Downed US Drone Off Crimea Heightens Tensions – OpEd


Danger of all out war breaking out by accident

A US Air Force MQ-9 Reaper Surveillance UAV or drone was brought down Tuesday, reportedly only 60 kms southeast of the Crimean port of Sevastopol.

The US and other NATO countries have been flying spy missions just outside Russian airspace over the last year, to assist Ukrainian military forces with intelligence and targeting information.

The US Pentagon claims the incident occurred within international airspace, over the Black Sea, while Russian authorities claim the drone was flying inside restricted airspace established for the ‘special military operations’. 

Reports say two Russian SU-27s intercepted the MQ-9 Reaper, flying manoeuvres around the drone, in what the US military claimed was “reckless, environmentally unsound, and unprofessional manner”. After these manoeuvres, where one SU-27 clipped the propeller of the drone, the other SU-27 fly over the top of the drone, and dumped petrol over it, making the UAV lose control and crash into the sea below.

The head of the US European Command (EUCOM) General James Hecker said, the US routinely flies drones over international airspace to ‘bolster collective European defence and security, and support allied power, and US national objectives’. Hecker further stated the flights would continue, and called on the Russians ‘to conduct themselves professionally and safely’

In Washington DC, the US State Department called the Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov to make a protest. When Antonov met with Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Karen Donfried, Antonov stated the incident was a provocation towards Russia. Antonov stated ‘US drones, planes, and ships had no business being that close to Russian borders’

Antonov ran the analogy ‘could you imagine what the reaction of the US media and Pentagon would be if such a drone would appear near New York, or San Francisco?’

The day before the incident, a nuclear capable B52 bomber of the US Strategic Command flew towards St Petersburg, turning around after the bomber reached the range to fire a cruise missile towards the city. Air raid sirens have been heard a number of times in St Petersburg, over the last few months.  

Russian President Vladimir Putin at an aircraft factory in Russia’s Buryatia Republic said ‘for our western so-called partners – for actually our adversaries, we can say that openly today – the matter is about improving their geopolitical stance. For us, this is not a struggle for some geopolitical stance, but a struggle for the very existence of Russian statehood’

The Black Sea is now escalating into a war zone, but not between Russia and Ukraine, but directly between Russian and US aircraft.

Over the last few months, US forces have been deployed along the borders of Ukraine in the neighbouring countries of Poland, Romania, with reserves placed in Germany. This is the biggest deployment of US troops to Europe, since the second World War. 

There are also a number of US ‘veteran’ soldiers fighting in Ukraine, alongside Ukrainian forces. Some captured former US servicemen have been exchanged for Russian servicemen, over the last few months.  

Its not likely either side will escalate this incident. However, its ambiguous just where the ‘red line’ is at this present time. There is a real risk that another incident could lead to an all-out war by accident.  

Murray Hunter’s blog can be accessed here.

Murray Hunter

Murray Hunter has been involved in Asia-Pacific business for the last 30 years as an entrepreneur, consultant, academic, and researcher. As an entrepreneur he was involved in numerous start-ups, developing a lot of patented technology, where one of his enterprises was listed in 1992 as the 5th fastest going company on the BRW/Price Waterhouse Fast100 list in Australia. Murray is now an associate professor at the University Malaysia Perlis, spending a lot of time consulting to Asian governments on community development and village biotechnology, both at the strategic level and “on the ground”. He is also a visiting professor at a number of universities and regular speaker at conferences and workshops in the region. Murray is the author of a number of books, numerous research and conceptual papers in referred journals, and commentator on the issues of entrepreneurship, development, and politics in a number of magazines and online news sites around the world. Murray takes a trans-disciplinary view of issues and events, trying to relate this to the enrichment and empowerment of people in the region.

One thought on “Downed US Drone Off Crimea Heightens Tensions – OpEd

  • March 16, 2023 at 5:42 am

    Rightly ‘US drones, planes, and ships had no business being that close to Russian borders’- Russian Ambassador Antonov. America as a Global Policing State has No borders! Let the NATO fly its or member nations drones to ‘bolster collective European defence and security, and support allied power, and US national objectives’? US statement to continue these Drone flights would amount to be a deliberate provocation towards Russia. There are other covert means to collect intelligence and enhance security other than physically operating drones close to Russian borders. It tantamount to provocation to test the Russian patience.


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