On Tuesday, the United States condemned Russia’s downing of an American MQ-9 “Reaper” drone over the Black Sea. The incident highlights the increased risk of confrontation between Moscow and Washington as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine. This marks the first such episode involving an American aircraft since the invasion began just over a year ago.
Two Russian Su-27 fighter jets were involved in the reckless intercept in international airspace. The Russian jets dumped fuel on the MQ-9 and executed unsafe maneuvers in front of the drone before one of the jets collided with it at 7:03 a.m. (0603 GT), causing the drone to crash into the sea. The Pentagon confirmed the drone was rendered unflyable due to the damage.
The United States condemned the downing of a U.S. spy drone by a Russian fighter jet over the Black Sea on Tuesday, in an incident that underscored how the Ukraine war has increased the risk of direct confrontation between Moscow and Washington. https://t.co/BJ65w4Ndzb
— NEWSMAX (@NEWSMAX) March 14, 2023
Brigadier General Pat Ryder stated that Russia had not recovered the drone. NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, U.S. Army General Christopher Cavoli, briefed NATO allies about the incident, which the White House and the Pentagon strongly condemned, warning of the risk of escalation.
Meanwhile, on the ground, Russian troops continue their assault in eastern Ukraine, pushing forward in waves along the frontline. President Vladimir Putin reaffirmed his view that Russia’s existence is at stake in the war, framing it as a defensive pushback against a hostile West bent on expanding into territories historically ruled by Russia.
Ukraine and its Western allies argue that Moscow is waging an unprovoked war of conquest, destroying Ukrainian cities, killing thousands of people, and forcing millions to flee their homes. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has vowed to destroy the enemy’s military power. Ukrainian forces continue to defend critical cities despite heavy losses.
The U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) has labeled the drone incident “unsafe and unprofessional,” with U.S. Air Force General James B. Hecker, commander of U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa, describing it as demonstrating a “lack of competence.” In addition, USEUCOM has reported a pattern of dangerous actions by Russian pilots around American aircraft in international airspace, warning that further altercations could risk miscalculation and unintended escalation.
Off the battlefield, talks are ongoing to extend a deal allowing grain shipments from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. The deal, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, aims to prevent global famine by securing wartime exports from Ukraine and Russia, major food suppliers. The agreement expires this week, with Kyiv rejecting a Russian push for a reduced 60-day renewal.
As the conflict in Ukraine continues to escalate, the downing of the U.S. spy drone serves as a stark reminder of the potential for confrontation between Russia and the West. With both sides trading accusations and adopting increasingly aggressive stances, the risk of unintended escalation looms large, threatening to destabilize the already volatile region further.