The White House said on Monday that the United States is committed to its "self-defense", after Russia threatened to treat U.S. or coalition aircraft as targets in western Syria.
"Obviously, we're going to do what we can to protect our interests," White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters.
He added that the "escalation of hostilities among the many factions that are operating in this region doesn't help anybody" and said the U.S. hopes to de-escalate the situation by keeping lines of communication open with the Russians.
At the same time, Spicer stressed, "We will always preserve the right of self-defense.”
Earlier on Monday, Russia threatened to retaliate against U.S. aircraft, after the U.S. confirmed that a Navy fighter plane shot down a Syrian fighter which had bombed U.S.-backed rebels.
“Any aircraft, including the international coalition’s planes and drones, discovered west of the Euphrates River, will be accompanied by ground and air-based anti-aircraft defenses as aerial targets,” Moscow said in a statement.
Spicer’s comments are in line with ones made earlier by the Pentagon following the Russian threat.
"We do not seek conflict with any party in Syria other than ISIS, but we will not hesitate to defend ourselves or our partners if threatened," Pentagon spokesperson Capt. Jeff Davis said.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford also expressed confidence that U.S. pilots could take care of themselves.
"I'm confident that we are still communicating between our operations center and the Russia federation operations center -- and I'm also confident that our forces have the capability to take care of themselves," Dunford said.