Presidential hopeful Donald Trump has vowed to shoot down Russian jets approaching U.S. military assets should the Kremlin reject calls to stop.
Trump, who declared himself the “presumptive nominee” of the Republican party after another round of sweeping primary victories last week, was speaking to BuzzFeed radio show K File on Sunday, ahead of campaigning in Indiana.
He was asked about the recent swathe of incidents involving Russian military aircraft zooming at high speeds past U.S. navy vessels in European waters. The latest incident occurred when a Russian Su-27 plane did a barrel roll over a U.S. ship in the Baltic Sea last week.
“It just shows how low we’ve gone where they can toy with us like that,” Trump said, describing such scenarios as “terrible.” He insisted that the problem is Russia’s lack of respect for U.S. President Barack Obama.
“Normally, an Obama—let’s say a president, because you want to make at least a call or two—but normally Obama would call up Putin and say, ‘Listen, do us a favor, don’t do that, get that maniac, just stop it.’ But we don’t have that kind of a president. He’s gonna be out playing golf or something,” Trump said. “But I don’t know, at a certain point, you can’t take it.”
While U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has condemned previous incidents and said the U.S. command would be within its rights to shoot down Russian aircraft, the White House has not directly threatened to open fire. According to Trump, the U.S. should draw a line in the sand and, if it’s crossed, should shoot down Russian aircraft.
“I mean, at a certain point, you have to do something … you just can’t take that,” Trump said. “But it should certainly start with diplomacy and it should start quickly with a phone call to Putin, wouldn’t you think?”
After the first two incidents in April, a White House spokesman said that “communication had occurred” between the U.S. and Russia. The two leaders spoke on the phone a week after the last incident, but there was no mention of the encounter on either administration’s notes from the conversation.
According to Trump, if Russia rejects calls to stop the approaches, the U.S. should open fire.
“And if that doesn’t work out, I don’t know, you know, at a certain point, when that sucker comes by you, you gotta shoot,” Trump said. “And it’s a shame. It’s a shame. It’s a total lack of respect for our country and it’s a total lack of respect for Obama. Which [sic] as you know, they don’t respect.”