Washington – US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu yesterday that US planes will fly “where international law allows” after a Moscow device allegedly caused an American drone to crash. .
Washington claims a Russian Su-27 intercepted an MQ-9, requiring the drone to be shot down in the Black Sea, while Moscow denies responsibility and accuses the United States of conducting “hostile” flights in the region.
Austin spoke with Shoigu “about the recent unprofessional, dangerous and reckless behavior of the Russian air force in international airspace over the Black Sea,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
“He emphasized that the United States will continue to fly and operate where international law allows,” Austin told reporters right after the call with Shoigu, he added.
Russia confirmed the call, noting that it was Washington’s initiative.
The US defense chief also told a news conference that “it is incumbent on Russia to operate its military aircraft in a safe and professional manner.”
Austin noted that maintaining communication with Russia is key. Since the start of the war in Ukraine on February 24, 2022, direct contact between the two countries’ top defense officials has been extremely rare.
“We take any potential for escalation very seriously and so I think it’s important to keep the lines of communication open,” Austin said.
“I think it’s really key that we can pick up the phone and talk to each other. And I think that will help avoid miscalculations in the future.”
General Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he also planned to call his Russian counterpart.
The Pentagon is still analyzing video and data from the drone to see exactly what happened, he said.
“Was it intentional or not? I don’t know yet, ”she told the press. “We know that the interception was intentional. We know that the aggressive behavior was intentional, we also know that it was very unprofessional and very unsafe.”
“The actual contact of the Russian fixed-wing fighter with our UAV, the physical contact, we are not sure yet,” he said, referring to the US-manned aircraft by his initials.
Moscow announced that it will try to recover the remains of the device.
Milley did not explicitly rule out a US recovery effort, but said doing so would be difficult.
“We don’t have any naval surface ships in the Black Sea at the moment,” and the drone probably broke up and sank in an area where the water is 1,200 to 1,500 meters deep, he said.
Even if Russia were to recover the remains, the United States took “mitigating measures” to protect sensitive information.
“We’re pretty sure everything that had value is gone,” Milley said.
The United States uses MQ-9s for both surveillance and strikes and has long operated them over the Black Sea to control Russian naval forces.
Several of the drones have been lost in recent years, including one that the US Central Command says was shot down over Yemen with a surface-to-air missile in 2019.