After a military incident between the US and Russia over the Black Sea, the US government is warning Moscow of an escalation. US National Security Council communications director John Kirby dismissed Moscow's account of the incident and said the US government is considering releasing footage of a US drone encountering two Russian fighter jets to provide clarification.
Kirby warned that such inappropriate action by Russian pilots could lead to "misjudgments" between the armed forces of both countries. Referring to Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine, he said: "We don't want this war to escalate beyond what it has already done to the Ukrainian people."
word agains word
According to the US military, an unmanned American military drone collided with a Russian fighter jet in international airspace yesterday. US forces should have brought the drone down after the collision, the US Department of Defense said.
The Americans blamed Russia for the clash and bemoaned the "unsafe and unprofessional" actions of the Russian side. The US State Department summoned the Russian ambassador to the incident. Moscow rejected the allegations and said the drone crashed after a sharp evasive maneuver.
Kirby told CNN last night (local time): "Of course we reject the Russians' denial." He warned that after a year of Russia's war against Ukraine, everyone should take everything the Russians said about activities in and around Ukraine with the utmost caution. The Black Sea borders both Russia and Ukraine. When asked if the US could provide evidence supporting her portrayal, Kirby said, "We're looking at some images to see if they're eligible for release. But we haven't made a decision on that yet.
What the Americans say exactly
The US military said that two Russian fighter jets had intercepted the American MQ-9 drone that was flying in international airspace over the Black Sea. One of the fighter jets hit the propeller of the US drone and basically flew into the drone. After that, it was no longer manoeuvrable, so US forces had to take it out of the sky and let it fall into the sea. The drone was completely lost in the crash.
The Pentagon initially did not comment on a possible recovery of the aircraft. Kirby merely said that the United States had taken precautions to ensure that the drone did not fall into the wrong hands.
Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder said the incident may also have caused damage to the Russian fighter jet. The two Russian jets stayed in the vicinity of the US drone for around 30 to 40 minutes before the collision occurred. The US military said that before the collision, Russian airmen dumped fuel on the US drone and flew in front of it several times - in a reckless, environmentally harmful and unprofessional manner. This testifies to a "lack of competence".
How the Russians portray the incident
Russia's Defense Ministry denied any responsibility for the crash. The drone was neither shot at nor attacked in any other way, according to a statement distributed by the state agency TASS. Air Force jets took off to identify an unknown intruder over the Black Sea. During a sharp evasive maneuver, the drone rapidly lost altitude and crashed, according to Moscow. "The Russian warplanes did not use any onboard weapons, did not come into contact with the UAV and returned safely to their home base."
Moscow's ambassador in Washington accused the United States of using its drones to collect reconnaissance data for Ukraine. "What are they doing thousands of miles away from the United States? The answer is obvious - they are gathering intelligence that will later be used by the Kiev regime to attack our forces and territory," Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov in Washington said Russian state agency Tass reported. Russia assumes that the USA will refrain from further speculation in the media "and will stop its operations near the Russian borders".
Of drones and interception maneuvers
The MQ-9 drone is primarily used for reconnaissance, but can also perform precision strikes. It is controlled remotely. The Pentagon declined to provide more specifics as to what the drone's mission was and whether or not it was armed.
Intercept maneuvers are not necessarily aimed at pushing an aircraft away or forcing it to land, but often serve to determine, for example through visual contact, whether a suspicious aircraft poses a threat. Kirby stressed that such intercepts are not uncommon. However, this case stands out due to the unsafe and unprofessional approach of the Russian side.
The US military said the incident was one in a series of dangerous actions by Russian pilots against US and Allied aircraft in international airspace, including over the Black Sea. These "aggressive actions" by the Russians are dangerous and could lead to "unintentional escalations".
In view of the Ukraine war, the situation is particularly tense and there is great fear of a possible direct military confrontation between the USA and Russia.