Tensions between the US and Russia escalated on Tuesday after a Russian fighter jet harassed and subsequently collided with a US surveillance drone over the Black Sea, causing the uncrewed aircraft to crash in the water. The Drone Collision has further heightened the already strained relationship between the two Countries due to the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Following the event, the State Department summoned Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov to Washington for an official reprimand. State Department spokesperson Ned Price informed reporters that Antonov was expected at the department later on Tuesday.
Price also mentioned that the US administration was briefing allies and partners about the collision and had been in contact with Russian officials. According to Price, US Ambassador Lynne Tracy in Moscow has conveyed concerns to the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The MQ-9 Reaper drone was undertaking a routine flight when it was intercepted by two Russian Su-27 fighter jets on Tuesday. US European Command stated that the warplanes released jet fuel on the drone and recklessly flew in front of it in an “environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner.” One of the Russian jets then collided with the drone's propeller, leaving it inoperable and forcing US operators to discard it in the Black Sea.
Air Force Gen. James Hecker, commander of US Air Forces Europe, said in a statement that the Russians' unsafe and unprofessional actions nearly caused both aircraft to crash. He emphasized that US and Allied aircraft would continue to operate in international airspace and urged the Russians to act professionally and safely.
Drone collision happens as war in Ukraine enters its second year
The drone collision comes as the war in Ukraine enters its second year. President Joe Biden is determined to keep US forces out of the conflict while continuing to support Ukraine in its struggle against Moscow.
The statement also highlighted that the Black Sea event is part of “a pattern of dangerous actions” involving US and allied aircraft and Russian planes.
European Command warned that such aggressive behavior by Russian aircrew is dangerous and could lead to miscalculation and unintended escalation. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby noted during a Tuesday briefing with reporters that this was the first time an aerial intercept had resulted in the loss of a US drone. The cost of a single Reaper drone is approximately $14 million.
NATO's supreme allied commander for Europe, Gen. Christopher Cavoli, has briefed allies on the incident, according to a NATO official. An anonymous senior diplomat in Eastern Europe, granted anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the issue, expressed concern about the incident, noting that it demonstrates the aggressiveness of Russian conduct and underscores the importance of the Black Sea and the need for a medium and long-term approach.
Senator Roger Wicker, the leading Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, reportedly emphasized that this incident should act as an alarm for isolationists, highlighting the dangers presented by Vladimir Putin.
The Mississippi senator argued that Putin aims to deter the US from supporting Ukraine and prevent the reversal of his destructive policies by provoking incidents like these. Wicker urged the US to project strength against its adversary rather than appeasing the dictator with words or so-called “de-escalation.”
Photo credit: Senior Airman Christa Anderson/U.S. Air National Guard
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