US Seeks Nuclear War
Russian ambassador to the US says American politicians are calling for nuclear war following downing of US drone in the Black Sea
US Air Force unable to locate debris of the MQ-9 Reaper
Russia’s ambassador to the US has accused Senator Lindsey Graham of trying to provoke a “dangerous escalation”between the two countries, after the senior lawmaker urged the Pentagon to fire on Russian fighter jets.
Asked about Graham’s comments on Wednesday, Ambassador Anatoly Antonov said the senator’s call to shoot down Russian aircraft went “far beyond common sense” and risked all-out war between the world’s largest nuclear powers.
“This is by no means the first attempt by the notorious lawmaker to provoke a dangerous escalation in the US-Russian relations. A year ago he urged our citizens to make an assassination attempt on the president of Russia,” he said. “Does Senator Graham really believe that a direct military clash with Russia is in the interests of the voters who entrusted him with their lives and livelihood?”
Graham appeared on Fox News earlier on Wednesday to discuss a recent close encounter between Russian fighter jets and a US MQ-9 Reaper drone near Crimea, calling for a tough response from President Joe Biden after the UAV was sent plunging into the Black Sea.
“What would Ronald Reagan do right now? He would start shooting Russian planes down, if they were threatening our assets,” Graham told the outlet, referring to the US leader who served at the height of Cold War brinkmanship with the Soviet Union.
While US officials claimed one of the Russian planes collided with the drone and caused it to crash, the Russian Defense Ministry said the unmanned vehicle went down after stalling, and never came into contact with another aircraft.
Antonov went on to argue that Moscow “did everything possible to prevent this kind of incident,” including informing the international community “in good time about the boundaries of the temporary airspace regime” established in the area.
While the ambassador said it is a “shame for the Pentagon to lose an expensive piece of equipment,” he insisted “it is not the Russian pilots who should be called out,” but rather American politicians, “who are inciting the start of an apocalyptic conflict.”
Washington has flown drones and surveillance craft near the Russian border on a near-constant basis over the last year, providing intelligence – along with weapons, ammunition and money – to the Ukrainian government even as it insists it is not a party to the conflict. The exact location of this week’s drone encounter was not confirmed by either government, though Russian news outlets have reported that the Reaper’s last location was about 60 kilometres (37 miles) southwest of the Crimean port of Sevastopol.
The US MQ-9 Reaper drone, downed in the Black Sea near Russia’s Crimea on Tuesday, hasn’t been recovered yet, but doing so remains top of the agenda for the military, the US Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) has said.
“We take the protection and recovery of this aircraft very seriously, but the aircraft has not been recovered at this time,”USAFE spokesperson said in a statement on Thursday to The Hill outlet.
The spokesperson declined to reveal specific details of the search operation, but said locating what’s left of the $32-million UAV remained a “priority” for Washington.
Asked on Thursday if Russia itself would attempt to recover the American drone, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said that if the Russian military “decides that it’s necessary for our interests and the security… then they’re going to do it.”
Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolay Patrushev had earlier said Moscow would “surely try” to lift the UAV from the bottom of the Black Sea. Patrushev acknowledged that it’ll be a rather difficult thing to pull off, but added that he still hoped for a successful outcome.
The Hill noted that Russia would have an “easier time” searching for the MQ-9 Reaper than the US as it had fallen near Crimea, while also warning that “the recovery of the drone by Moscow could pose serious intelligence concerns for Washington.”
US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley said during a briefing on Wednesday that the American military had taken unspecified “mitigating measures” to minimize Russia’s ability to collect intelligence from the drone.“We are quite confident that whatever was of value is no longer of value,” he said.
Milley also suggested that the UAV sank in an area of the sea with a depth of around 5,000 feet (some 1.5km) and “probably broke up,” meaning there’s not much data to be recovered from it anyway.