Pentagon contacts Russia in relation to drone incidentMarch 16
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Mark Milley called up their Russian counterpart, Sergey Shoigu, on Wednesday to discuss the incident in which an American spy drone went down in the Black Sea waters off Crimea. Shoigu called US drone flights off the Russian coast "provocative in nature" and risked an escalation of tensions. He added that the two nuclear powers must act responsibly and keep a military channel open to discuss any crisis. Austin confirmed that he made the call, and said it was important that great powers be models of transparency and communication. He insisted the US would continue to fly and operate wherever international law allows.
The last time Shoigu and Austin spoke was in October 2022. The US European Command claimed that two Russian Su-27 jets conducted an unsafe and unprofessional intercept of a MQ-9 Reaper drone, which was conducting an intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance (ISR) mission in international waters over the Black Sea. The Russian Defense Ministry said that at no point did any of the interceptors make contact with the drone, or use their on-board weapons. Russian ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov said he told the State Department that US drones have no business so close to the Russian border. The drone was reportedly just 60 kilometers off the coast of Crimea when it crashed.
The US has flown drones and other surveillance aircraft near the Russian border for over a year, providing intelligence and targeting information to the Ukrainian government while insisting it is not a party to the conflict. Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council, said the drone incident was "yet another confirmation" the US was directly involved.
Pentagon Russia Drone Lloyd-austin Black-sea