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Airman 1st Class Steven (left) and Airman 1st Class Taylor prepare an MQ-9 Reaper for flight during exercise Combat Hammer, May 15, 2014, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. Reaper crews flew a week-long mission, where they released the GBU-12 Paveway II and AGM-114 Hellfire munitions. Steven and Taylor are MQ-9 Reaper crew chiefs from the 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. InternationalIndiaAfricaLongreadThe US MQ-9 Reaper drone fell in the Black Sea after engaging in a sharp maneuvering as Russian fighter jets were scrambled to identify the aircraft flying in the direction of Crimea with its transponders turned off. The US European Command raised the alarm, apparently forgetting how the US Air Forces unleashed a war on “balloons” last month.”The United States and NATO have created an already intolerable situation around Russian borders, especially in the Black Sea region. They are present there in different capacities. There are [US/NATO] reconnaissance aircraft and drones [in the region],” Ivan Konovalov, a military expert and political analyst, told Sputnik.The US MQ-9 Reaper drone that fell into the Black Sea on Tuesday morning was a sophisticated and very powerful aircraft of a strategic class, the Russian military expert stressed.”NATO combat aircraft are also periodically present there,” Konovalov continued. “The actions of Russian aviation are completely justified. And the objections from the American or NATO side are simply ridiculous. We always have a question: what are you doing there at all?”
Russia Had Good Reasons for Trying to Intercept Reaper
According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the airspace control of the Russian Aerospace Forces had recorded the flight of US unmanned aerial vehicle MQ-9 over the Black Sea in the region of the Crimean peninsula on the morning of March 14. The drone was flying with its transponders turned off in the direction of the Russian border. As per the MoD, the aircraft violated the boundaries of the area of the temporary regime for the use of airspace, established for the purpose of conducting a special military operation, communicated to all users of international airspace and published in accordance with international standards.To identify the intruder, Russian fighter jets rushed to the area; for its part, the MQ-9 started maneuvering over the Black Sea, went into uncontrolled flight with a loss of altitude and, eventually, crashed. The MoD emphasized that the Russian jet fighters neither used airborne weapons against the drone nor came into contract with the UAV.Sputnik ExplainsWhat Are Other Black Sea Incidents With US Drones?Yesterday, 15:33 GMTThe loss of the Reaper in the Black Sea made a splash among the US European Command (EUCOM). They issued a release insisting the incident involved a Russian Su-27 aircraft, which allegedly struck the drone’s propeller during an “unsafe and unprofessional intercept” over the Black Sea.
"[H]ad they touched the [drone's] propeller, I think it would have been a catastrophe not only for that drone, but for the Russian Sukhoi as well. So it was only, I think, pushed by the exhaustion from the engine of the Sukhoi aircraft," Dr. Victor Mizin, a political scientist with the Institute for International Studies at MGIMO University, told Sputnik, rubbishing the US' account of the events.
Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov was summoned to the US State Department over the US drone crash incident. Antonov made it clear that Moscow expects Washington to stop flights near Russian borders. According to the Russian diplomat, it is no secret that US UAVs “gather intelligence which is later used by the Kiev regime to attack [Russia’s] Armed Forces and territory,” despite the assertions from Washington that the US and NATO don’t want to be involved in the Russo-Ukrainian conflict.”Their main goals are reconnaissance and intelligence gathering,” Konovalov said. “They have enough opportunities for this. And, accordingly, how should the Russian side perceive such actions? (…) American readers should be aware that a substantial number of US and NATO-owned aircraft are hovering like flies in neutral air zones around Russian borders. And [the Americans] also need to understand that the same reconnaissance drones, for example, have equipment that can view Russian territory far inland. And how should one react? Imagine that Russian drones of the same type will fly along the American borders. What will the Americans do?”AnalysisWhy Biden’s Baloney War of Balloons Fails to Justify His Failures & Asia-Pacific Escalation14 February, 19:00 GMT
Biden’s War of Balloons and the Sunk Reaper
Joe Biden’s recent “war of balloons” clearly indicated how sensitive the Americans are about foreign aircraft approaching the US’ borders.On February 4, the US Air Force shot down a meteorological device owned by China under the pretext that the balloon that violated US air space was a “surveillance” device. As per Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the balloon was used by the People’s Republic of China “in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States.” Beijing had repeatedly stressed that the airship had nothing to do with spying and qualified the US decision to shoot the balloon down as overreaction and hysteria.As if that were not enough, the US military proceeded with downing other unidentified aerial objects hovering over North America in the subsequent week. In mid-February, US President Biden admitted that the unidentified airships were not spy devices dispatched by China but rather aircraft operated by private companies or research institutions.However, the US leadership demonstrated nothing short of righteous indignation when it came to the loss of the MQ-9.”These double standards, they have always been there,” Igor Istomin, lead research fellow at the Center for Advanced American Studies, MGIMO University, told Sputnik. “[T]his is not the first American drone shot down, and they had incidents with Iran, there were incidents a few years ago with China, and there was an underwater drone with China being accused of ruining it. The United States openly proclaims that it believes that its military has the right to operate around the world, and that this is good [for everyone]. According to them, this ensures security, democracy, and freedom for the whole world (…) I think that a significant part of the American elites do not have any sense of dissonance with what has happened.”Sputnik ExplainsFrom Raven to Coyote: How Many Military Drones Does the US Have?Yesterday, 13:56 GMTDouble standards is one of the major characteristic features of American foreign policy, echoed Dmitry Suslov, deputy director of the Center for European and International Studies at Russia’s Higher School of Economics and deputy director of research at the Russian Council on Foreign and Defense Policy.”The United States used military force and used their aviation in order to destroy Chinese civilian meteorological balloons, which did not pose any military danger to the United States, just because those balloons were above the United States or approaching the American territory. At the same time, the United States criticized Russia for intercepting their military drone, which is basically an attack drone and it is also an instrument of espionage,” Suslov told Sputnik.
Without question, the United States was conducting an intelligence operation in the Black Sea region near Crimea. It was only a happy accident that this drone was unarmed. But Reapers, they can be used as attack drones, they can be armed. So the military threat, which the approximation of this Reaper drone posed to Russia, was absolutely real and the Russian actions were, without question, legitimate.
Dmitry SuslovDeputy director of the Center for European and International Studies at Russia’s Higher School of Economics and deputy director of research at the Russian Council on Foreign and Defense Policy.What’s more, the US and NATO are routinely testing waters near the Russian borders, said Ivan Konovalov. To illustrate his point he particularly cited an incident involving the British RC-135 reconnaissance plane in October 2022.The Russian MoD had warned the UK against a planned spy plane flight over Russian territory but Britain nonetheless sent the aircraft, something that was seen by Moscow as a clear provocation. A Russian fighter jet was scrambled to intercept the British RC-135 that crossed the Russian border near the Svyatoi Nos cape between the Barents Sea and the White Sea.RussiaRussia Will Attempt to Retrieve US Drone Remains From Black Sea: Security CouncilYesterday, 13:38 GMT
Potential Consequences of US Drone Crash
The question then arises as to whether the Black Sea incident will generate any consequences and if so, what they could be. Sputnik’s interlocutors believe that the aerial accident won’t prevent the US and its NATO allies from beefing up their military presence in the Black Sea or proceeding with their spying missions in line with the Biden administration’s declared objectives.Furthermore, they also expect that the recent development will be used by the United States and European leaders in order to accelerate their military assistance to the Kiev regime.”[U]nfortunately, it’s not the first and it’s not the last [incident], because such kind of monitoring is going on, especially when Russia is in open military conflict in Ukraine,” Dr. Victor Mizin said. “And of course, we already have seen many NATO reconnaissance aircraft like Poseidon and others close to the Russian borders, both in the region of [the] Baltics and also in the Black Sea.””My good friends from [the] European Leadership Network have been monitoring this kind of overflight incidents when the aircraft or naval vessels of NATO and Russia are coming close to each other’s borders and they are calculating the potential hazardous ramifications. Because, of course, when it goes about the states with nuclear weapons that NATO has nuclear weapons, and Russia does too, of course. Such incidents are fraught with dire consequences,” the political scientist underscored.© AP Photo / Mindaugas KulbisU.S. paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division (File)U.S. paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division (File)It is likely that the United States will be strengthening their military presence in both the Baltics and Black Sea regions disregarding the recent incident, Suslov believes. Mizin shares the same concerns, presuming that there would be more troops stationed both in adjacent countries like Poland and the Baltic states; there would be more foreign troops, mostly from the United States, probably Britain, other European, NATO countries; and more money would be invested into military programs.
"[The Biden administration] assumes that raising stakes and increasing pressure will work to exhaust Russia. The scenario of a direct military confrontation, I emphasize once again, is regarded by the United States as undesirable," Istomin suggested.
Nonetheless, the increase of US military posture and presence in the territories adjacent to Russia will increase the risks of such incidents, and will increase the risk of direct military clashes, both intended and especially unintended, according to Suslov.“The more the United States are present militarily in the Baltic and Black Sea regions, the greater are the risks of inadvertent war between Russia and NATO, which will inevitably be followed by a nuclear escalation,” Suslov warned.On the other hand, the aerial incident over the Black Sea may strengthen the positions of those in the West who claim that the United States should exercise restraint, and that there should be and must be strong limits of the US military assistance to Ukraine, according to Suslov.He believes that in the short term prospect, the United States may avoid approximations of their espionage and attack drones over the Russian territory and reduce the intensity of flights of Reapers and other manned and unmanned American aviation near Russian borders.AnalysisEx-Pentagon Officer: NATO Divide Growing, US & EU May Drastically Reduce Ukraine Aid by Summer8 March, 15:54 GMT
Internal Political Fight Over US Proxy War in Ukraine
Meanwhile, the Black Sea incident could backfire on the Biden administration as the GOP and Dems are bracing for the primaries, according to the observers.”Internally this incident will strengthen the position of those in the United States who argue in favor of more restraint, who claim that the risks of direct military clash between NATO and Russia are real, not illusionary,” suggested Suslov. “And thus, in order to avoid the escalation of the Ukrainian conflict into full-fledged World War III, the United States must exercise more restraint. This is a position which is exemplified by the two major Republican candidates to the next presidential elections in the United States, Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis.”Even though Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has not officially declared his intent to participate in the 2024 elections, he has already made a very unequivocal statement claiming that the United States must revise its approach towards the Ukrainian conflict and exercise more restraint in order to avoid being drawn into the direct hot war with Russia, Suslov remarked.AnalysisF-16 Fighters: US and NATO Getting Bogged Down in Ukraine Conflict7 March, 18:31 GMTIn addition, the US drone crash may also lessen the Biden administration’s apparent appetite in arming the Kiev regime with F-16 in the distant future. Some Democratic and Republican lawmakers have repeatedly called on the Biden administration to arm the Ukrainian military with the fighters. Earlier, it was reported that a few Ukrainian pilots were being evaluated for operating American fighter jets in the US.”The prospects of the supplies of F-16 to Ukraine have been minor before this incident. After this incident, those prospects are just non-existent because again, the risks of a direct military clash with Russia proved to be real,” said Suslov.For his part, Mizin does not rule out that American hawks will try to use the recent incident in the Black Sea in order to bolster the anti-Russian sentiment and try to re-invigorate the fading enthusiasm among the US public for aiding Kiev.”Even before the incident and probably much more, so to say, using it or profiting from it, there are some calls that actually the United States or NATO should provide F-16s to bolster, to prop up Kiev’s military capabilities. And so I think that this drive, this push to break out of this situation of restraint and to provide Kiev with aircraft now will be only growing.”