In what could have appeared to the US President as a show of strength, the Russian Su-30 jet came within “approximately 20 feet” of a US Navy surveillance plane, which was flying over the Black Sea near Crimea.
Eager to maintain relations, Russia’s Ministry of Defence insisted that the encounter was friendly.
Their statement added: “The Russian fighter carried out a ‘greeting’ manoeuvre. After that, the US surveillance aircraft changed his flying course away from the Russian border.”
However a US defence official told CNN that the Russian aircraft was armed with six air-to-air missiles.
Pentagon Spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said: “Distance is only one of many variables considered when defining what is safe and professional.
“For aviation interactions, distance, speed, altitude, rate of closure, visibility and other factors impact whether an event is characterised as safe or unsafe, professional or not professional.”
The close encounter comes a week after two Russian bombers were intercepted by stealth American F-22 aircraft off the coast of Alaska.
US officials said Russia’s bombers were unarmed and remained in international airspace throughout the incident, although President Trump’s military escorted the Soviet planes away from the region.
Yesterday, Russia insisted they may retaliate against the United Staes after Obama’s administration exiled 35 Russian diplomats.
Yuri Ushakov, a Kremlin foreign policy aide told reporters: “We are waiting for the return of Russian diplomatic property illegally impounded before the New Year by the previous US authorities.
“We decided not to respond immediately to this escapade, but no one has yet abolished the principle of reciprocity in diplomacy … Our patience is not without limits.”
Barack Obama ordered the expulsion of the 35 Russians in late December and imposed sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies over what he said was their involvement in hacking political groups in the US elections last year.