Four U.S. troops were injured after a Russian military vehicle deliberately rammed the vehicle they were driving following a tense high-speed confrontation in the east of Syria.
The U.S. service members have been diagnosed with mild concussion-like symptoms, Politico reported, citing a draft statement by U.S. Central Command.
National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot said in a statement that a Russian vehicle struck the American vehicle near Dayrick, in northeast Syria.
Video tweeted of the incident bearing Russian markings shows the drama that resulted in the apparent ramming, which was in a ‘deconfliction zone’ set up to
In it, a Russian helicopter can be seen overhead while military vehicles bearing U.S. and Russian flags circle.
A National Security Council officials said two Russian helicopters flew above the Americans, and one of the aircraft was within about 70 feet of the vehicle
‘To deescalate the situation, the coalition patrol departed the area,’ Ullyot said. ‘Unsafe and unprofessional actions like this represent a breach of deconfliction protocols, committed to by the United States and Russia in December 2019.’
While there have been several other recent incidents between the American and Russian troops who all patrol in eastern Syria, officials described this one as the most serious. U.S. troops are usually accompanied by members of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.
Two officials spoke on condition of anonymity to provide details of the incident that were not yet made public. One official said the incident happened deep inside the eastern Syria deconfliction zone, where Russian troops generally should not be present.
The officials said the incident is being discussed by senior officials from both countries who routinely work to prevent conflicts between troops in that area. U.S. and Russian commanders have frequent conversations to try to avoid contact between their troops there.
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke by phone on Wednesday to Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian General Staff. No details of the conversation were provided. Often the top U.S. and Russian military leaders do not publicly release the contents of their phone calls, so it’s not clear if the incident was discussed.
A military scholar who reposted the video said U.S. forces appeared to be blocking the path of a Russian patrol in an open field. It was then the Russian vehicle side-swipe the American one.
The U.S. has several hundred troops in Syria, following a pullout President Trump announced. They are mostly in the east of the country.
The U.S. has supported Syrian Democratic Force in the conflict, while Russia has backed the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
The clash on the ground comes after U.S. and Russian diplomats have taken steps to avoid accidental military engagements between the two nuclear powers.
The two sides negotiated in 2015 under the Obama administration over rules for the skies as both sides exercised air power in the civil war.
The two sides have continued to maintain communication in an effort to avoid confrontations between the two superpowers.
Other videos appear to show a Russian helicopter hovering over U.S. forces in an attempt to make them disperse.
The U.S. vehicle in the encounter appears to be an MRAP, Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected, which is designed to provide protection against roadside bombs.
President Trump announced a pullout from northern Syria in 2019, but faced blowback from critics who said he was ceding the ground to Assad and yielding to Russian influence in the region.
The video, which allegedly occurred on Monday according to footage, emerged on the third day of the Republican National Convention.
It comes weeks after Trump faced political blowback after reports that the U.S. received intelligence that Russia was paying bounties to forces in Afghanistan for killing U.S. troops.
The White House said Trump was never briefed verbally on specific intelligence because it was not fully vetted, although the New York Times reported it was included in his daily intelligence brief.
Trump said late last month that he has never raised the issue of Russian bounties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has warned his Russian counterpart against paying bounties for killing U.S. troops, the Times reported August 7 in what appears to be the first U.S. rebuke since the information emerged.
The U.S. military has repeatedly complained to Moscow about harassment from Russian military forces in the air, land, and sea.
In April, Russian jets buzzed U.S. and NATO aircraft in the Baltic and over the Mediterranean.
‘For the second time in four Days, Russian pilots flew in an unsafe and unprofessional manner while intercepting a #USNavy P-8A Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft in @USNavyEurope,’ the Navy tweeted at the time.
Russia responded that it had raised an aircraft from a Syrian base in compliance with rules over international waters.
In late 2019, NATO complained about Russia’s repeated buzzing and harassing of U.S. ships.