US Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley has said that it is unclear whether a Russian fighter jet intentionally crashed into an American drone over the Black Sea. Milley said that officials are investigating the matter and that he has arranged to discuss the issue with his Russian counterpart during a scheduled call. Although there is evidence that the Russian fighter jet made contact with the drone whilst it was flying over the Black Sea, it is as yet unclear whether this was intentional or not.
The US alleges that two Russian fighter jets targeted the MQ-9 drone, dumping fuel on it and hitting it, causing it to crash. This incident was declared aggressive, unsafe, and unprofessional by Milley. The incident previously prompt Iran to shoot down an American drone in June 2019, which led to significant tension between the two nations.
Russia has repeatedly denied that it had direct contact with the drone, though US officials remain sceptical. The current incident comes at a time of tension between the US and Russia, with President Biden having previously called Russian President Vladimir Putin (prior to Russia’s incursion of troops into Ukraine), and Secretary of State Antony Blinken announcing new sanctions as a result of Russia’s ongoing crackdown on opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
The incident highlights an ongoing diplomatic issue between the US and Russia. Both nations have a long history of confrontational activity, and recent tension has been compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic and the US’s increased presence in the region. Whilst it is as yet unclear whether the contact made between the fighter jet and the drone was intentional or not, the US will be taking the situation seriously and this will likely lead to further tension between the two nations.