Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin promised on Wednesday that US planes would fly “wherever international law allows” and warned Russia to proceed with caution after one of its jets allegedly downed a US drone.
Austin made the statement shortly after talking by phone with Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu about Tuesday’s incident over the Black Sea, when two Russian fighters allegedly harassed an unmanned US surveillance drone and damaged its propeller, sending it into the waters below. the water came in.
The United States labeled the incident “reckless” and “unprofessional”, while Moscow denied it was to blame, instead accusing Washington of conducting “hostile” sorties in the region.
“The United States will continue to fly and operate where international law permits,” Austin told reporters shortly after the phone call with Shoigu.
“And it is Russia’s job to operate its military aircraft in a safe and professional manner,” he said.
US Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley said the Pentagon is still analyzing video and data from the drone to see exactly what happened.
“Was it intentional or not? I don’t know yet,” he told reporters.
“We know the interception was intentional. We know the aggressive behavior was intentional, we also know it was very unprofessional and very unsafe,” Milley said.
“The actual contact of the Russian fixed-wing fighter with our UAV, the physical contact with those two, is not yet certain.”
Austin expressed his appreciation for the call, after more than a year of war in Ukraine, during which direct contact between top U.S. and Russian defense officials was exceedingly rare.
“We take any potential for escalation very seriously and so I think it’s important to keep the lines of communication open,” he said.
“I think it’s really important that we can pick up the phone and engage each other. And I think that will help avoid miscalculations in the future.”
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