu, on RTL radio, shed light on the gravity of the situation. He articulated how the French military, conducting operations in what is internationally recognized as free space, faced direct threats from Russian air traffic control systems.

Russia's increasingly hostile postures

"To give you a very concrete example, a Russian air traffic control system threatened to shoot down French aircraft in the Black Sea when we were in a free international zone where we patrol," Lecornu explained.

Such incidents underscore the precariousness of surveillance missions that NATO member countries undertake to monitor military movements. French pilots, engaged in patrolling the eastern flank of NATO since the onset of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, find themselves navigating not just the physical airspace but the growingly aggressive attitudes emanating from Russia.

This shift towards confrontational behavior is not lost on French officials. Lecornu compared Russia’s actions to those reminiscent of the former Soviet Union during the Cold War, emphasizing a return to a particularly aggressive stance.

A unique incident in French aviation history

Colonel Pierre Gaudillière detailed a specific event that typified this newfound aggression. He spoke of a mid-November encounter involving one of France's Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) surveillance aircraft.

This AWACS plane, equipped for long-range monitoring, including the sensitive region along the Crimean Peninsula, found itself on the receiving end of threats while flying over international waters. Gaudillière's recounting of the incident highlighted the unprecedented nature of the aggression towards French aviation in the region.

"It was a French AWACS, flying over international waters in the Black Sea, Gaudillière said. 'Through a radio exchange, it was threatened by the Russians.' It was a particularly aggressive radio exchange, he added. 'It's a first.'"

This occurrence is part of an alarming pattern of hostilities that poses serious questions about the safety and viability of surveillance operations. Similar instances, such as a Russian fighter jet releasing a missile close to a British Air Force surveillance aircraft in 2022 and another involving a Russian jet causing a US Air Force drone to crash after dumping fuel on it, further illustrate the escalating tensions between NATO members and Russia.


The disclosure by France regarding Russia's threats to its military aircraft patrolling international airspace over the Black Sea represents a significant escalation in the ongoing tensions related to the Ukraine conflict. This incident, described by French officials as unprecedented, underscores Russia's increasingly aggressive posture, reminiscent of Cold War-era behaviors.

It raises critical concerns for the safety and strategic operations of NATO member countries conducting regional surveillance. Recounting this incident, the statements by Sebastien Lecornu and Colonel Pierre Gaudillière are a stark reminder of the fragility of international peace and stability in today's geopolitical climate.

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