U.S. airmen reportedly ditched their surveillance drone in the Black Sea on Tuesday after a Russian fighter jet allegedly harassed and bumped the unmanned aircraft. This made things hard between the two countries.
Tensions between the United States and Russia have been rising rapidly over the conflict in Ukraine, and the collision only served to heighten those concerns.
The Russian ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, was called to Washington after the downing. According to a spokesman who was not authorized to speak on the record owing to department protocols, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Karen Donfried met with Antonov on Tuesday afternoon “to discuss Russia’s risky and unprofessional operations over the Black Sea, which resulted in the downing of an unmanned U.S. aircraft today.”
A representative for the department, Ned Price, had stated that the administration was informing allies and partners about the collision and was communicating with Russian officials. U.S. Ambassador Lynne Tracy has expressed concern to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Price said.
On Tuesday, two Russian Su-27 fighter fighters intercepted a trip an MQ-9 Reaper drone was performing as part of its usual operations. U.S. European Command said the jets’ “reckless, environmentally unsound, and unprofessional” actions included dumping jet fuel on the drone and flying in front of it.
Following a propeller strike from one of the Russian planes, the U.S. operators abandoned the drone in the Black Sea since it was no longer a flying threat.
“In reality, this reckless and irresponsible move by the Russians nearly caused both aircraft to crash,” Air Force Gen. James Hecker, commander of U.S. Air Forces Europe, said in a statement. US and allied planes will keep flying over international waters, and Russian pilots are urged to maintain safety and professionalism.
The drone was shot down as the conflict in Ukraine reached its second year. Even though he has promised to remain supporting Ukraine in its struggle against Moscow, President Joe Biden is adamant about keeping U.S. military out of the conflict.
U.S. and NATO aircraft and Russian jets have engaged in “a pattern of dangerous conduct,” according to the statement, and this incident over the Black Sea fits right in with that trend.
European Command has warned that Russian pilots’ aggressive behavior could cause an accidental escalation of tensions.
This was the first time, according to National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby, that one of these airborne intercepts “resulted in a splashing of one of our drones,” as he told reporters on Tuesday.
The average price tag for a single Reaper drone is around $14 million.
According to a NATO spokesperson, the incident has been briefed to allies by Gen. Christopher Cavoli, the supreme allied commander for Europe.
Due to the delicate nature of the situation, a senior diplomat in Eastern Europe spoke on condition of anonymity but revealed that officials there were worried because “it indicates the aggression of the Russian behavior.” This once again demonstrates the significance of the Black Sea and the necessity of a medium- to long-term strategy for it.
The ranking Republican on the Senate Military Services Committee, Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker, said the incident should serve as a “wake-up call to isolationists” about the dangers posed by Vladimir Putin.
Putin “wants nothing more than for this to happen,” Wicker said in a statement, “so that the United States stops helping Ukraine and we can’t roll back his destructive policies.” We can’t make this dictator feel better with words or fake “de-escalation.” Instead, “we must choose to project power against our enemy,” as President Obama put it.