WASHINGTON — National Intelligence director James Clapper says he wouldn’t put it past Russia to “to shoot down an American aircraft” if a no-fly zone is imposed over Syria. Speaking to CBS News’ Charlie Rose at the Council on Foreign Relations, Clapper says Moscow has a very advanced and capable air defense system deployed in Syria. He says he thinks it’s possible that Russia would down a U.S. aircraft if it felt its ground forces were threatened.
The Obama administration has refrained from setting up a no-fly, or safe zone for civilians, in Syria partly because of the complexity in manning and enforcing it. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has called for a no-fly zone over parts of Syria.
Asked about the U.S. attack that killed Syrian forces, Clapper called it “a mistake — there’s no question about that.”
“It will happen in war. It’s regrettable that every munition expended isn’t done so with exquisite precision,” Clapper said. “And sometimes these tragic accidents happen.”
On Putin, Clapper called him “somewhat of a throwback” to the “czar era.”
“I think he has this vision of a great Russia, as a great power,” Clapper said. “It’s extremely important to him that Russia be treated and respected as a global power on a par with the United States. And I think that has a lot to do with impelling his behavior.”
Clapper also addressed crises around the world, including saying Aleppo is a humanitarian disaster, reports CBS News’ Pamela Falk, who was at the meeting. Additionally, Clapper said the effort to denuclearize North Korea is a lost clause, and the additional sanctions approach to that country are “running out of gas.”