Reckless Interception by Russian Military Planes Heightens Tensions

It was a reckless and dangerous act that heightens military tensions with the United States. Russia must exercise strong restraint to prevent such a situation from occurring again.

In airspace over the Black Sea near Ukraine, where Russia is continuing its invasion, a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 surveillance drone crashed after a collision with a Russian Su-27 fighter jet.

According to the U.S. side’s explanation, Su-27s approached the MQ-9, dumped fuel over the drone and flew in front of it several times before one of the Russian jets collided with it. The impact damaged the propeller of the drone, which was rendered unfit for flight, so steps were taken to bring it down.

The U.S. military also released video footage taken by the MQ-9’s cameras before and after the collision, and harshly criticized Russia for its “unsafe intercept.”

The Russian side has claimed that the MQ-9 went out of control and crashed, but it is obvious that the Russian claim is a lie, judging from the video.

Russia must not have expected its actions to cause the collision and crash. If the Su-27 had also crashed and the crew had been killed, the U.S. side could have been blamed for the incident and Russia would have taken countermeasures.

This is a rash act that fails to heed the lessons of history, in which unintended skirmishes and miscalculations have led to large-scale military conflicts.

The defense chiefs of the United States and Russia held a telephone conversation after the collision. This is a sign that both countries take the situation seriously and are effectively in agreement that the situation should not be escalated any further. It is important to maintain dialogue and deepen communication in the future.

The latest clash has highlighted the reality that the United States and Russia have experienced fierce confrontations with each other in the Black Sea region.

Russia has deployed a large number of naval vessels in the Black Sea, using it as a base for missile attacks on Ukraine. The U.S. military uses drones and other means to gather intelligence on the movements of Russian naval vessels and missile launches, and shares the information with Ukraine.

The intelligence is vital for Ukraine to continue its fight against Russia. Russia’s persistent interceptions of U.S. drones in airspace over the Black Sea can be said to be proof of the significance of such intelligence gathering.

Russia also claims that the MQ-9 violated airspace over the Black Sea, where it had unilaterally set up a restricted zone in furtherance of its invasion of Ukraine. The incident occurred in international airspace, and Russia’s claim has no basis in terms of international law.

The collection of military intelligence in international airspace is a legitimate activity that countries routinely engage in. The United States should steadily continue its intelligence-gathering activities while keeping in mind the risk of a clash with Russia.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 18, 2023)