Fuel spill, abrupt maneuvers? What is known about the incident of two Russian fighters with a US drone.
In a war any act can provoke a worsening of the situation. And when several nuclear powers are involved the danger of escalation is even greater. This is what happened this Tuesday, when a Russian Air Force SU-27 fighter struck a U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle over international waters in the Black Sea.
The command of U.S. forces in Europe has confirmed in a statement the incident, which occurred early in the morning (although it was not known until late Tuesday afternoon). According to their version, one of the Russian fighter jets hit one of the propellers of the dronewhich led U.S. authorities to shoot it down at sea. Later, a spokesman has warned that they have been unable to recover the wreckage of the drone.
The collision denounced by the United States
“Our MQ-9 aircraft was conducting routine operations in international airspace when it was intercepted and struck by a Russian aircraft, which resulted in a hit and complete loss of the MQ-9.“, explained Commander James B. Hecker, who warned of a “near” total collision.
Pentagon spokesman Patrick Ryder declined to go into detail on whether the unmanned aerial vehicle was armed or unarmedbut stressed that U.S. authorities are now working to declassify the images prior to Russia’s interception of the drone.
Ryder has detailed that the downed MQ-9 drone was performing “routine operations in international airspace“These are maneuvers that the United States has been conducting in the area since even before the outbreak of the war. According to the Pentagon, the Russian planes flew close to the drone for more than 30 minutes.
According to the U.S. version, the fighters intentionally flew in front of the drone and dropped fuel on it. In addition, they note that on the approach one of the Russian fighters damaged the Reaper’s propeller, preventing it from continuing to fly and forcing the Americans to shoot down their own aircraft.
What does the U.S. government say?
For his part, U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby announced that President Joe Biden has been briefed on what happened, and stressed that. “it’s not unusual.” For Russia to intercept U.S. aircraft in the area.
In fact, he has acknowledged that he has previously similar episodes have occurred to this Tuesday’s, although on this occasion the Russian maneuvers have been “unsafe, unprofessional and reckless,” CNN reports.
In this line, Kirby has stressed that the United States will continue to operate in international airspace. “If the message is that they want to prevent or deter us from flying and operating in international airspace (…) then the message has failed, because that is not going to happen,” he remarked.
“We will continue to fly and operate in international airspace. over some international waters (…) The Black Sea does not belong to any nation. And we’re going to continue to do what we have to do for our national security interests in that part of the world,” Kirby said.
In the same vein, Commander Hecker has expressed himself, urging the Russian forces to behave in a manner “professionally and safely.” in the area, insofar as the United States and its allies “will continue to operate in international airspace.” In this regard, Washington has denounced “a pattern of dangerous actions” by Russian pilots.
As confirmed by State Department spokesman Ned Price, the U.S. ambassador to Moscow, Lynne Tracy, has conveyed “a strong message” to the Russian Foreign Ministry-.
What does Russia stand for?
For its part, Russia’s Defense Ministry has come out against the reports to point out that the U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle was sighted near the Crimean Peninsula and was heading “towards the Russian state border”, so members of the Air Force headed towards the drone to identify it.
According to the Russian authorities, the U.S. drone was flying with the transponders turned off and violating the area delimited “in accordance with international rules” for overflights in international airspace.
Russia has denied any contact between its fighters and the drone. “As a result of an abrupt maneuver at around 09.30 Moscow time (06.30 GMT), the unmanned MQ-9 aircraft went into an uncontrolled flight with loss of altitude and collided with the water surface“, the Russian military statement said.
The official note stresses that “the armament on board the Russian fighters was not employed” and that the Su-27 “did not come into contact with the aircraft and returned safely to their airfield.”
Could the conflict escalate?
Representatives of U.S. forces acknowledged Tuesday they feared a “miscalculation” and an “unintended escalation” of such tensions. Nevertheless, the first diplomatic rapprochement points to an attempt to defuse the drums of a major conflict.
Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Anatoli Antonov, said on Wednesday that his country “is not interested in confrontation.”after being summoned to the State Department. In recent times “contacts with State Department colleagues concern only protests and negative signals towards the Russian Federation,” Antonov told reporters.
“That’s what I told them and I also told them that the Russian side is not interested in confrontation. The Russian side is interested in a pragmatic relations with the United States in the interests of the peoples of Russia and the U.S.,” he added.
The ambassador said the U.S. side lodged a protest “over, as they said, ‘the unprofessional actions of the Russian side’.” “The most important thing, I think, is that U.S. aircraft and ships. have nothing to do next to the borders of the Federation.“, he stressed, to add: “Can you imagine a plane, a (Russian) drone like that appearing near New York or San Francisco? Can you imagine what would be the reaction of the American media or the Pentagon to that drone?”.