Wednesday’s incident on the roads on northeast Syria, in which Russian and US MRAPs reportedly collided, injuring four US troops, continues to be a major issue. The US and Russia are both trading blame for the incident, and for the generally tense situation in Syria.
The White House presented the incident as an escalation of tensions, and presented it as a “clash” with Russia. Their version involved Russia “boxing in” the US vehicles, and that Russian helicopters were flying dangerously low above the US MRAPs.
Video of the incident didn’t tell anything nearly so clear-cut, with it not at all obvious what the vehicles were trying to do, and showing only a very minor collision, which the US says led to four soldiers having concussion-like symptoms.
Either way, it led to a bipartisan joint statement condemning “Russian military aggression,” and the Pentagon emphasized its right to use force self defense. In this case, using force would’ve led to a direct conflict with the Russian military, not at all a desirable outcome.
Russia’s Defense Ministry, for this part, says that they’d told the US that the MRAP patrol would be there ahead of time, and that it was only when US vehicles tried to block the patrol that they took “necessary measures.”
Early US media reports also described the US as blocking the patrol area, and if Russia told them about it ahead of time, this gives the appearance that the US positioned specifically to have a confrontation with Russia.