(RepublicanPeak.com)- On Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said he spoke with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu about the Russian Su-27 fighter jet that collided with a US MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters during a press briefing with Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, Austin described Tuesday’s incident as “part of a pattern” of risky, unsafe, and aggressive actions in international airspace by Russian pilots.
Austin said he told Shoigu that the US would continue flying “wherever international law allows” and Russia’s military aircraft should operate in a “safe and professional manner.”
When asked if Tuesday’s collision constituted an act of war, Gen. Milley said he wouldn’t go that far, explaining that the US doesn’t know if the pilot collided with the drone deliberately. He said the Russian aircraft intentionally intercepted the drone in an aggressive manner that was “very unprofessional” and “unsafe.” However, it is not clear as yet that the collision itself was intentional.
As to the question of whether this was an “act of war,” Milley said, “I’m not gonna go there,” adding, “Incidents happen.” He explained that the US is not seeking armed conflict with Russia and he believes that the incident should be investigated and “move on from there.” However, Milley added, the US will continue to operate in international airspace.
Russia denied its pilot collided with the drone.
According to Gen. Milley, the drone, which operators glided down to the Black Sea, is currently four to five thousand feet beneath the surface, making recovery “very difficult.”
Secretary Austin said that the Pentagon was working on declassifying drone footage of the collision to determine what can be publicly released.
ABC News reported on Wednesday night that US officials confirmed that Russian ships had been in the area of the Black Sea where the drone went down earlier that day. According to one official, it appears likely that the Russians may have recovered pieces of the wreckage.
On Thursday, the Pentagon released the footage from the Reaper drone showing the collision.