US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Responds to Black Sea Drone Incident
On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin vowed that US aircraft would continue to “fly and operate wherever international law allows” following a recent drone incident over the Black Sea. On Tuesday, two Russian Su-27 aircraft intercepted a US MQ-9 Reaper drone, causing it to be brought down in international waters. Austin criticized Russia’s actions, calling the event part of a pattern of “aggressive, risky, and unsafe actions in international airspace.”
According to a The Simple Herald report, the drone’s downing marked the first time Russian, and US military aircraft have come into direct physical contact since Moscow invaded Ukraine. The incident has raised concerns over the escalating tensions between the US and Russia.
White House Speaks on Drone Recovery Prospects
While Russia intends to recover the downed US drone wreckage, White House officials have said that the debris may be in such deep water that recovery is impossible. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby admitted that the wreckage had not been recovered and that it is uncertain whether it can be retrieved due to the depth of the Black Sea.
In a BBC article, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev stated on Russian state TV channel Rossiya 1, “I don’t know if we will be able to get it or not, but we need to do it… And we will look into it.” Unfortunately, the US has no Navy ships in the Black Sea, making any attempted US recovery effort extremely difficult and time-consuming.
The MQ-9 Reaper Drone Incident: A First Since WWII
The recent US-Russia drone incident marks the first recorded collision of US and Russian or Soviet aircraft since World War II. Defense Secretary Austin insisted that the US continue to fly and operate in the area, calling on Russia to maintain a “safe and professional manner” with its military aircraft. This event has reignited a bipartisan push in Congress for the US to develop a more assertive Black Sea strategy.
A Guardian article highlights that incidents involving collisions between military aircraft from different nations are sporadic. However, in 1987, a Soviet Su-27 struck a Norwegian P-3 Orion maritime surveillance plane’s propeller, and in April 2001, a Chinese fighter jet collided with a US EP-3 spy plane, sparking a diplomatic crisis.
The drone incident has led to bipartisan efforts in Congress to develop a more robust US strategy in the Black Sea region. Republican Senator Mitt Romney, one of the co-sponsors of a bill that would strengthen the US strategy in the area, said, “We cannot leave it up to Putin, who chose to invade Ukraine and pursue other forms of aggression in the region, to define the rules of the Black Sea.” He added, “The Biden administration must develop a robust Black Sea strategy to strengthen the coordination between the US, NATO, and our Black Sea partners.”