Washington condemned the Russian downing of a U.S. spy drone over the Black Sea as tensions escalated in what is already a dangerous region. The incident involving Russian fighter jets emphasized the precariously close contact the two powers have in the area.
The U.S. military accused Moscow of allowing two Su-27 jets to intercept the MQ-9 “Reaper” drone in international airspace. The Russian pilots reportedly dumped fuel on the $32 million U.S. aircraft multiple times in apparent attempts to “blind” it.
They also allegedly conducted unsafe maneuvers by flying directly in front of the drone.
The Pentagon told reporters that it was forced to crash the drone after it was damaged in the collision with the Russian jet. Brigadier Gen. Pat Ryder said, “because of the damage, we were in a position to have to essentially crash into the Black Sea.”
A Russian military jet struck the propeller of an American reconnaissance drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday, causing its loss in international waters, U.S. officials said. Russia denied that the jet made contact. https://t.co/OAXAEoxe3P pic.twitter.com/7IqQUs4PfH
— The New York Times (@nytimes) March 14, 2023
NATO was briefed on the incident, and Ryder revealed at that point the Russian military had not recovered the downed drone.
Meanwhile Russian military officials denied their jet made contact with the U.S. aircraft.
The incident was followed by another confrontation in the skies over Europe late Tuesday. The U.K. and Germany scrambled fighter jets in response to two Russian planes flying near Estonia.
Fox News reported that the Russian aircraft approached NATO airspace without prior contact with Estonian officials. It marked the first joint air mission between the two nations under the NATO treaty.
White House National Security Spokesman John Kirby reiterated that the U.S. has been flying regularly in that airspace for over a year now. He added, “and we are going to continue to do that.”
The U.S. State Department reported it summoned the Russian ambassador to discuss the incident. Meanwhile, the continuing battle in Ukraine is the largest and bloodiest in Europe since World War II ended in 1945.
Putin has firmly asserted that Russia is fighting for its very statehood, and Kremlin forces are currently pushing forward in the battlefronts of eastern Ukraine.
Despite the proximity of Russian and American forces in the Black Sea area, this is the first known direct confrontation since Moscow invaded Ukraine in Feb. 2022. The Black Sea is a strategically important area bordered by Russia, Ukraine, and several others.