Two Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons return from a mission in the U.S. Central Command region, March 6, 2023.

Two Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons return from a mission in the U.S. Central Command region, March 6, 2023. U.S. Air Force / Tech. Sgt. Daniel Asselta

Russian pilots chill in Mideast skies after Pentagon’s name-and-shame effort

Air Force three-star says U.S. moves in the region have also deterred Iran and ISIS.

Russian planes aren’t provoking U.S. fighter jets over Syria anymore—marking a departure from hostility seen earlier this year, the region’s top U.S. Air Force official said.

“We did see, after we publicized some of their more egregious behavior, that that behavior [was] modified,” said Lt. Gen. Alexus Grynkewich, who leads Air Forces Central Command.

The general told Defense One in April that Russian warplanes were trying to dogfight American fighter jets. After more incidents of aggression, including the harassment of MQ-9 drones, the Air Force sent F-22s in July to the Middle East.

Russia’s behavior is still unprofessional, but it’s “safe,” Grynkewich told reporters Wednesday at a Defense Writers Group event. 

“I would say that we've seen some favorable shifts in behavior over the last month that are broadly de-escalatory,” he said.

In addition to F-22s, the U.S. also sent F-35s, F-16s, and a Navy destroyer to the Middle East this summer to monitor Iranian activity in and around the Strait of Hormuz after Iran tried to seize commercial shipping vessels. 

These moves deterred Iran from further actions against maritime shipping, Grynkewich said. 

“Even as these forces go back—they were temporary, in the case of the F-35s in particular—if Iran thinks that that's an opening, the United States is absolutely willing to come back in and surge forces one more time,” Grynkewich said.

As for ISIS, Grynkewich said the group in Syria “isn’t something to worry about…we've got our boot on their neck, if you will.” 

Yet he added that continued pressure is key: ISIS has a fair number of cells, senior leaders, and training camps that are beyond the area where coalition forces operate. 

“My pitch to the Russians and to others who do operate in those areas is: instead of coming into At-Tanf Garrison and trying to assert that that airspace is not where the coalition operates, maybe you ought to focus on ISIS,” he said. 

Grynkewich said other challenges persist in the region, including Iran’s effort to arm militia groups in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. 

Iran is sending a broad suite of weapons to these groups, including drones, close-range missiles, and small arms. The U.S. also continues to see Iran’s elite Quds Force training and advising these groups, he said. 

Iran is providing these weapons to strengthen its network of proxy forces across the region, Grynkewich said.

“Iran likes being able to present that threat. They like being able to coerce other countries in the region. They haven't activated the network of late against U.S. forces,” he said.

Monitoring Iran and other hostile groups deters escalation, so the U.S. can stay focused on China, its primary competitor, Grynkewich said.

“If you want to distract us, even more broadly, a war with Iran would do that. And that would be catastrophic to the long term focus on China. So we're not looking for conflict with Iran. We're looking to deter that conflict, keep things de-escalated. And so by bringing a few forces in to de-escalate in the maritime domain, we can avoid worse outcomes later,” he said.  

The general warned that China’s military could expand in the Middle East, as the country depends on the region for its oil and natural gas and is looking to strengthen economic ties through efforts like the Belt and Road initiative—China’s massive plan to build roads, power plants, ports, and other infrastructure across the world. 

“They're trying to, in my view, displace our influence. They're primarily doing that through economic means and through the Belt and Road Initiative, trying to offer infrastructure projects, trying to offer in some cases foreign military sales or their equivalent of that, selling military hardware, but it's primarily an economic pathway,” he said.

Grynkewich said that where economic interests start, military interests will follow. 

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.