Senators on Tuesday called Russia’s downing of a U.S. drone “dangerous” and “reckless,” slamming Russian President Vladimir Putin but stopping short of calling for any specific actions.
A Russian fighter jet intercepted the drone over the Black Sea.
“This intercept was so dangerous and so brazen that the U.S. Air Force was forced to crash their drone into international waters. It is another reckless act by President Putin and his military, and I want to tell Mr. Putin, stop this behavior before you are the cause of an unintended escalation,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said from the chamber floor.
He added, “The U.S. has routinely flown over the Black Sea since before Putin’s illegal and reckless invasion of Ukraine, and I’m confident our military will continue to do so.”
Officials warned the situation could lead to an unintended escalation in the region amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. But White House national security spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. wouldn’t be deterred from flying in international airspace and over international waters, including over the Black Sea.
“It was completely unprofessional. It disregarded the basic rule of international law. I think we’ll have to do a little more probing to find out how much of it was deliberate or what was the sequence of events, but it’s very disturbing,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said.
Sen. Bed Cardin (D-Md.), who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, said, “It’s a situation where we will take whatever steps we need to take to protect our national security interests, and what Russia was doing is provocative and dangerous. … My guess is we’ll take the necessary steps to protect our flights going forward, but I don’t expect there to be any specific response.”
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), who also sits on the Foreign Relations panel, called it a “dangerous and irresponsible action by Russians in international airspace.”
Senators also said they hoped to avoid any further escalation.
“I would hope not,” Reed said when asked about such a risk.
“Of course I worry about [escalation], but running no risk of escalation is de-escalating to such a point that the Ukrainians lose a lot of momentum, and we can’t allow that to happen. So the best of all worlds is to be careful, take whatever counter measures we can moving forward and recognize there are risks associated with this,” said Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), another member of the Foreign Relations Committee.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said the U.S. wasn’t in a position to know the motivations behind the downing of the drone but would be engaging with Russia officials on the incident.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), meanwhile, said senators “remind ourselves every day that Vladimir Putin is not our friend and that we need to stand with those who believe in liberty.”