While much of Venezuela is in a state of near-collapse, its air force is still flying—and behaving aggressively, according to the US military. US Southern Command shared video Sunday of what it said was a Venezuelan SU-30 Flanker fighter jet that "aggressively shadowed" an American reconnaissance aircraft in international airspace over the Caribbean last week, NBC reports. The Russian-made jet shadowed the US Navy EP-3 aircraft "at an unsafe distance July 19, jeopardizing the crew & aircraft," Southern Command tweeted. "The EP-3 was performing a multi-nationally recognized & approved mission in international airspace."
The action demonstrates Russia's "irresponsible military support" to the "illegitimate regime" of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and "underscores Maduro’s recklessness & irresponsible behavior," according to Southern Command. The US military rejected Venezuela’s claim that the aircraft had entered Venezuela's airspace as a "clear provocation" in violation of international treaties, Bloomberg reports. Venezuela also claimed that its jet escorted the American aircraft out of the area after it endangered flights from the country's main airport, reports the AP. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio issued a warning to Caracas after Southern Command disclosed the incident. Venezuela "only has 3 fighter jets that can fly," he tweeted. "If they ever harmed any US aircraft they would soon have zero." (Read more Venezuela stories.)